Praying and pondering with the bible in one hand and a newspaper in another provides a much needed balance for personal meditation, small faith community sharing, or preaching. For persons of faith, the bible is not merely a collection of historical books. It is the living Word of God. It chronicles God`s loving providence throughout salvation history. But, it also points us to the presence of the living God in the here and now.
Prayer is an encounter with God. Praying with the bible grounds that encounter in God`s Word. But the purpose of this encounter is not solely to seek personal consolations or spiritual fulfillment, though these are both blessings and grace. The purpose is for us to give life to the Word that we hear, to put into action that which is received. In order to know what action is needed, we must be tuned in to the signs of the times.
Reading newspapers or listening to the news is depressing. It is a challenge to maintain the virtue of hope when so many hopeless events unfold each day. The signs of our times are too often shouting of violence, hunger, natural disasters, wars, persecutions and death. Of course we cannot respond to all needs. We cannot solve the problems of the world in one fell swoop. But, by praying and pondering we can perhaps glean wee bits of wisdom. Perhaps we can be instruments of peace and reconciliation. Perhaps we can help a specific need by sharing our time or money. Perhaps all we can do is offer a prayer.
The bible alone can keep our head and heart too much in the clouds. The newspaper alone can keep us grounded in despair. But together……
English-speaking Catholics use different versions of the bible for their Lectionaries – the scriptural readings used in the liturgy. In Canada we have been using the New Revised Standard Version since 1992. In Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, The Jerusalem Bible is used. Our American sisters and brothers use the New American Bible. The gospel reading from Matthew 4:12-23 shows an example of translation variations. The NAB reads `Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.` The NRSV reads `Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.`
Debates continue between national conferences of Bishops and the Vatican over which bible can and should be used. Permission was first given by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship for liturgical use of the NRSV. By the time the week-day Lectionary was published in 1994, it was objected to by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith because of worries about its inclusive language and theological integrity. But, our Lectionaries had already been printed and distributed. While the discussions continue, Canadian Catholics still use the NRSV and I think we are the only English-speaking country to do so. (I am happy to be corrected.) Canadians aren`t often the rebels! 🙂
The Lectionary debates reflect two larger debates going on in the church. Who holds the right to approve local translations of the Lectionary – Bishops or the Vatican? And is inclusive language necessary in our worship?
The first issue, one of collegiality and subsidiarity, is being played out on many levels at the moment. This includes the soon to be released new translation of the Sacramentary, or Missal. For some, it is another example of top-heavy leadership from the Vatican. For others it is a question of universal unity in all things liturgical, and a belief that all these decisions should be overseen by the Vatican.
Inclusive language, unfortunately, is often perceived as a liberal agenda promoted by feminists yet it is important to many men and women alike. For others, there is no issue since words like man and mankind already include women. What`s the big deal? (For the sake of transparency, I think it IS a big deal and we must continue working to make our language more inclusive without losing its integrity.)
Politics aside, some translations just sound better than others. I used to love the reading from Proverbs 31: 10, about the `perfect wife – who can find her.` Each time it was read in church I happily reminded my husband of his good fortune. The NRSV now reads `A capable wife who can find`. I`ve been down-graded! 😉
I’m old enough to have seen the comings and goings of several versions of the bible. In the 1970’s, The Jerusalem Bible was the source for the Lectionary in Canada and became the bible of choice for many of us. Its size was imposing even in the soft cover version. The hard-cover edition, complete with commentaries and references, was almost as thick as it was wide. It was hardly a bible to keep in your pocket, but I loved the poetic beauty of The Jerusalem Bible, and still do to this day. It`s my comfort bible!
Bibles in contemporary language were also popular in the 1970`s. The Good News Bible was a small pocket version with charming, simple line drawings throughout. The Way used modern photos to emphasize the timeliness of the scriptural messages. Scholarly types criticized these `dumbed down` versions, but they were affordable and made the bible accessible to many people. I think that having a bible that is actually read is more important than having a scholarly version sitting on your shelf collecting dust.
In catechetical and theological studies, I had to use the Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version Bible. I never warmed up to the two column layout and phonetic marks of the RSV. Somehow the pages weren`t as pretty, or have the same comfort in my hands as my old Jerusalem Bible. I realized what a creature of habit I had become.
Today, the bible of choice for Canadian Catholics is the New Revised Standard Version which became the Lectionary bible in 1992. It retains the same layout with phonetic markings as the RSV version, but has the bonus of inclusive language. This is the bible that is now handed out in our parishes for sacramental presentations and catechetical classes.
One other bible that I own but was never able to read, is my father`s old Biblia Sacra: Juxta Vugatem Clementinam. I can`t read Latin, but there is something special about holding a well-worn, much read bible in your hands and wondering about the hours of study and prayer that it holds!
(next: Lectionary debates)