Year of the Word Leaflet

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Year of the Word: The God Who Speaks Advent 2019 – Christ the King 2020




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Celebrating, Living & Sharing God’s Word Scripture is at the centre of everything the Church does.The word of God shapes our prayer and worship. The Bible shows us how to understand the world, how we are called to live and relate to each other. 2020 is the 10th anniversary of Verbum Domini – Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation on ‘The Word of the Lord’ and the 1,600th anniversary of St Jerome’s death. These dates have inspired the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to dedicate 2020 as a year focussed on the Bible and ‘The God Who Speaks’. Throughout 2020 there will be a range of events, activities and resources to participate in all around the country...there will be three themes of celebrating, living and sharing God’s word.

Useful resources

• • Focus for each month: • Short video introductions by Cardinal Vincent Nichols: •


Cover: Icon of Christ photo © Adam Jan Figel/ Cardinal Nichols © Mazur/; other images

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Prayerful Reading of the Scriptures Savouring, Delighting, Becoming Immersed in their Richness The 12th century monk, Guigo the Angelic, wrote: One day as I was busy working with my hands I began to think about spiritual work, and all at once four stages of spiritual exercise came into my mind: reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation. These make up a ladder for monks to lift them up from earth to heaven...Reading is the careful study of the Scriptures, concentrating all one’s powers on it. Meditation is the busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one’s own reason for knowledge of hidden truth. Prayer is the heart’s devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good. Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself , so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness ...reading without meditation is sterile, meditation without reading is liable to error, prayer without meditation is lukewarm, meditation without prayer is unfruitful, prayer when it is fervent wins contemplation…

Their power to transform our lives

In savouring the Scriptures as he read and prayed them Guigo, among many others, practised what is called “Lectio Divina” – the prayerful reading of sacred texts. This practice is recommended to us this year. St Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th century offered further methods of scriptural prayer, including using our imagination of the place and the dynamics of the scriptural scene to deepen our prayerful reflection. Cardinal Joseph Cardijn (20th century) developed a way to reflect on our lives and to prompt personal Christian action with his see, judge, act use of Scripture. These and other methods may help deepen and refresh our appreciation and celebration of, and immersion in, the Scriptures. St Ignatius of Loyola by Peter Paul Rubens Pages 4-5 © Max Shamota/

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Reading As you read through the Gospel of Matthew during the year, try one or more of the following (which may be used for other Scripture too):


READ the set of

guidelines for Lectio Divina from the bishops’ website, or from elsewhere, and use these to pray through the Gospel events. the-god-who-speaks/celebrating/ how-to-do-lectio-divinaholy-reading


USE St Ignatius of

Loyola’s prayer techniques for each Gospel scene to construct with your imagination how the scene might be felt with your senses – imagine what it looks like (clarity and colours), sounds like (people, animals, nature), smells like, feels like (temperature, weather, – and in addition tensions, joys and other emotions), and tastes like (where food is involved!)


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LOOK at each scene


portrayed by the Gospel and ask God’s help to enter more deeply into it, asking of the scene and of each person depicted in it. Who? Why? Where? When? How? If you already have some inkling of these go on to ask of those depicted: with what sacrifice? With what love? Overcoming what obstacles? With what grace and help? With what emotions (fear, joy, hope, lament, courage etc.)? With what fruit?


the Catholic processes of see, judge, act and put them into effect in using Scriptures to make decisions and motivate Christian action in your life.

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TRY the

exercise of mindfulness using Matthew’s Gospel recommended on the website: the-god-who-speaks/bible-basics/ a-journey-of-mindfulness-withst-matthew


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The Gospels Pride of place among the books of the Bible are the four Gospels which give us the fullness of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, Son of God, true God and true man and our Saviour and Redeemer. The Gospels are the ‘good news’ by which not only are we ourselves nourished, inspired, educated and guided, but which are also are at the heart of the faith we share with others.

Gospel Liturgy Signs and Symbols As the Gospel takes pride of place in the Scriptures, so we welcome it at Mass with a joyful host of signs and symbols. These include: standing up, singing the alleluia and acclamation verse, the Gospel procession (with candles) from altar to lectern, the two phrases and responses which introduce the Gospel, the making of the sign of the cross with a thumb on forehead, lips and heart, the incensing of the Gospel, and then its proclamation, followed by the veneration of the page of the Gospel with a kiss, then final phrase and response.


Standing up is a sign of esteem for the one who enters and fills the place with his presence. The highest form of esteem is in glorifying God. As you stand for the Gospel pray in your heart: Dear Lord, I hold you in highest esteem. May your good news enable my life to glorify you more and more.


The word ‘Alleluia’ is a call to praise God. As you acclaim the Gospel with alleluias pray in your heart: I acclaim your greatness, Lord and praise you with all my heart.

© Mazur/; Icons, page 7 © Adam Jan Figel/

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The gospel procession reminds us not only of Christ’s life journey, but also of our own – our call from God, our response, our mission, our privilege in receiving and sharing the good news. It is a journey of joy, hope, trust and celebration. As the gospel procession takes place pray in your heart: Renew my life in the joyful following of your footsteps, Lord, by the light of your word.


Making the three signs of the cross with our thumb reminds us that our whole life needs to be infused, lit up, and flavoured (as with salt), by Jesus’s good news. Pray: May you, Lord, be ever in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart that I may proclaim your good news in my life.


Incense reminds us of sacrifice, prayer and the sacred, but can also remind us of the Exodus journey (the pillar of cloud by day which gave direction to God’s Exodus people Ex 13:20-22). As the book of the Gospels is incensed, pray either: May I cherish as sacred the words of your gospel this day and always. or alternatively Lord, as you guided your people of old, guide me now by the light of your gospel.


As, after being proclaimed, the Gospel page is venerated with a kiss, say to God in your heart: I love you, Lord.

How else can we honour the sacredness of God’s word?


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The Scriptures, the Church, and the Saints The Scriptures and the Church The Scriptures themselves direct us to recognise the importance of the Church in guiding us in truth. St Paul in his letter to Timothy (1 Tm 3:15) speaks of the Church as the pillar and bulwark of truth. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus entrusts the keys of the kingdom to Peter. (Mt 16:19). In John’s Gospel Jesus shares his power to forgive (Jn 20:23). In the Acts of the Apostles we see the ‘Council of Jerusalem’ at which the apostles come to conclusions about how the Christian faith is to be lived out and their decisions become the accepted rule for the Church (Ac 15).

The Importance of Dei Verbum

Sadly for a portion of the Church’s history the reading of vernacular Scriptures by laity was sometimes discouraged. In the 12th century in Metz a group of laity studied the Scriptures without regard for the integral unity of Church Tradition with Scripture. Some of their reflections were contrary to Church teaching. This led to local synods of bishops in Toulouse (1229) and Tarragona (1234) forbidding the laity from possessing or reading vernacular translations of Scripture. Rejoice that in our own days this sad shadow of hesitation about Scripture reading by Catholics is now history! Vatican II’s Dei Verbum is a key document in this and Verbum Domini, the anniversary of which is now celebrated, rightfully deepens the place of personal praying and reflecting on Scripture at the heart of the Church and in the soul of our spiritual lives. 8

St Peter © Denis Kabanov/

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Scripture Heroes Many heroes, saints and councils of bishops (meetings of the apostles’ successors) have played a part in helping us to be guided by God’s revelation. St John the Baptist pointed to Christ, leading us to understand that all the earlier Scriptures have their fulfilment and are to be understood in the light of Jesus himself. Early Scripture scholars and theologians such as Origen and St Irenaeus helped the Church to understand the role of Scripture and of the developing Tradition in guiding us in truth. This study of Scripture with Tradition has continued in recent times with saints such as St John Henry Newman. St Jerome and many other translators through the centuries have provided authentic versions in the languages of many nations so that all can meet God personally through hearing and reading his sacred word. In our own land St Bede was one of the great early Scripture scholars – a wonderful writer and a doctor of the Church. In their 2005 document ‘The Gift of Scripture’ our bishops reminded us of many other saints who studied and preached the good news in our lands: Patrick, Ninian, Columba, Mungo, Gildas, Cedd, Columbanus, Willibrord and Boniface. Many more could be mentioned.

It is our part to seek, his to grant what we ask; ours to make a beginning, his to bring it to completion; ours to offer what we can, his to finish what we cannot. St Jerome St John the Baptist © Jorisvo/; St John Henry Newman © National Institute for Newman Studies; St Jerome © Zvonimir Atletic/

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Types of Writing The Jewish Tradition saw the Scriptures as belonging to three main categories: the Law – the first five books, ascribed to Moses, sometimes called the Torah; the Prophets (both Historical Books and books of each of the prophets – in many ways their history in Scriptures serves as the parable for their lives); and the Writings (the Wisdom books, which include the Psalms). St Paul said that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness… so that [we who serve God] may be perfect, thoroughly prepared for every good (2 Tm 3:1617). He was then speaking of the Jewish Scriptures, not of the New Testament, which had yet to be recognised as revelation. Now we hold both together as God’s great gift as the inspired word of God. SUGGESTION SHARING GOD’S WORD With a renewed love of Scripture comes both the opportunity and the desire to share it with others! Download one of the posters from the website and put it up somewhere that others might see so that you can start a conversation about it. home/events/the-godwho-speaks/sharing/ inspiring-quotes

The Four Senses of Scripture Both for Jews and for Christians there is an awareness that there are different forms of literature in the Bible which need to be read in differing ways in order to understand them. In the early Church Origen drew attention to the Spiritual meaning of Scripture as well as the literal meaning. Today it is generally understood that there are four senses of Scripture; the literal sense and three ‘spiritual senses’. These are the allegorical sense (where each detail or person in a story represents another person or detail in real life), the moral sense, i.e. guiding our behaviour and habits, and the anagogical sense (the Greek word anagoge means leading – this sense looks to future fulfilment). So when we read the Song of Songs – a book of love poems, we read it as an allegory of the love between God and the Church or between God and the


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individual. When we read of the ‘voice crying in the wilderness “Prepare a way for the Lord”’, (Is 40:3) or when we read of the Suffering Servant (Is 53), we see them pointing to fulfilment in Christ (anagogical). Not only the commandments but also advice and wisdom (e.g. the letter of James, or the Proverbs) give moral teaching.

God’s Sacred Revelation From the early days of the Christian Church the Gospels and some letters and other texts were read and treasured, but much prayer and discussion of the early Church went into discerning which texts telling of Christ were God’s sacred revelation (i.e. were Scripture). In fact, the first published list we have which lists all the books of the Bible as we now accept them, came not until the 4th century in St Athanasius’s Thirty-Ninth Festal Epistle of AD 367. After giving the list he declares: ‘These are the wells of salvation, so that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the sayings in these. Let no one add to these. Let nothing be taken away.’ Resurrection of Jesus © Thoom/

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SUGGESTIONS 1. Follow Cardinal Nichols’ suggestion of visiting the National Gallery in London, or online and reflecting on the scriptural images in the paintings. 2. Visit the British Library or Lindisfarne to see the Lindisfarne Gospels or look online. 3. Listen to a choral recital of scriptural texts (e.g. Handel’s Messiah, or one of Bach’s Passion settings). 4. Read the Song of Songs and picture the love of God for you and for his Church. 5. Take one of the saints mentioned in this leaflet as a patron for the year. Learn about their life and ask for their help. 6. Read the section in the Catechism on the Our Father (CCC 2759-2865). 7. Choose a Gospel Canticle to pray and reflect on each day. 8. For five months read a new psalm, or listen to one being sung, each day. 12

Prayers in Scripture Among the many prayers in Scripture several deserve special mention. • Jesus gave us the Our Father as a model prayer. It must be the heart of all our praying. Tertullian, one of the early Christian great writers on prayer described it also as ‘The Summary of the whole Gospel’ and St Thomas Aquinas described it as ‘the most perfect of prayers.’ • In Luke’s Gospel we find the great canticles, the Benedictus, the Magnificat, and the Nunc Dimittis. These are prayed daily throughout the Church in the Divine Office. • The Scripture prayers which Jesus would have prayed most frequently are the 150 Psalms. These nourish us also today.

Biblical Journeys Your word is a light to my feet and a lamp to my path (Ps 118/119:105) God’s word is not only a light to guide me through life but also the food or fuel for the journey to give me strength and stamina for the paths which he invites me to take. So many saints have been powerfully filled with the Scripture – given strength which has brought with it both joy and holiness. St. Anthony of Egypt & St Augustine © Renata Sedmakova/Shutterstock. com; St Therese of Lisieux ©

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Examples from the Saints It was hearing the gospel which inspired St Anthony of Egypt to take up monastic life in the desert and become a model for all future monastic life. The brilliant St Augustine had his mind transformed and his way of life completely changed by following an inner voice which said ‘Tolle Lege’ (‘Take up and read’…). St Therese of Lisieux found in St Paul’s song of love in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Co 13) her personal vocation to love in every small detail of life, her ‘little way’. Reading the Scriptures has transformed the lives of many and the bishops’ website gives examples of ordinary people to whom this has happened for us to reflect on and perhaps be inspired by too. Not only is the history of God’s people in the Scriptures useful as a parable for our own lives, but different sections of the Scriptures can serve as a personal lifeguide for each of us. In our own times our bishops have given us Do you Love Me? – a series of reflections on the final part of St John’s Gospel – to frame the heart of Catholic spiritual life today. Pages 14-15: © aaron-burden/; back cover © Igor Sokolov/

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BIBLICAL JOURNEYS ACTIVITIES • Pray to one of the saints whose life was transformed by a Scripture passage – perhaps read how this happened in one of their books mentioned above.

• Read ‘My Bible Journey’ and reflect on how Scripture has played a part in your life. home/events/the-godwho-speaks/celebrating/ my-bible-journey • Take a passage from

Do you Love Me? and reflect on the questions it gives for your own life. CTS booklet D786 and also online at: our-work/spirituality/ spirituality-committeeresources

• If a passage from Scripture has changed the course of your life, write down or share with someone how it has done so. 13

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Official Prayers for the Year


iving God, you walk alongside us and speak to us throughout the Scriptures. Your Son, Jesus Christ, listens to our hopes and fears and shows us how to live for one another. Send us the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds so that we may be your witnesses throughout the world. Amen V. Your word is our path and your truth is our light. R. This day and every day. Our Lady of the Annunciation Pray for us St Matthew Pray for us St Jerome Pray for us.


isen Lord, Your disciples walking on the road to Emmaus began to sense your presence as you explained the Scriptures to them. As we study the Scriptures today may our hearts burn too, kindled by the Spirit, with the love of God, and the delight of your teaching, that we may see with your eyes, heal with your hands, walk in your ways and love with your heart. Amen.

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(Fr John Deehan)

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Longer Prayer to the God Who Speaks


reator and Source of all, you spoke to Moses calling your people into life. He asked for your name and you revealed your mystery. ‘I am who I am, who I will be, where I will be’. Your divine life, beyond our inadequate images, beyond our fragile attempts to know and control. And gradually, through your prophets, you opened our minds and hearts to the immensity of the mystery of your creative mercy. Word made Flesh, you came among us to open up a way and a life true to your mystery and true to our desire; a Word that both speaks in our hearts and through the vastness of your cosmos. Holy Spirit, from the first Pentecost you enabled us to hear the Word in our own reality and respond to it among companions from every race and tongue. Provoke us now to return to that divine word in Creation, that Word en-fleshed in Jesus, that Word spoken and recorded in the Holy Scriptures. Touch our minds and hearts today as we read alone, as we proclaim in the liturgy, as we study together and, inspired anew, help us to become that Word for all who seek the way, the truth, and the life. Amen.

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(David McLoughlin)

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Pilgrim Prayer for the Year


ilgrim God, you walk alongside us and speak to us throughout the Scriptures: in the message of the prophets, the songs of David and the vision of Paul. Your Son, Jesus Christ, listens to our hopes and fears and shows us how to live: in our love of neighbour our desire for justice, and in our dying and rising each day. Send us the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds so that we may be your witnesses throughout the world: in our protection of the vulnerable, our words and actions and in our communion with the earth. Amen V. Your word is our path and your truth is our light. R. This day and every day. Our Lady of the Annunciation Pray for us St Matthew Pray for us St Jerome Pray for us.


All rights reserved. Š 2019 The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society.

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