Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Bible, Sacraments, and Liturgy

“The Sacraments are conceived in relation to the acts of God in the Old Testament and the New. God acts in the world; His actions are the mirabilia, the deeds that are his alone. God creates, judges, makes a covenant, is present, makes holy, delivers. These same acts are carried out in the different phases of the history of salvation. There is, then, a fundamental analogy between these two actions. The sacraments are simply the continuation in the era of the Church of God’s acts in the Old Testament and the New. This is the proper significance of the relationship between the Bible and the Liturgy. The Bible is a sacred history; the liturgy is a sacred history…Thus we see the sacraments as being the acts of God in the era of the Church. As we have said, God’s ways of acting are the same. This is what finally defines the right of the Church to bring out the analogies between the sacraments and the divine events recorded in Scripture…The universe of the liturgy is a marvelous symphony in which appear the harmonies between the different eras of the history of salvation in which we pass from the Old Testament to the sacraments, from eschatology to spirituality, from the New Testament to eschatology, in virtue of these fundamental analogies. Knowledge of these correspondences is the Christian wisdom as the fathers understood it, the spiritual understanding of Scripture. And this is where the liturgy is the mistress of exegesis…One of the greatest difficulties for many minds is to understand the connection between Scripture and the Church. They hold to Scripture, but they do not see the need for the Church. It is of the utmost importance that such people be shown the strict continuity between Scripture and the Church. And it is precisely this continuity that appears at the climax of the history of salvation. It is here that the realities spoken of by Scripture and the realities that constitute the Church appear as being various stages of one work. And, furthermore, by employing a unique language, which is that used by the Word of God, and by causing us to discover the scriptural categories in the sacraments, the continual reference to Scripture found in the explanation of the sacraments manifests the fact that they belong to the same universe…Thus the Bible and liturgy illuminate one another. The Bible both authorizes and clarifies the liturgy. It authorizes it by the authority of the prophets and the figures of which it is the fulfillment, and by thus placing it in the whole pattern of God’s plan. It illuminates it by giving us the forms of expression by which we can understand the authentic meaning of the rites. In its turn, the liturgy illuminates the Bible. It gives us its authentic interpretation by showing us how it is a witness to the mirabilia Dei. And, much more, as these acts are continued in the sacraments, they actualize the Word of God by authorizing us to apply it to the present acts of God in the Church in virtue of the analogy between these acts in the different phases of history.”

-Jean Cardinal Danielou, "The Sacraments and the History of Salvation" in Letter & Spirit Journal, vol. 2.

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