Now that we have gotten beyond the noise and utter confusion of the secular "Holiday Season," and we still have the great feast of the Epiphany to celebrate, perhaps we can start contemplating the meaning of the real Christmas. It was there all the time, of course - the Silent Night, the adoring shepherds, the angelic choirs, the traditional Midnight Mass. The Church pondered the mystery of the Incarnation and the Nativity of the Divine Child: "Dum medium silentium…" - "While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, your almighty Word, O Lord, leapt down from your royal throne" (Wisdom 18:14,15). Like the Holy Mother of Christ, we ponder these things in our hearts.
The Traditional Latin Liturgy invites contemplation. It thrives in silence and watchfulness, for it is itself "the word made flesh" in a true sense, as are all the sacraments. It presents to us under veiled forms the substance of the Mysteries of which St. John writes in his first Epistle: "I write of what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and our hands have handled: of the Word of Life. And the Life was made known and we have seen, and now testify and announce to you, the Life Eternal which was with the Father, and has appeared to us" (1 John 1,2).
The Traditional Latin Rite of the Mass, steeped in Holy Scripture, is respectful of what has been handed down to us from St. John and the other Holy Apostles. It changes nothing of "what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes… and our hands have handled." The Holy Scriptures and Sacred Tradition cannot be changed without changing the faith of the Church.
Not that they don't try. Recently the Bishops of England, Scotland and Wales published a "teaching document" entitled "The Gift of Scripture" (July 6, 2005). This document, bears the signatures of the Cardinal Primate of England, Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, and the Cardinal Primate of Scotland, Archbishop Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. The document was introduced in Rome at a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Vatican II document, Dei Verbum. Some four hundred delegates from around the world were invited to use it in their own work of biblical formation. It was later presented personally to Benedict XVI (ekklesia.co.uk).
"[This document]", commented a Father Adrian Graffy, surely with tongue in cheek, "will be a major help in fostering the familiarity and love of the Bible which have grown so strongly since Vatican II." But in fact, "The Gift of Scripture" turns out to be a mixed blessing. It acknowledges the truth of the Bible in passages relating to human salvation, but declares: "We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters. We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision."
One commentator points out that "were it true that only the 'salvation' sections of the Bible are inerrant, everyone who reads the text would have the personal responsibility of wading through the Scriptures to decide exactly which matters pertain to salvation (and thus are correct and pertinent) and which do not matter… If Christians abandon the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, then having a standard of truth by which all humans are to live their lives would be impossible" (Eric Lyons, apologeticspress.org/articles/697). So the word of God is in there somewhere. You just have to know how to fish it out. And this will help us to love the Bible more? Meanwhile, those who insist on the traditional Catholic teaching concerning the Sacred Scriptures will be considered fundamentalists, prone to errors such as anti-Semitism.
This "major new teaching document" is set to wipe out whatever is left of the Catholic Faith in England, Scotland and Wales. Even more unfortunate for those who would be Catholic all over the world, we have not heard that the British bishops were reprimanded for denying the inerrancy of Holy Scripture. In presenting their heretical document they were not going out on a limb, for these same ideas are spreading throughout the whole Vatican II church, and now with the added help of "The Gift of Scripture."
But the Church has already spoken clearly and unambiguously on the matter. The original Council of the Vatican (1869-1870) declared:
"The books of the Old and New Testament, whole and entire, with all their parts, as enumerated in the decree of the same Council [Trent] and in the ancient Latin Vulgate, are to be received as sacred and canonical. And the Church holds them as sacred and canonical not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority; nor only because they contain revelation without errors, but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God for their Author."
Pope Leo XIII:
"But it is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred… [I]t is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican" (Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 20, Nov. 18, 1893).
Pope Pius XII, quoting the above passage, adds:
"This teaching, which Our Predecessor Leo XIII set forth with such solemnity, We also proclaim with Our authority and We urge all to adhere to it religiously" (Divino Afflante Spiritu, 3,4, Sept. 30, 1943).
St. Augustine, whose brilliant Scriptural commentary is unsurpassed, writes to St. Jerome of a humble attitude appropriate for all who call themselves Catholic:
"On my own part I confess to your charity that it is only to those books of Scripture which are now called canonical that I have learned to pay such honor and reverence as to believe most firmly that none of their writers has fallen into any error. And if in these books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth, I shall not hesitate to conclude either that the text is faulty, or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand."
In the words of St. Paul from today's Epistle: "Thus speak, and exhort, in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Titus 2:15).