The rest of the story the Bible tells

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Dr. Sean Innerst is Assistant Professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and teaches at the Denver Catholic Catechetical School.

We know only too well the sentence of the very first lines of the first book of Saint Augustine. Confession, “You made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” This line on our restless hearts, with the famous tolle lege incident in book eight, are among the best-known parts of Augustine’s famous work. Tolle light refers to the time when Augustine received divine inspiration to “take and read” the Bible and thus converted to the Catholic faith. At that moment Augustine received a grace that filled his heart and gave him a brief taste of the rest he desired.

While many are familiar with the theme of the restless heart in Augustine’s Confessions, few know that the common human search for rest is also the central theme of his manual on teaching the faith, written a few years later. Confession, called in its most recent translation, Teaching Beginners in the Faith (New City Press, 2006). In response to a request on how to catechize newcomers to the Church from a deacon in Carthage in North Africa, Augustine offers advice on the content and methodology of this form of evangelizing catechesis.

In the example lesson he gives to deacon Deogratias, Augustine makes the desire for rest the central preoccupation of the fictitious seeker he describes to Deogratias. “Suppose … that when asked if it is for some advantage in the present life that he wishes to become a Christian or because of the rest he hopes to gain after this life, he answers that it is because of the rest. to become.”

In the catechetical discourse that he then proposes to this alleged seeker of faith, Augustine uses the theme of rest in a singular way. He says that the very rest that our hearts seek is that same “rest that is signified by Scripture when it expressly mentions that from the beginning of the world, when God made heaven and earth and all in them , he worked for six days. and on the seventh day he rested ”and that it is also the same rest“ which is promised to the saints in the world to come ”. That is, the restlessness of our hearts is, so to speak, tuned to the key to the entire universe from its first creation to its ultimate climax.

And then he offers his worried listener a stunning promise. Because he set his sights on the rest provided by God and sought to enter the Church, Augustine said, “It will be up to you to taste her sweetness and her delicacies, even here.” To achieve this “sweetness and delight”, “the person who aspires to true rest and true happiness must withdraw his hope from perishable and transitory things and place it in the word of the Lord, so that, by clinging to that which stay forever, he with her can also stay forever.

In what follows, Augustine recounts in a very brief form the whole of the biblical history, from the creation of Adam and Eve to the beginnings of the history of the Church recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, while helping her student see that the story the Bible tells is inextricably linked to the movements of her own heart.

But Augustine also specifies that the biblical story that he tells his listener is the prehistory of the Church. As he says: “Indeed, everything that we read in the holy scriptures that was written before the coming of the Lord was written for the sole purpose of calling attention to his coming and foreshadowing the future Church. And he specifies that in this present time, between the rest that God observed at the end of creation and the rest that he will finally enjoy in his saints in heaven, “true rest and true happiness” are found only in the Church and through what he calls his “sacramenta”, the Latin word he uses to describe the sacred signs by which we obtain entry into the Church and a real link with the story told by the Church. Bible.

It is not surprising that the Catechism of the Catholic Church was built on the same model of catechesis presented by this very influential Father of the Church, who in turn is the biblical model as well. What he presents is a call, an invitation to worried hearts, recognizing that “the desire for God is written in the heart of man, because man is created by God and for God” and that it is not is that “in God that he will find the truth and the happiness which he never ceases to seek” (CCC n ° 27).

The whole structure of the Catechism presupposes that the only way to enter into the rest that God promises His chosen people in the Bible is to respond to this Scriptural Revelation by faith, a faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed. I often tell my students of the “Ascension Ladder” program that we offer here at the Catechetical School of the Archdiocese of Denver that, especially in Holy Mass, but also in this “Liturgy of Life” that is the Christian life of the Beatitudes, the words of Scripture come to life, come off the page and move around the room! While it is true that the popularity of Bible study in the Church today is a true sign of hope, the only way to truly make a difference in the Bible story is to study the Bible. Catechism and embrace the life of faith in the Church that it describes and that the Bible promises.

For the promise of this new Catholic interest in the Bible to come true, we must do more than just read about this promised rest, we must fully live the faith of the Church which alone makes it accessible. In the spirit of Augustine the catechist, let me suggest that you not only “take and read” the Bible, but also take and read your Catechism. For as we are told in chapter four of the Book of Hebrews about the urgent need to observe the Christian life in the Church, “As long as the promise to enter into his rest remains, let us fear that none of them you are not judged not having achieved it. …. Let us therefore try to enter into this rest ”(Heb 4: 1, 11).

To register for courses at the Biblical and / or Catechetical School, visit sjvlaydivision.org.


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