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The Spirit: guardian of sacred tradition

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 16 January 1991 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The apostolicity of the Church, in its deepest meaning, is the permanence of the pastors and faithful, together, in the truth received from Christ through the Apostles and their successors, with an ever more sufficient knowledge of its content and value for life. It is a truth of divine origin concerning mysteries which surpass the abilities of the vision or powers of the human mind. Only by the power of the Word of God, addressed to humanity through analogy and expressed in human language, can it be understood, preached, believed and faithfully obeyed. And authority of merely human value would not suffice to guarantee the authenticity of the handing on of this truth, nor therefore the deep dimension of the Church's apostolicity. The Second Vatican Council assures us that it is the Holy Spirit who safeguards that authenticity.

2. According to the Constitution Dei Verbum, "by sending the Holy Spirit," Jesus Christ "confirmed with divine testimony what revelation proclaimed, that God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal" (DViv 4). This passage from the Council's Constitution on Divine Revelation finds its justification in the words Christ addressed to the apostles in the upper room as recorded by John the evangelist: "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. When he comes, however, being the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but will speak only what he hears" (Jn 16:12-13). Therefore it will be the Holy Spirit who gives light to the apostles that they may proclaim "the whole truth" of the Gospel of Christ, "teaching all nations" (cf. Mt 28:19): they and obviously their successors in this mission.

3. The Constitution Dei Verbum continues to say that this order (to preach the Gospel) "was faithfully fulfilled by the apostles who, by their oral preaching by example, and by observances handed on what they had received from the lips of Christ, from living with him, and from what he did, or what they had learned through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The commission was fulfilled, too, by those apostles and apostolic men who under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit committed the message of salvation to writing" (DViv 7). As we can see, the Council text refers to the Holy Spirit's assurance of the truth revealed in its oral transmission (the origin of Tradition) and the written version which came about through inspiration and divine assistance in the books of the New Testament.

4. Again we read that "the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel resounds in the Church, and through her, in the world, leads unto all truth those who believe and makes the word of Christ dwell abundantly in them (cf. Col 3:16)" (DViv 8). Therefore, "Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred Tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known" (DViv 9).

Also, "the office ... of authentically interpreting the word of God...has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit; it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed" (DViv 10).

Therefore, there is a close bond between Sacred Scripture, Tradition, and the Church's magisterium. Through this intimate connection the Holy Spirit guarantees the handing on of divine revelation and consequently the Church's identity of faith.

5. In particular, in regard to Sacred Scripture, the Council tells us that "holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the apostles, holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.... Everything asserted by the inspired...writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit..." (DViv 11). As a consequence, "Holy Scripture must be read and interpreted in the same Spirit in which it was written..." (DViv 12). "For what the apostles preached in fulfillment of the commission of Christ, afterward they themselves and apostolic men, under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, handed on to us in writing: the foundation of faith, namely, the fourfold Gospel, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John" (DViv 18).

"After the ascension of the Lord the apostles handed on to their hearers what he had said and done. This they did with that clearer understanding which they enjoyed after they had been instructed by the events of Christ's life and taught by the light of the Spirit of Truth" (DViv 19).

6. This close connection between the Holy Spirit, revelation and the handing on of the divine truth is at the basis of the Church's apostolic authority and the decisive argument for our faith in the Word which the Church passes on to us. Besides, as the Council also says, the Holy Spirit intervenes in the inner birth of faith in a person. Indeed, "'the obedience of faith' (Rom 16:26; cf. 1:5; 2 Cor 10:5-6) 'is to be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals,' and freely assenting to the truth revealed by him. To make this act of faith, the grace of God and the interior help of the Holy Spirit must precede and assist, moving the heart and turning it to God, opening the eyes of the mind and giving 'joy and ease to everyone in assenting to the truth and believing it.' To bring about an ever deeper understanding of revelation, the same Holy Spirit constantly brings faith to completion by his gifts" (DViv 5).

7. It is a question of the faith of the Church as a whole and of every believer within the Church. It is also a question of the proper understanding of divine revelation which always flows from faith through the power of the Holy Spirit, and of the development of the faith through "reflection and study by believers." In speaking of the "Tradition which comes from the apostles," the Council says that it "develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (like Mary: cf. Lk 2:19, 51), through a penetrating understanding of spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth" (DViv 8). Concerning Sacred Scripture it adds that, "inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and apostles" (DViv 21). Therefore "the Bride of the Incarnate Word, the Church taught by the Holy Spirit, is concerned to move ahead toward a deeper understanding of the Sacred Scriptures..." (DViv 23).

8. For this reason the Church "has always venerated the Scriptures," and she receives nourishment from them as from the "bread of life" and "has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition as the supreme rule of faith..." (DViv 21). And since, "as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her" (DViv 8), the Church's entire life is animated by the Spirit by which she invokes Christ's glorious coming. As we read in the Book of Revelation: "The Spirit and the Bride say: 'Come!'" (Rev 22:17). In the order of this fullness of truth, the Holy Spirit leads and guarantees the handing on of revelation, preparing the Church and each and every one of us in the Church, for the Lord's final coming.

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

J’accueille avec plaisir ici les personnes de langue française. En particulier, j’adresse un cordial salut et mes encouragements aux Clercs de Saint-Viateur chargés de la pastorale des vocations dans leur Institut. Pour tous, j’invoque de tout cœur la Bénédiction de Dieu.

Ai fedeli di espressione inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a cordial greeting to the Jesuit Fathers taking part in a course of study and renewal during this Ignatian Year. I also welcome the staff and students of the Nato Defense College in Rome. Dear friends: in these hours of grave danger for the peace of the world, we cannot forget that dialogue and negotiation, not violence, are the only effective way to resolve conflicts while respecting the demands of justice. Dialogue requires a readiness to show good will by taking steps to reduce tension and permit a reasonable solution to be found. My unceasing prayer is that the leaders of the world will act with wisdom and forbearance, for the good of the whole human family. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience I invoke God’s blessings of grace and peace.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Grüße ich alle Pilger und Besucher aus den deutschsprachigen Ländern.

Euch Allen, Euren Angehörigen und Euren Gemeinden wünsche ich den Frieden des Herrn für das neue Jahr und erteile von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di espressione spagnola

Con gran afecto saludo a todas las personas procedentes de los diversos Países de America Latina y de España, presentes en esta Audiencia y les pido continuar con sus plegarias al Señor para que el supremo don de la paz sea preservado y se fortalezcan los lazos de entendimiento y fraternidad entre los pueblos. A Cristo, Príncipe de la Paz, confío estas intenciones, mientras de todo corazón imparto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Amadíssimos irmãos e irmãs,

A todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, fazendo junto da Cátedra de S. Pedro uma especial experiência e testemunho desta comunhão apostólica, desejo longa vida, iluminada e irradiadora da Luz da Fé para vós e vossos queridos, com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai suoi connazionali polacchi

Pani Jasnogórska! Jeszcze i dzisiaj stajemy przed Tobą w blasku Świętej Epifanii. Okres Bożego Narodzenia objawia nam tajemnicę Świętej Rodziny. Patrzymy na nią w noc betlejemską- w tę noc niewysłowioną, kiedy Bóg-Syn staje się Dzieckiem w ludzkiej rodzinie. W tej rodzinie przyszedł na świat. Z nią związał trzydzieści lat życia ukrytego w Nazarecie. A jeśli “tajemnica człowieka - wedle słów Vaticanum II - wyjaśnia się w pełni w Nim: w Chrystusie, Słowie Wcielonym”, to jak wielka jest część, która w tym należy do rodziny; do tej świętej nazaretańskiej rodziny Jezusa Chrystusa.

Jakże bardzo ludzka jest ta Boża tajemnica! Jej droga wiedzie poprzez rodzinę tak, jak droga każdego człowieka. Tak bardzo jest przeto wymowne, że w jasnogórskim sanktuarium odczytuje się pielgrzymom ewangelię Kany Galilejskiej. Ewangelia ta ukazuje Jezusa wraz z Matką i pierwszymi uczniami na godach weselnych. W taki sposób Odkupiciel świata wchodzi w swe mesjańskie posłannictwo drogą ludzkich oblubieńców: On, który sam jest Najświętszym Oblubieńcem całej ludzkości w swym Kościele.

Droga ta stale prowadzi ku przyszłości. Przyszłość całej ludzkiej rodziny prowadzi przez oblubieńczą miłość małżonków, która daje początek rodzinie. Rodzina jest przyszłością ludzi, bo w niej rodzą się ludzie nowi. Rodzina jest też przyszłością narodu - naszego narodu. Od niej ta przyszłość zależy nade wszystko.

Matko z Kany Galilejskiej! Życzę Ci, by przychodziły do Twego sanktuarium na Jasnej Górze liczne rodziny. Tak bardzo potrzebne im to pielgrzymowanie. Tyle pęknięć, tyle kryzysów ponarastało. Tak bardzo trzeba, aby usłyszeli od Ciebie te słowa macierzyńskiej troski: “cokolwiek wam Syn mój rzecze, to czyńcie”. Tak bardzo trzeba, aby odnawiali łaskę sakramentu małżeństwa, jaką odziedziczyli w Sercu Twego Syna.

Mów do nich, Matko Jasnogórska, liturgicznym słowem Kościoła: “[przyobleczcie] miłość, która jest więzią doskonałości . . . Słowo Chrystusa niech w was przebywa z [całym swym] bogactwem... Sercami waszymi niech rządzi pokój Chrystusowy . . . I bądźcie wdzięczni”.

Jasnogórska Królowo Pokoju! U progu Nowego Roku, w blaskach nazaretańskiej Epifanii, polecam Ci i zawierzam z głębi mojego serca wszystkie małżeństwa i wszystkie rodziny na naszej polskiej ziemi!

Pozdrawiam wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski: w szczególności z Krakowa, z parafii św. Katarzyny - ojcowie augustianie; grupę turystyczną z Bielska-Białej; grupę kolejarzy z Lubiana Śląskiego; grupę młodzieży w XV Liceum Ogólnokształcącego im. Jana Kasprowicza w łodzi, przebywającą we Włoszech na zaproszenie Liceo Scientifico e Statale w Sora; oraz wszystkich innych pielgrzymów zarówno z kraju, jak i z emigracji.

Ai gruppi di espressione italiana

Saluto i gruppi di lingua italiana presenti a questa Udienza: in particolare do il benvenuto agli Allievi della caserma “G. Romagnoli” in Roma. Vi ringrazio, cari giovani, per la vostra gradita visita e vi auguro di non discostarvi mai dai princìpi morali che sono alla base di ogni fruttuosa formazione umana e professionale. Siate intimamente persuasi che, se sarete fedeli testimoni del Vangelo, potrete senz’altro offrire un significativo apporto personale alla costruzione di un mondo più libero, solidale e pacifico.

Rivolgo, poi, un cordiale pensiero al gruppo di Religiose partecipanti al corso di formazione permanente presso il Centro “Mater Ecclesiae” delle Suore Dorotee di Cemmo. Auspico che codesto tempo di preghiera e di riflessione arricchisca ognuna di voi e vi faccia crescere nell’intimo rapporto con il Signore. Il ritrovarvi insieme per un prolungato soggiorno vi renda sempre più aperte alle esigenze della carità e attente ai bisogni del nostro tempo.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Ed ora un affettuoso saluto a tutti i giovani, ammalati e sposi novelli. Vi esorto, cari giovani, a mettere Cristo al centro della vostra vita, per essere veri portatori di luce, speranza e pace in questa società.

Invito pure voi, cari fratelli ammalati, ad accogliere con fede il mistero del dolore sull’esempio di Gesù, il quale ha sofferto per tutti gli uomini, per la loro redenzione e la loro felicità.

E, infine, voi, coppie di sposi novelli, attingete ogni giorno dal Signore il senso del vostro amore, perché questo sia sempre più vero, duraturo e aperto agli altri.

A tutti imparto la mia Benedizione.

Durante l’udienza generale, il Santo Padre invita tutti i fedeli presenti ad unirsi nella preghiera per la pace.

Dio dei nostri Padri,
grande e misericordioso,
Signore della pace e della vita,
Padre di tutti.

Tu hai progetti di pace e non di afflizione,
condanni le guerre
e abbatti l’orgoglio dei violenti.

Tu hai inviato il tuo Figlio Gesù
ad annunziare la pace ai vicini e ai lontani,
a riunire gli uomini di ogni razza e di ogni stirpe
in una sola famiglia.

Ascolta il grido unanime dei tuoi figli,
supplica accorata di tutta l’umanità:
mai più la guerra, avventura senza ritorno,
mai più la guerra, spirale di lutti e di violenza;
mai questa guerra nel Golfo Persico,
minaccia per le tue creature
in cielo, in terra ed in mare.

In comunione con Maria, la Madre di Gesù,
ancora ti supplichiamo:
parla ai cuori dei responsabili delle sorti dei popoli,
ferma la logica della ritorsione e della vendetta,
suggerisci con il tuo Spirito soluzioni nuove,
gesti generosi ed onorevoli,
spazi di dialogo e di paziente attesa
più fecondi delle affrettate scadenze della guerra.

Concedi al nostro tempo
giorni di pace.

Mai più la guerra.


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