Dear Father Angelo,
I am here to ask you a question about the catechism of the Catholic Church. Point 108 reads,
“ The Christian faith, however, is not a ‘religion of the Book’. Christianity is the religion of the ‘Word’ of God, a word which is not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living. If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must through the Holy Spirit open our mind to understand the Scriptures”.
Could you explain to me why we are not a religion of the book and what it means to be one?
What differentiates us from Jews and Muslims on this point?
I always remember you in my prayer.
1. Religions of the book are commonly known as the three monotheistic religions that have a book that reveals the will of God to men. Muslims have the Koran as a book, Jews the Talmud (which roughly corresponds to our Old Testament), Christians the Bible. Although these religions all have a book that are inspired by God, Christianity is different because it does not have a Book at its core that regulates the life of men, but a Person, the living Christ in history, because he rose from the dead.
2. This is why in the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read, “The Christian faith, however, is not a ‘religion of the Book’. Christianity is the religion of the ‘Word’ of God, of a word which is not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living” (St. Bernard, Homily super Missus est, 4.11) (CCC 108).
3. This is so true that when Christians gather for prayer they do not just go to hear what God has said through the mouth of the prophet (Mohamed) or the Prophets, but they gather around Christ. They meet with Him who is Resurrection and life, they listen to his word which is not just any word, however we think as interpreted, but it is a word of eternal life, it communicates in those who listen to the eternal life which is God himself. How can we fail to remember the words of Saint Peter addressed to Christ, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).
4. Not only that, but in the Christian faith Jesus Christ is so present in every event of life, as well as in worship, so that there is no other ultimate goal to be achieved other than the one mentioned by St. Paul, “…until Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4:19). The maturity of the Christian life is reached only when one can say, “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
5. The goal of Muslims is not to transform themselves into Mohamed or to receive life from him. When they gather to pray they don’t gather around him. They don’t even think about it, well persuaded that Mohamed, however great, he is dead.
6. Christ, on the other hand, is not dead. It is Life in person, “I am the the way the truth and the life” (Jn 14: 6). He is the One who says incessantly, “I am the First and the Last, the one who lives. Once I was dead but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the key to death and the netherworld” (Rev 1,17-18). And he encounters himself perennially with every man, he is close to them in every instant of existence, even if they do not recognize him, so that, “they may have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). It is the life of grace, the life of God in us.
7. This is why even though Christianity has a Book (the Bible), it is not simply the Religion of the Book. And this is because at its center there is not a Book, but Christ.
Wishing you the fullness of life in Christ, as I thank you for the prayer made for me, I reassure you mine and I bless you.
Traslated by Marina Nelson
Proof edited by Martha Nelson