One of the four constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum is the ‘Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation’ solemnly promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on November 18, 1965. It begins with this paragraph (the Preface, paragraph 1 of the document):
“Hearing the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith, the sacred synod takes its direction from these words of St. John: “We announce to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you, so that you may have fellowship with us and our common fellowship be with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:2-3). Therefore, following in the footsteps of the Council of Trent and of the First Vatican Council, this present council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love.”
The sacred synod is the term used to describe the meeting of the bishops in the documents that were promulgated by the Pope as a result of the discussion of the topics presented and a vote on amended documents as they arrived back into the council chamber (the main aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica was used for this). The document on Divine Revelation is one of the most important documents from Vatican II]. The document begins with reference to scripture — the ‘hearing of the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith’ is the starting point for the deliberations of the bishops of the Council before they enter into discussing what divine revelation is and how it is to be handed on. They are following the lead of St. John in what he writes in his 1 Letter — and they refer to the fact that they are also following in the light of other Councils (Trent and Vatican I) while they state the purpose of the document — they wish to ‘set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on’. Emphasis is on what divine revelation actually is and that it has to be ‘handed on’; it has to be shared. The preface finishes with a statement structured using the three great virtues of faith, hope and love. Hearing the message leads to belief and belief can bring hope and that hope leads to people focusing on love.
We begin the season of Advent this weekend — it is the time of preparation for our celebration of the Nativity of the Lord, when Jesus Christ, the Revelation of God, is born.