In December 1961 I was presented with a copy of the New Testament “for best attendance during the year as an altar server.” I still have it. The title page read The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ newly translated from the vulgate Latin authorised by hierarchy of England and Wales and the hierarchy of Scotland. Up till then the English translation of the Latin vulgate was the Rheims Bible published in 1582. In 1936 Monsignor Ronald Knox was asked to render a new translation of the Latin Vulgate into accessible and timeless English.
The translation of the books of the bible from the Greek and Hebrew into Latin was largely the work of St Jerome. Last week, on 30th September, we marked 1600 years since his death. St Jerome had been asked initially to translate the Gospels into Latin so that the scripture should be more accessible to the ordinary people. He was passionate about Scripture. He once said “Make knowledge of Scripture your love… live with them, mediate on them, make them the sole object of your knowledge and enquiry.” He also said “The scriptures are shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for theologians to swim in without reaching the bottom.” His most well know quote is “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
This year and next, our bishops with The Bible Society are promoting and encouraging a deeper encounter God’s Word, called “The GOD WHO SPEAKS”. As they remind us, Scripture is at the centre of everything the Church does. The word of God shapes our prayer and worship. The Bible shows us how to understand the world, how we are called to live and relate to each other.
Do you remember Pope Francis suggesting, ‘Everyone should carry a small Bible or pocket edition of the Gospels and should find at least a few minutes every day to read the word of God?’ I wonder what is our relationship with Scripture? Do we read Scripture. It is a part of our daily life? Recently the Catholic Truth Society published “Bible” Youth Bible of the Catholic Church. In the preface written by Pope Francis he tells the young people how he reads his Bible. It is old and battered. He says “I love my old Bible which has been with me half my life. It witnessed my priestly jubilee and has been sprinkled with my tears. It is my most precious treasure. My life depends on it. I would not give it up for anything in the world. Often, I take it out and read a little in it, then I put it away and let the Lord look at me. I do not look at the Lord, but HE looks at me. Sometimes he does not speak. Then I feel nothing, only emptiness, emptiness, emptiness, but I remain there patiently, and so I wait. I read and I pray. I pray seated because it hurts me to kneel down. Sometimes I even fall asleep, while praying. But that makes no difference. I am like a son in his father’s house, and that is the important thing. Do you want to make me happy? Read the Bible.”