Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Danielou on the Sacramental Nature of the Word

The late Jean Cardinal Danielou, S.J., has much to say on the relationship and interplay between Holy Writ and God's gracious work for us in the sacraments. A nice distillation of his thought in this area can be found in his essay, "The Sacraments and the History of Salvation." What follows is one little gem from this article, which helps to remind us once again that it is generally a salutary idea to read the scriptures with the Fathers, in this case Saint Ambrose. I would just add here that Ambrose's reading of Genesis 1 is refreshing, for it shows that the Church, when at its best, recognizes Moses as more than merely a historian; Moses is best understood as a prophet, that is, as a theologian.

Let us go over these analogies. The first is that of the primordial waters sanctified by the Spirit. As the Spirit of God, hovering over these waters, raised up the first creation, so the same Spirit, hovering over the baptismal waters, raises up the new creation, effects our rebirth. The Spirit of God is the creative Spirit.

Christ's word refers to this aspect: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom" (John 3:5). "Why are you immersed in water?" St. Ambrose asks the neophyte. "We read: Let the waters bring forth living things (Gen. 1:20). And things were born. This took place at the beginning of creation. But it was reserved to our own times that water should give you a new birth by grace."

2 comments:

Rev. Shane R. Cota, SSP said...

Where can one find a copy of Danielou's essay? I do have his "The Bible and the Liturgy" which is pure gold, but I do not think I have the essay you reference.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I should have given a citation, sorry. I'm thinking the article may have been published elsewhere as well, but I have it in a yearly journal, Letter & Spirit, edited by Scott Hahn. This one is volume 2 (2006) and the article is on pages 203-215. Unless you can get it easily, let me send a copy to you; I have something else to send you anyway.