Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Review 5: Covenant and Communion

Guest-posted at Standing on My Head and linked to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

I have to admit I don't know one person's theology from another. I thought theology was theology, and it did not come in flavors. So this little book was a pleasant surprise: first, it's an overview of how Benedict XVI thinks about God; and second, it shows how Benedict thinks about God through the Bible.

I have to digress already. Last year I had this book fall into my lap:

What an unexpected delight! B16 takes the reader through a conversational exegesis of all the Bible bits concerning young Jesus, from the Annunciation of John to Jesus in the Temple. I thought it was terrific, and I still re-read parts of it. So I had a good idea about how the pope approached Scripture before I started on Covenant and Communion, which is a more learned and demanding book than The Infancy Narratives. If you're an unschooled layman like me, I'd recommend reading one of the Jesus of Nazareth books first. It will make it easier to grasp what Scott Hahn wants us to know about B16's thinking in Covenant and Communion.

In C&C, the author condenses what must be well-over a million words and several decades of Benedict's God-thinking into about 200 pages. Hahn quotes St. Jerome in the opening chapter's title: Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ, and writes, "How we read and interpret the Bible directly affects what we believe about Christ, the Church, the sacraments, and the liturgy." The rest of the book shows us what Benedict understands about those things, and also how the Bible shaped his thinking. Hahn provides just enough commentary and guidance such that the reader can understand big chunks of the Pope's original prose on its own terms. At the same time, by following Benedict one sees how he directly uses the Word itself as the primary written testimony of Catholic faith- say, as opposed to the Catechism, or a Bible study guide, or any number of other books that often mediate between an individual and Scripture.

And Benedict thinks big: C&C isn't about apologetics, doesn't focus in detail on discrete topics. Its God-scope is universal, as broad and deep as can be managed in a small package. It's the whole Faith; the whole Bible; the whole time.

Read Covenant and Communion: it's not the usual.