Saturday, 24 June 2006

Letter & Spirit by: Scott Hahn

Letter and Spirit
Scott Hahn
ISBN 0385509332
November 2005

Depending on whom you talk to, Scott Hahn is either a hero or a turncoat. He was raised Presbyterian, and was even on the fast track to be president at a Presbyterian seminary when he began to doubt two protestant mainstays: ‘by scripture alone’ and ‘by faith alone’. So he did what any academically trained person would do, he decided to research and went back to school to do a master’s in Roman Catholic thought, eventually converting to Catholicism. Since then, he has been a prolific writer and speaker on things Catholic, and why the catholic faith is the one true valid faith.

This book is part academic treatise and part faith discovery. Hahn states in the introduction that he is writing this book for both his university students, and for the general population - readers of his many popular books on things Catholic.

Letter and Spirit is a study of how scripture is central to the mass, and how the eucharistic life is central to the word. It is a study of scripture and liturgy. The book shows a clear progression in the life of the faithful from receiving the written word to the living word in the liturgy. “Liturgy is the very place of our interpretive nearness to the ancients. In our present is our beginning.” p.11 So we need the form and structure of mass to help scripture to be more meaningful to our lives. “From the beginning, the two have been united indissolubly. Scripture is for liturgy, and scripture is about liturgy.” p.34 So, with only one or the other, our experience of faith would be missing.

Hahn shows us that the word is God’s plan for us: “In God’s plan of salvation, the Bible leads God’s people to the liturgy. The written text of scripture becomes the living word of God. The Bible’s meaning and purpose are fulfilled in the liturgy – the words of scripture become ‘spirit and life’ … the words of eternal life.” p.100 Through that experience of new life we can live the life to the full promised in Matthew 5:6. Our faith is a part of memory and a path of hope. “The liturgy is the place where tradition lies, where memory lives. This was its purpose from the very beginning, when Jesus commanded his apostles to “Do this in memory of me.’” p.130 Today we are still following that commandment. Daily as the mass is offered, we are living in memory of him.

Hahn then shows us that scripture is read in many ways and on many levels. He states: “Reading scripture within the mainstream of tradition means reading it as salvation history – and thus reading it typologically, as it appears in the liturgy and the lectionary.” p.164 But that is just the beginning of the story. We are still developing as the church. “Much work needs to be done. There are books to be written, studies to be undertaken, sermons to be preached, prayers to be raised, and ordinary lives to be lived.” p.172 This book will be a beginning in helping us to explore our faith to a much deeper level.

This book is an excellent volume to help a catholic or a Christian grow in a deeper understanding of the centrality of scriptures to faith. Yet, this book will not be accepted by many, because of Hahn’s past, and because he recently announced that he is a member of Opus Dei, and has a book on that topic coming out later this year. As such, though this book has much to offer, the question remains: Will it be received for the treasures within or rejected for the author’s past?

Other Reviews of Hahn's Books.

Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace: My Spiritual Journey in Opus Dei
Letter and Spirit (Version 1)
Letter and Spirit (Version 2)
Understanding “OUR FATHER”: Biblical Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer

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