“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Ps. 119, 105)

by Sr Anne-Catherine Avril

The Word of God. I love the Word of God as I love God himself, as I love people.

It accompanies me, it is my point of reference for life, for discernment, for reading what is happening in me, around me, in the people I meet, in the events of the world. It comforts, challenges, and gives courage and hope.

In his Word, God has always revealed to us that he accompanies our humanity without becoming discouraged. He slips in and out of its meanders, descends into its abysses and rises with it, and we are sure that he will carry out his project. Each event awakens a passage, a verse in me.

I love the Word of God as I love God himself

I have studied it, much in the Jewish tradition, and I still study it; I have taught it and still teach it… in various ways. I have taught it all over the place. To young people: novices in the Congregation, pilgrims in our hostels in Jerusalem; to Jews and Muslims at Bethlehem University; to Christians in our programmes at Ecce Homo and the Ratisbonne Center.

A kind of teaching that I enjoyed very much was sharing with brothers, sisters and pilgrims who asked me for help. For example, Wafaa is an Egyptian NDS sister; she arrived with her Bible in Arabic, I had mine in French. We took turns reading the psalms in our respective languages. I would check my Hebrew Bible and we would exchange in English. What a blessing for both of us! I learned that the Word of God grows in a community of study and sharing.

Here is an anecdote from Ein Karem. Itay is a religious Jew, he teaches Hebrew literature in Germany and regularly comes to lecture at the University of Jerusalem, in Givat Ram. He stays with us in Ein Kerem and makes arrangements for kosher food. One day, I asked him why he chose our house. He said, “It’s ‘the’ place!”

I asked him if he would study parashat ha-shavu’ah (the portion of the Torah read every Shabbat) with us. He did so willingly.

I have lived the Word of God in concrete life

Once, at the end of our session, he said to me, “Do you know what the Mishna says?”

“When ten or five or three are together to study Torah, the Shekina (the presence of God) is among them?”

Well, I saw the Shekina in the eyes of the participants.

I have lived the Word of God in concrete life, especially in the Jewish world, by sharing their festivals and events of daily life, by living the tensions, the war, the challenge of peace in Israel.

I also love it for its own sake. I learned this especially from the Jewish way of reading Scripture: reading between the lines, being attentive to all its “nods and winks”. I am enchanted by the Hebrew language, and I delight in the vocabulary of the Psalms every day.

All this has allowed me to gain a better understanding about who this One God of Israel and the Nations is, thanks to the Jewish people who transmit the Word to us; about who Jesus is, that same Word (the Word was with God), the Son of the Father, who took on our humanity (and the Word became flesh), who continues to accompany humanity, to embrace its greatness and its weaknesses, who heals and saves.

I have had teachers in Our Lady of Sion and in the Jewish people

The Spirit that flows, a breeze that blows where it will, mysteriously there to reveal the “sense” of the Scriptures and the presence of God in all things.

I did not discover all this alone, I have had teachers in Our Lady of Sion and in the Jewish people. I believe in this life that passes from generation to generation through transmission. It is the Congregation that has guided my life towards the deepening of the Word. And I could put names to each and every one of these people who have called me, challenged me and stimulated me throughout my life.

Ben Bag Bag, the early rabbinic sage, used to say: “Turn the Torah over and over again, for everything is contained in it. It alone will give you true knowledge. Grow old in this study and never abandon it. You could do nothing better.” (Mishna Avot, V 25)