Fifty years ago today, Yves Congar wrote these words in the journal that he was keeping during the newly-opened Second Vatican Council. (Congar's "My Journal of the Council" has recently been published in English translation by Liturgical Press).His astonished exclamation concerned the fact that 62% of the Bishops gathered in Council had voted against the draft document "On the Sources of Revelation." However, according to the Council's rules, it required a two-thirds negative vote to remand the document back to committee. Then, with his sanctified common sense, Pope John intervened, reconstituted the committee, now to be headed jointly by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bea, and commissioned them to produce a new document.I had just begun theological studies in Rome, living at Collegio Capranica (founded by Cardinal Capranica 100 years before Trent). The fourth theologians from the College, who were working at the Council as assistants, broke the electrifying news at dinner (even before Xavier Rynne could get to a phone). We all sensed that it marked a historic turning point.What emerged from the Council was one of its most important documents, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, "Dei Verbum." The young Joseph Ratzinger had an important role in helping to articulate the more "personalist" understanding of God's revelation that characterizes the document.I think that "Dei Verbum" has been relatively neglected since the Council -- more attention (and polemics) being lavished on the other three constitutions; but, to my mind, it is the foundational document. And, if we hope to receive the Council with requisite fulness, it is the place to start -- fifty years later.
Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is the author of Rekindling the Christic Imagination.