Liturgy and evangelization

Liturgy and evangelization

Herewith ends my ten day blog hiatus. I was uncharacteristically abrupt in my last comment. It’s a blogger’s prerogative of course, but not an edifying one.

I think maybe I had been online too much. Too much online interaction, and not enough of the real thing, can have a negative influence.

I’m in Wollongong, at a national liturgy conference. This evening’s keynote speaker was Archbishop Coleridge, who is an unusually engaging speaker.

He made an interesting claim about the documents of Vatican II: the four conciliar constitutions, he suggests, are analogous to the four gospels. Just as the gospels inform and shape our interpretation of the other books of the New Testament books, so the constitutions should inform and shape our interpretation of the other documents of the Council. Just as the gospels demand symphonic treatment, the constitutions demand a symphonic treatment: no single constitution trumps the others.

Having established this, he proposed a brief synthesis of the four council’s claims about God, revelation, and ourselves.

But let me cut to the chase. I’ll include my notes on the bulk of his talk in a pop up, and then jump to liturgy and evangelization.

Click here for notes on the Archbishop's synthesis

1. Sacred Scripture reveals that God creates us in his image. We know God, we love God, and we exercise stewardship. We are not slaves: our work is not servile.

2. We’re called to be co-creators. We are social; we are made for communion with each other, and communion with God. Marriage is the most sublime communion between humans, since it is in nuptial communion that we become co-creators with God. But all forms of communion enable us to share in God’s creativity. We must beware of dangers to communion: individualism; reductionist economic theories; atheistic materialism; in a word, ideology!

3. We are in a dialogue of interpersonal communion with God. Tradition and scripture are not revelation; Jesus himself is revelation. In other words, divine revelation is not a “message” from God; divine revelation is a direct and personal communication of God himself.

4. In Jesus and through the Holy Spirit, God reveals himself to us.

5. In Jesus and through the Holy Spirit, God reveals ourselves to us.

6. God speaks metaphorically. Metaphor is a rich means of communication, which is always subversive and always revelatory. Metaphor doesn’t depart from our world, but it turns reality on its head, thereby revealing something new about reality.

Metaphor is fundamental to the divine dialogue between man and God because of those shadows which threaten our communion with God and communion between ourselves. Hence the fundamental importance of the homily, which should unpack God’s metaphorical teaching.

The archbishop concluded as he started, with another compelling claim:

“Full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy presupposes and demands full, conscious and active participation in the Church’s mission.”

He added that liturgical renewal isn’t internal club business. It’s integral to the new evangelization. Why? Good liturgy deepens a person’s experience of – and their participation in – the Lord’s passion and death and resurrection. Evangelization – a personal encounter with Christ – is both individual and personal, and also ecclesial and liturgical. So the liturgical renewal is a real grappling with, and absolutely critical to, the new evangelization.

What he said did not surprise me. I knew it already, if not explicitly, then intuitively. But I don’t know if I’ve put it into practice. I generally take a three-fold approach to evangelization: friendship, doctrine, and prayer. I show a sincere interest in the person; I listen to them and learn from them. (The Holy Spirit’s right in that.) I give them good spiritual reading, and encourage them to read the scriptures. I also encourage them to pray with the scriptures, and to meditate, and to foster a devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The liturgy, I’m afraid, doesn’t get a look in.

In the wake of Archbishop Coleridge’s talk, it’s clear to me that I have to change this. But I’m left wondering how.

Suggestions are welcome!

  • Clara

    Yay Archbishop Coleridge!
    Some years ago at a Making Disciples Conference ( in the States Fr Mike Sweeney OP ( made a similar claim. He said the work of the Council was a work of the Holy Spirit and the Council Fathers had no idea of the full implications of their work.

  • I haven’t considered the relationship of the four constitutions of V2 quite like that, but I like it. It makes me want to pick them up and read them again.
    Regarding the liturgy in the context of the new evangelization I think it begins quite simply with an encouraging invite to return to mass (or come to mass). That might open a number of opportunities to explain the importance of communion, liturgy, and the deepening of a personal relationship with Jesus.

    • Clara

      Preaching needs to be spot on – those in the pews need to realise that they are the means by which others will encounter Christ. They need to be made aware of their role as disciples. The final dismissal is about taking the Good News to the world, but the ways in which this happens are not made explicit. Lay people need formation. Resources to assist parishes are available from Programs are available in Australia . . .

  • Simon hogan

    I hope one day the archbishop becomes the govern general of Australia! His videos are just amazing! I sent him a email and I got a response from him I feel very honoured!

  • MuMu

    Great post, Fr John! Good of you to invite our thoughts.

    To me, the liturgy is the focus of evangelisation just as it is the focus of everything else. The form of the Ordinary Rite expresses the new evangelisation – laity are drawn into deeper and more active participation in order to realise we are bound to give Christ to others; everyone we meet, live and work with.

    We don’t just receive the Lord in order to get closer to Him but to bring others closer to Him. I try to remember when I go to Mass to pay attention at every moment, to unite my prayers and sacrifices with Christ’s and above all, to bring each person in the world into the Sacrifice… it is a grave responsibility to strive for holiness and to be God’s love to everyone!

    I’m reading Pope Francis’ Exhortation, which is a powerful catechesis on evangelisation.

  • You might want to reflect on Evangelii Gaudium para. 24… Especially the last two sentences. (Happy new year, btw!)

    • MuMu

      David Shutz refers to:

      ” Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness. The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving.”

  • Clara

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