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!

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