Vol 41 No 4 December 2011
|Our Cover: Daphne Mayo||Elich, Tom||Australian Artists||1, 16|
|How Hospitable Can a Catholic Be?||Higginson, Maria||Ministries – Liturgical||3-4|
|Reflections of a Church Musician Seemingly Unable to Retire||Young, Gail||Music||5-6|
|Missal Issues||-||Texts – Liturgical||6-7|
|Lent: Liturgy Planning Guide||Harrington, Elizabeth||Liturgy Preparation||8-9|
|Ad limina||-||Texts – Liturgical||10|
|New Lectionary||-||Texts – Liturgical||10-11|
|News from BCL and NLC||-||Liturgy||12|
|Kevin McKelson; Verna Holyhead||-||In Memoriam||12|
|The Church Book Bag||Reefman, Donrita||Children and Youth||13|
|Australian Elements in the Roman Missal||-||Texts – Liturgical||13-14|
|Books: Zizioulis, "Eucharistic Communion and the World"; Troegar, "Wonder Reborn"||Fitz-Herbert, John||Liturgy||15|
|Editor: The Liturgy and the New Evangelisation||Elich, Tom||Evangelisation and Mission||2|
THE LITURGY AND THE NEW EVANGELISATION
The Church has always been missionary: we cannot hold back the good news Christ offers to all. Thus we are called to engage in a profound dialogue between the Gospel and the world in which we live. After the 1974 Synod of Bishops on the topic, Pope Paul VI wrote about evangelisation in the modern world in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi. Since then, Pope John Paul II and now Benedict XVI have begun talking of a ‘new evangelisation’. What is new is today’s world and the way we live in it. A particular focus now is the witness to our faith in those parts of the world which have traditionally been marked by Christian culture but which increasingly display indifference to religion.
Consequently in 2010, the pope established the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation and, next year in October 2012, the Synod of Bishops will return to the topic The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. The Lineamenta or discussion document has been released and may be read on the Vatican website.
In my view, the liturgy and our participation in it is absolutely central to the work of evangelisation and this is made clear by some of the principles set out in the Lineamenta.
- Evangelisation is about showing others that we rejoice in a personal encounter with Christ and live in communion with Christ; the liturgy is the privileged place where we encounter Christ and express our communion with the body of Christ.
- Evangelisation arises in a proclamation of the Gospel and is centred in a deep love for the word of God; in the liturgy, the word of God is proclaimed and received in faith.
- Evangelisation has as its primary agent the Holy Spirit – it is less about what we do and more about what the Holy Spirit does through us; likewise the liturgy is effective and fruitful through the power of the Holy Spirit – changing not only the bread and wine but the assembled Church into the risen Body of Christ.
- Evangelisation as the transmission of faith is ‘a communal ecclesial event’: the agent for transmitting the faith is the entire Church which manifests itself in the local Churches where proclamation, transmission and the lived experience of the gospel are realised; the communal prayer of the liturgy and especially the Eucharist is the fullest expression of our identity as Church, and is the action of the whole Church expressed through the words and gestures of a particular assembly of the local Church.
- Evangelisation is about engaging with the real world; the liturgy sends us out with new strength and hope to witness to Christ in the ordinary places where we live and work.
- Evangelisation seeks to initiate people into a Christian understanding and way of life; the catechumenate is the pastoral process which enshrines the liturgy of Christian initiation and its sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
- Evangelisation, in forming individuals capable of living life to the full and of making their unique contribution to the common good, offers people the ‘hope of a world made new’; in the liturgy, we receive a glimpse and foretaste of this kingdom of God.
Now, it is not only that the liturgy prepares people for the work of evangelisation and empowers them to undertake a witness to Christ. The liturgy itself is a most important moment of evangelisation. The Rite of Marriage and the Order of Christian Funerals both encourage us to show special consideration to those who take part in liturgical celebrations or hear the gospel only on the occasion of a wedding/funeral, either because they are not Catholics, or because they are Catholics who rarely, if ever, take part in the Eucharist or seem to have lost their faith. Priests are ministers of Christ’s gospel to everyone (RM 9 and OCF 18).
The liturgy as a place for the new evangelisation is seen especially when the worshipping community comes into contact with the ‘outside’ world. Besides funerals and marriages, the sacraments of Christian initiation are often opportunities to engage with families who may only have a feeble connection with the life of the Church. Such contact also occurs when our liturgy is celebrated on civic occasions when politicians, the legal profession, or the defence forces might be present. Finally we can think of the great congregations at the annual festivals of Christmas and Easter. All these events offer a point at which people may enter the sacred mysteries with the faith community. The way we celebrate the liturgy needs to be accessible and to invite full, conscious and active participation.
Here I hope the bishops at the Synod will put the questions boldly. Does the liturgy undertake its function of evangelisation when its ministers are robed in lace, swathed in seven metres of scarlet silk and attended by page boys? Are we concerned about the new evangelisation when we keep refining small rules for the Church about celebrating an old use in Latin? Are we looking outwards to others when we eliminate from the liturgy those few religious names which everyone in the society recognises (Good Friday, for example, or Mary MacKillop)? Do we speak clearly to an alienated world when our new translation of the Roman Missal gives absolute priority to the structures and vocabulary of a dead language? Latin is our internal language which struggles to make meaning even for the initiated. An inward-looking liturgy will never realise its potential for an outward-directed evangelisation.
I believe that the new evangelisation is fundamentally about finding a common language with which to enter into dialogue. Partners in a dialogue listen to one another and search together. It is an invitation to be open, open to discovering common ground. It is a subtle, flexible task which leaves ample scope for the mysterious work of conversion which only the Holy Spirit can bestow. The committed believer does not engage the unbeliever simply by talking louder.