Thursday, October 7, 2010

New Translation Thursday: The Missal and Homilies and Catechesis

Good morning and welcome to this installment of "New Translation Thursday."

It's getting to be that every day seems to be a "New Translation" day around these parts.

I want to focus my attention today on the relationship between liturgical texts and preaching. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal, in paragraph 65, has this to say about the homily:

"The homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners."

Too often I find that homilists feel that the only "text" upon which they can preach are the texts of the readings for Mass. It is clear in the General Instruction that other texts from the Ordinary or the Propers of the Mass can be the foundation for a homily. The implementation of the new translation of The Roman Missal will be a time for homilists to embrace the other texts (other than Scripture) as the basis for their homilies.

Just this past Saturday, even before I started to get into my entire presentation on the new translation in Milwaukee, a woman raised her hand and, with a twinge of anger, said, "How am I supposed to catechize a second-grader on the meaning of the word 'consubstantial' in the new translation of the Creed?" I calmly asked her to enter the process that I was using for the presentation, and then think about her question again. I wondered, frankly, how catechists catechize about the current terminology, "one in being with the Father." This all brought us to a discussion about the fact that, with an elevated "sacral vernacular" (a directive for the new translation proposed by Liturgiam Authenticam), there will probably be the need to do more in depth explanations of these texts, since the language used will not be the kind of language we are used to in conversational discourse. Some may argue that this "sacral vernacular" will pose an impediment to instant appropriation of the meaning of the texts themselves. There may be truth to this; without direct experience of the praying of these texts, it is hard to make a judgment. But, it looks as if these texts may need fuller elaboration and explanation in order for the meaning to be appropriated in the hearts and minds of both celebrant and congregation.

I think this all points to the fact that the homily (as well as our liturgical/catechetical endeavors) will need to necessarily begin to look at the newly translated texts as fodder for preaching and catechesis.

My own pastor follows a set formula for most homilies he preaches. The last few minutes of the homily usually begin with the words, "My friends, the good news for us in today's readings is . . ." When I met with the priests of the deanery, I said that perhaps in the future, a homily might be based on one or another of the other "texts" of the Mass and that perhaps he might find himself ending his homilies with these words, "My friends, the good news for us in today's opening prayer is . . ." or "My friends, the good news for us in today's Eucharistic Prayer is . . ."

I believe that with the advent of the new translation, preachers and catechists will have a renewed opportunity to preach and teach mystagogically; to begin with the Church's text, in which are embedded our beliefs, and recapture the sense that liturgy is a locus theologicus, that liturgy is "first theology."

These are high hopes, but what is about to be opened for us in the new translation will need elucidation, expansion, explanation, and further catechesis and reflection. I, for one, think this is an opportunity that we surely can't let slip by.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Anonymous said...

Excellent ideas!

Rich said...

Don't forget the Entrance or Communion propers - if we hear more of them!!!

Chironomo said...

Sacramentum Caritatis(46) goes further in saying that the homily should, at particular times throughout the year, instruct the faithful in the "great themes of the Christian faith" as exemplified by the Four Pillars of the faith in the Catechism. That is, the homily is not so much tied to the scripture per se as it is to the meaning of scripture in the context of the Catholic faith. There is certainly a view expressed in SC that the homily is an opportunity to instruct the faithful in the particulars of the faith. This might be an option used more often as we approach the new translation: it is certainly an issue that can and perhaps should be addressed in homilies.

Some of the best homilies I have heard have been only tangentially connected to the readings but very strong on Catholic teaching. Some of the worst have been attempts to "explain" what the readings mean or what is happening in them, oftentimes drawing on cliche or debunked interpretations (i.e "The eye of the needle" is an actual gate into the city of Jerusalem, so camels can actually go through, it is just really, really hard!)