Dies Domini 40: Assessing The Word

The second of three sections on the Word at Sunday liturgy. Pope John Paul asks how well we were preaching it fifteen years ago. We can ask the same today:

40. In considering the Sunday Eucharist more than thirty years after the Council, we need to assess how well the word of God is being proclaimed and how effectively the People of God have grown in knowledge and love of Sacred Scripture.(The Council’s Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium speaks of “suavis et vivus Sacrae Scripturae affectus” (No. 24)) There are two aspects of this — that of celebration and that of personal appropriation — and they are very closely related.

1. Liturgy and celebration:

At the level of celebration, the fact that the Council made it possible to proclaim the word of God in the language of the community taking part in the celebration must awaken a new sense of responsibility towards the word, allowing “the distinctive character of the sacred text” to shine forth “even in the mode of reading or singing”.(John Paul II, Letter Dominicae Cenae (24 February 1980), 10: AAS 72 (1980), 135)

2. Knowledge and information:

At the level of personal appropriation, the hearing of the word of God proclaimed must be well prepared in the souls of the faithful by an apt knowledge of Scripture and, where pastorally possible, by special initiatives designed to deepen understanding of the biblical readings, particularly those used on Sundays and holy days.

I don’t find these two quite enough. The Word also comes to us, and invites us and draws us into a deeper personal relationship with Christ. Worship is vital, as is the understanding of Scripture. But does it evolve and develop beyond a rubrical structure and an intellectual understanding of the sacred text? Does it become personal, and personally challenging to the believer?

When we get to the rest of this section and to tomorrow’s post, we’ll see Pope John Paul II develop this a bit. But I think it needs to be more explicit. And it’s about more than developing preachers to preach to people. It’s about enabling the baptized to engage the Word of God and to bring its challenges to bear in their lives.

Let’s have the new saint have the next word …

If Christian individuals and families are not regularly drawing new life from the reading of the sacred text in a spirit of prayer and docility to the Church’s interpretation,(Dei Verbum 25) then it is difficult for the liturgical proclamation of the word of God alone to produce the fruit we might expect. This is the value of initiatives in parish communities which bring together during the week those who take part in the Eucharist — priest, ministers and faithful(Cf. Ordo Lectionum Missae, Praenotanda, Chap. III) — in order to prepare the Sunday liturgy, reflecting beforehand upon the word of God which will be proclaimed. The objective sought here is that the entire celebration — praying, singing, listening, and not just the preaching — should express in some way the theme of the Sunday liturgy, so that all those taking part may be penetrated more powerfully by it. Clearly, much depends on those who exercise the ministry of the word. It is their duty to prepare the reflection on the word of the Lord by prayer and study of the sacred text, so that they may then express its contents faithfully and apply them to people’s concerns and to their daily lives.

And you commenters the last, if you wish.

The Vatican site has Dies Domini in its entirety.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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