Querida Amazonia 68: Grace Supposes Culture

After citing St John Paul II in paragraph 67, Pope Francis moves from there to his own thoughts from Evangelii Gaudium:

68. Here I would reiterate what I stated about inculturation in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, based on the conviction that “grace supposes culture, and God’s gift becomes flesh in the culture of those who receive it”.[115]

Difficult for some people to swallow, but it’s true. It’s actually an application of natural law. God has made us to be social beings. We share aspects of communal life on many social scales, including how we express our humanity through language, art, customs, celebrations, etc.. Culture, in other words. God speaks to us through the expressions of human culture. Culture, like all mortal expressions, is not perfect. Not even church culture is perfect. But we can attend carefully to what we see and hear–what we notice. When we do, we find riches from the hand of God.

We can see that it involves a double movement. On the one hand, a fruitful process takes place when the Gospel takes root in a given place, for “whenever a community receives the message of salvation, the Holy Spirit enriches its culture with the transforming power of the Gospel”.[Ibid. 116]

This is a matter of faith, of trusting the various spiritual charisms that arise in a community. Again, not always discerned fully or expressed faithfully or according to how they’ve been received, but material for serious reflection.

On the other hand, the Church herself undergoes a process of reception that enriches her with the fruits of what the Spirit has already mysteriously sown in that culture. In this way, “the Holy Spirit adorns the Church, showing her new aspects of revelation and giving her a new face”.[Ibid.] In the end, this means allowing and encouraging the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel to be preached “in categories proper to each culture, creating a new synthesis with that particular culture”.[Ibid. 129]

Traditionally, this is how the Roman Church found a certain wealth of culture: by witnessing and absorbing the offerings from other places in Europe. Individual confessions from Ireland, the Kyrie Eleison from the Greek, late Renaissance painting from the Orthodox, Advent greenery from central Europe–things like that.

The Holy Father’s post-synodal exhortation is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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