Christian Dialogue and the Word of God.

What Does the New Directory for Catechesis actually say? Part One
August 18, 2020

The ability to dialogue with another human being is truly a remarkable gift because it provides an opportunity for mutual communication, investigation and understanding of a person’s position on a myriad of topics, themes and especially one’s journey of faith. An example of genuine fruitful dialogue is when an infant-toddler begins to openly and vividly express himself to his parents in a way that both captivates and excites a parent especially when the infant calls out “mama” or “dada.” The dialogue between parent and child illicit a sense of awe and wonder because the parent encounters an intimacy of words that begin to convey a meaning between parent and child.

If the premise of any dialogue is fruitful engagement of souls, then any initial dialogue of faith must engage the logos-the Word of God as a primary source of communication. This is where a thoughtful and genuine understanding of the kerygma-the proclamation of the Word of God makes sense.  In his work entitled; Catholicism, Henri De Lubac describes an important attribute found in Christianity:

Christianity alone continues to assert the transcendent destiny of man and the common destiny of mankind. The whole history of the world is a preparation for this destiny. From the first creation to the last end, through material opposition and the more serious opposition of created freedom, a divine plan is in operation, accomplishing its successive stages among which the Incarnation stands out as chief.[1]       

De Lubac places great emphasis on the nature and destiny of man to be united with Christ as made evident in the Incarnate Word taking on human form. The Incarnation serves as the primordial source of Christian communication for all mankind. Christ the Incarnate Word is the Par Excellence of what Pope Francis describes as the First Announcement or Proclamation rooted in Christ as described in the new Directory for Catechesis issued by the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.

Rediscovering the First Announcement

In the initial introduction and first chapter of the Directory for Catechesis, Pope Francis proposes the kerygma as the source and summit of all evangelizing activity to usher Church renewal. The matter being the actual Word of God and the form involving a first proclamation that provides an opportunity for someone to hear the Word of God and receive God’s saving love rooted in Christ. The fruit of this process is maintaining a constant focus on Christ the Incarnate Word. Intimate with the proclamation of the logos is the catechetical expression and instruction of faith that is both Trinitarian and Christocentric in nature. This process if you will demonstrate the importance of catechesis and catechetical instruction as what the Directory identifies as a mystagogical catechesis. The specific aim of this method of catechetical formation is to introduce a believer into an authentic experience of Christian living in community. The Directory stresses the need to establish an intimate union with Christ[2] and sees the catechetical process as one of accompaniment.

What is the Christian Proclamation?   

The Directory describes the Christian proclamation as the communication of God’s Divine plan which is revealed in the Trinity and our vocation to be intimately associated with the Trinity. At the heart of our first proclamation is the offer of salvation by Christ to humanity. The Church was founded by Christ for the primary purpose of reuniting the lost sheep to God. St. John Chrysostom describes the Christian proclamation as follows:

“What news is more beautiful than this, God on earth, man in Heaven.”

Whether our proclamation[3] calls us to make disciples or simply initiate the process of discipleship our actions and intentions are to act in the name and person of Jesus Christ. Guided by the light of the Holy Spirit our initial evangelistic endeavors are to reflect a deeply rooted faith in Christ and His Church where our language and mannerisms reflect our baptismal identity.

Is Evangelizing the delivery of doctrine?

The Directory makes an important distinction between the practice and method of evangelization and the importance of the delivery of doctrine. The foundation of evangelizing is not the delivery of doctrine it is the announcement of Jesus Christ.[4] The systemic structure of this method rooted in the Incarnation aims to make visible Revelation and how God communicates to us. Hence, evangelization is an ecclesial process-the revelation of the Blessed Trinity that bears witness to the Christian life and how to initiate a life with Christ. The Gospel serves as the spiritual fuel for the establishment of the First Proclamation which is a genuine call to conversion.

Christ is the aim of the evangelization process

Evangelization is not an experiential practice that relies on emotion, personal interests and interpretations, or a personal piety. Primary to the evangelization process is a genuine and authentic exposition and articulation of the Incarnate Word of God Jesus Christ. This does not simply mean proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ without a clear and thorough understanding of the Incarnation, the proclamation of Jesus Christ crucified means to introduce and proclaim the Son of God in a clear and cogent manner both catechetically and doctrinally rooted in the kerygma. It involves a pastoral action to help nourish the faithful. St. Paul VI reminds us that there is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.[5] The Directory stresses the need to avoid stagnant evangelizing and thus maintain an active dialogue with the person as this is part of our missionary activity and our spiritual work of mercy. St. Augustine in his First Catechetical Instruction emphasizes the escape of ignorance which prevents people from knowing their own identity and vocation.[6]

Catechesis as a Dialogue of Faith

Sound catechetical instruction involves a dialogue of God’s relationship with man which the Director calls a dialogue of salvation.[7] Catechetical dialogue takes its identity from the proclamation of the Word of God and is nourished by the Creed of faith. This laboratory of dialogue consists of a specific formula consisting of the First Proclamation-Word of God and the reality of Christ rooted in the Incarnation-Creed.

Authentic Christian dialogue cannot exist without the principle ingredients of the Word of God and the Creed. If the premise of any dialogue of faith is to invoke personal experiences, spiritual attitudes and personal creeds, then you open the door toward an encounter without Christ. Our Catechetical aim should always guide the person toward an authentic intimacy with Jesus Christ both now and forever because in the end our actions are called toward the salvation of souls.

God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God-the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable-with our human representations. Our human words fall short of the mystery of God.[8]

 

[1] De Lubac, Henri, Catholicism, p. 140-141

[2] Directory for Catechesis, 3

[3] Mk 16:19

[4] Directory for Catechesis, 29

[5] St. Paul VI, Evangelization in the Modern World, 22

[6] Directory for Catechesis, 52

[7] Ibid, 53

[8] CCC 42

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