The Lenten journey

Michael A. Hayes

‘O God of mercy, may your people ... by offering the age old disciplines along their pilgrim journey ... merit to come and behold you forever.’
Roman Missal, Lent: prayer over the people.

Human beings were created to live in time and space, and the mystery of the Incarnation and the Paschal mystery, which lie central to the Christian faith, emphasise that truth. God comes to meet humanity in time and space, and that reality is ritualised through the liturgy, encountered in prayer and lived out in discipleship. But that encounter is not a simple one off, it is a continuing encounter, an encounter that is expressed during Lent in a very deliberate way. Lent is a season, it is a period of time, and it is forty days – forty being a number used in the scriptures to denote a long period rather than a precise counting. But the imagery associated with Lent is also frequently that of journey, both literally and metaphorically. On the first Sunday of the season there is always the gospel of the temptation when we are told ‘The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert’ (Mk. 1.12) [or ‘led’ in the softer version of Matthew and Luke]. Jesus goes on a journey in order to spend time alone. In the following Sunday the gospel is always that of the Transfiguration, when Jesus takes his three closest disciples and leads them up a mountain to be with him. The idea of Lent being a time away from the normal routine, in order to spend time with the Lord, permeates the vocabulary of the season.

But the idea of journey is also the metaphor most suitable for the process of conversion that Lent seeks to bring about. In this year of the Lenten Cycle, we are offered the three great catechetical gospels of John, which are echoed in the scrutinies associated with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. These gospels which recount the bringing to faith of the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, and the story of the raising of Lazarus are masterpieces of dramatic unfolding. They recount the process of conversion, which unfolds in time and space as something of a journey.

The Samaritan woman who makes her every day journey to the well encounters the stranger who unfolds her life and its meaning step by step. The man born blind journeys in his understanding from meeting ‘the man called Jesus’ through progressive deepening of comprehension, until he can exclaim ‘Lord I believe.’ Lazarus’ journey is literally from death to life – but Martha’s journey of realization is also significant, her confession of faith can stand alongside Peter’s pronouncement at Caesarea Philippi: ‘Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the one who was to come into the world.’ Those whom the community of faithful pray for during the scrutinies in each of these weeks, recognise in these gospels the journey to faith that they have made over this time of discernment. For all Christians who undertake the Lenten season – who make their way into the desert, and up the mountain of Transfiguration, all those who step by step come to recognise the Jesus they encounter, and who invites them further into faith – this is a journey of encounter and deepening of the perception of the one who is encountered. The celebration of the Paschal mystery at the Easter Vigil is, in one sense the destination, the ending of the journey, and concluding of the time that is Lent.

But while the season may end there, with Easter, for the Christian the journey of faith will continue. On Easter morning itself, there is another journey – the journey to the tomb, a journey of discovery. Then the marvellous journey to Emmaus, a journey of encounter, is recorded for our contemplation. And throughout Eastertide, the constant readings from the Acts of the Apostles, describe the journeying of Philip and Paul and Peter and others as, guided by the Spirit, the infant Church takes the message of Christ out from Jerusalem, and ultimately travels to the ends of the earth. And for the individual member of the faithful there is always the final journey, the pilgrimage to encounter the source of life, the Risen Lord. And for that ultimate passage, the Church commends the faithful to eternal salvation:

‘Go forth upon thy journey, Christian soul!
Go from this world!
Go, in the Name of God
The Omnipotent Father, Who created thee!
Go, in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord,
Son of the Living God, Who bled for thee!
Go, in the Name of the Holy Spirit,
Who hath been poured out on thee!’
(JH Newman: The Dream of Gerontius)

From fear of freedom to freedom from fear Toleration theology in Dignitatis Humanae

Anthony Towey

Mindful that 2017 is a significant year for ecumenical relationships, in this two-part article, Anthony Towey explains why Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanae was key to a renewed approach of Catholicism to the views of other Christians and indeed to adherents of all faiths and none. Anthony Towey is the Director of the Aquinas Centre at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

Introductory summary
Dignitatis Humanae – The Declaration On The Right Of Persons And Communities To Social And Civil Liberty In Religious Matters is one of the shortest of the sixteen documents that comprise the ‘canon’ of the Second Vatican Council, 1962-65. Variously hailed as ‘a decisive document in the history of humanity’ (Hünermann, 2006: 451) or the ‘ruin of the Church’ (Lefebvre in O’Malley, 2008: 217), the principles enshrined therein polarized opinion at the Council and led, fairly directly, to schism, albeit on a limited scale. Even today, the document remains something of a ‘hot potato’. Either explicitly or implicitly, this short document takes a stance on truth, freedom, religion, politics, salvation – even the integrity of God – which rightly gives it an importance way beyond its word count.

Login for more...

The Eucharist: Meal and sacrifice

Gerald O’Collins SJ

Any account of the Eucharist has to convey it as meal as well as sacrifice, writes Gerald O’Collins SJ, adjunct professor of Australia Catholic University.

Back in 1968 at the University of Tübingen, Joseph Ratzinger gave the best lecture I ever heard from a German professor. For an audience that was primarily Protestant, he took up the question: ‘Eucharist: Meal or sacrifice?’ Starting from some pioneering work by Romano Guardini, he argued for a ‘both-and’ rather than an ‘either-or.’ The Mass is both a meal, as Protestants have typically stressed, and a sacrifice, as Roman Catholics have insisted. In a beautifully structured presentation, Ratzinger harmoniously linked the meal aspects of the Eucharist with its sacrificial nature.

More recently the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the Eucharist ‘the making present and sacramental offering of his [Christ’s] unique sacrifice’ (no. 1362; emphasis added). It also calls the Eucharist ‘the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord’s body and blood’ (no. 1382; emphasis added). In a lengthy treatment of the Eucharist, the Catechism weaves together its two basic values as sacrifice and meal (nos. 1322–1419).

Login for more...

Reflections on the thirty-sixth Jesuit General Congregation

Thomas D. Stegman SJ

A personal account of the most recent congregation of Jesuits by Thomas D. Stegman SJ, Dean and Professor Ordinarius at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

Over two hundred Jesuits from all parts of the world were in Rome from 2 October until 12 November 2016 for a general congregation. This marked the thirty-sixth such congregation of the Society of Jesus, founded in 1540. It was the thirty-first one called to elect a new general superior.

Before beginning our work, the 215 members (most of whom were elected by our province congregations) gathered at the Society’s Church of the Gesù for a concelebrated Eucharist. We were joined by hundreds of other Jesuits and friends of the Society. Fr. Bruno Cadoré, Master of the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans), gave an inspiring homily in which he exhorted us Jesuits to ‘dare the audacity of the improbable’ while clinging closely in humility to God, from whom we find our source of strength. It was a fitting exhortation for a congregation whose motto was ‘rowing into the deep.’

Login for more...

The influence of mystery and morality plays on the work of William Shakespeare

David Fincham

This article considers the origin and nature of medieval mystery and morality plays, and the extent to which the characters and religious themes of these plays influenced the work of William Shakespeare. David Fincham is a lecturer in Catholic School Leadership at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

Scholars have studied a variety of aspects of William Shakespeare’s life and work in detail across the centuries, exploring not only his language and his poetic style, but also questions about the disputed authorship of his plays. The subject of whether or not Shakespeare was a closet Catholic (his father, having been born before the Reformation, would have been Catholic), has also been discussed. It was even reported in the Daily Telegraph (18 November 2011) that, according to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s daily newspaper, Shakespeare’s plays ‘teem with open references to the Catholic religion.’

Login for more...