September/October 2018

Ekklesia

Anthony Towey

This autumn brings the promise of two gatherings of significance for the local and global Church. ‘Adoremus’, a national Eucharistic Congress will see Liverpool host representatives from parishes across the country. Gathered for a time of teaching, devotion and celebration, it will combine that precious sense of pilgrimage and journey with the equally wonderful sense of Eucharistic homecoming around the hearth of holiness. Older readers may remember the ‘Easter people’ Congress of 1980 from a generation ago. While times have changed in so many ways, it is noteworthy that the sense of Mass as ‘source and summit’ and devotion to Christ’s Eucharistic presence remain focal for Catholic gatherings.

The Synod on Young People in Rome will have wider appeal. Preparations for this have been going on for some time now and with the added charisma of Papal presence, it promises to be a lively affair. The automatic transmission of faith from generation to generation has long been ruptured in the West as individual autonomy has gone into overdrive, and less demanding social identities such as sporting allegiance have replaced the kind of solidarities that created communities and characterized our lives in the past. Research tells us that such gatherings are important especially for young adults. Far from being an ephemeral experience, a Synod such as this one will prove to be decisive for many – they will attend as delegates and return as disciples.

I have been mindful of ‘gatherings’ since late June when we hosted the first Pastoral Review Congress which proved a blessing for all who came. As well as a roster of 24 workshops illuminating all corners of pastoral concern, plenary keynote speakers included David Wells whose genius is to make the Christian path bright with joyful and holy light. Austen Ivereigh presented on Amoris Laetitia and like Gerald O’Collins in The Michael Hayes Memorial Lecture (reprinted in this issue), he reflected on the ways in which Pope Francis is encouraging us to rethink our sense of being ‘Church.’

It is clear the Pope is trying to change our static, possibly architectural and authoritarian image of what this means with more vocational and humanitarian images. Envisaging the Church as a ‘field hospital’ and being challenged to bear ‘the smell of the sheep’ – these are striking metaphors and in one sense I am with him all the way. I do wonder, however, if our having physical ‘churches’ means we are hampered in our attempt to capture that sense of dynamism and movement that characterised our forefathers, who before they were called Christians knew themselves as followers of the Way. There wasn’t a place, they were the ekklesia – the ‘called out convocation’.

While there is some controversy about the way ekklesia has perhaps been misused in the past (‘called out’ connoting a ‘holier than thou’ disparagement of the world and of others) I think its paradoxical etymology is both attractive and insightful. Readers may agree that one of the reasons that ‘gatherings’ such as synods, congresses and pilgrimages are so powerful is that they give us an experience of ekklesia – being ‘called out in order to be together’. They simply and powerfully give us a sense of what it is to be Church in a different place. For a week, a day, an hour, a moment being away from home makes us realise we are at home. Around the Eucharistic table, where strangers become family, our re-location becomes a re-vocation.

Moreover it is wrong to set such experiences of ekklesia in some kind of false opposition with our regular gathering at Mass in our local parish. Ekklesia ‘experiences’ such as synods and pilgrimages have the potential to charm the mind into a second naiveté such that as T. S. Eliot famously said, ‘the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.’ (Little Gidding).
In sum, if ekklesia is our identity then we should be at home at home and away. The Lord is with us always. We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song.   

Michael Hayes and Pope Francis

Gerald O’Collins SJ

The first Michael Hayes Memorial Lecture was given by Gerald O’Collins SJ on 23 June 2018 at the Pastoral Review Congress, held at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. This is the lecture in full. Gerald O’Collins SJ is adjunct professor of Australia Catholic University.

Some events of world history fix themselves forever in our memories. We of an older generation remember where we were and how we reacted, for instance, when news came through about the 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy and the 1981 attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. Much more recently many people will recall where they were and how they felt when they learned that Pope Benedict XVI had announced his resignation. It was characteristic of Michael Hayes, however, that, in the first editorial of the Pastoral Review he published after receiving the news of the papal resignation (March/April 2013), he did not indulge any personal reminiscences. He could have recalled, for instance, the 2010 papal visit to St Mary’s University and how he now felt about the dramatic news of Benedict’s resignation. Michael turned rather to the New Testament and reflected on ‘the Petrine Ministry: A Calling from the Lord’.

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Light in our darkness – celebrating Divino Afflante Spiritu

Adrian Graffy

Seventy-five years after the publication of Pope Pius XII’s ground-breaking encyclical on the Bible, Adrian Graffy examines its contents and assesses its impact. The author is chair of the Scripture Working Group of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

On 19 July 1943 Pope Pius XII made a visit to the Tiburtino quarter of Rome. Allied bombing had flattened the ancient church of San Lorenzo. Having emptied his bank account, the Roman pope rushed to the area, prayed with the people and provided practical assistance. Some weeks later, in the early hours of 16 October, the Jews of Rome were rounded up by the Nazi occupying forces. Pius immediately telephoned the German ambassador, and instructed the Cardinal Secretary of State, Luigi Maglione, to lodge a formal protest with the German authorities. As a result of Pius’ quick intervention the arrests were brought to an end by 2 pm on the same day.1 Furthermore, Pope Pius immediately gave orders to parishes, convents and monasteries to provide places of refuge for the Jews.2 Pope Pius XII, who had become pope just before the beginning of the Second World War, would lead the Catholic Church until his death at Castelgandolfo on 9 October 1958.

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Further reflections on ‘Rejoice and Exult’

Ronald D. Witherup PSS

This is the second of a series of three articles on Gaudete et Exsultate (‘Rejoice and Exult’), Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the call to holiness in the contemporary world, published in April 2018. It continues an analysis of the exhortation’s content. Ronald D. Witherup PSS is Superior General of the Society of Priests of Saint Sulpice.

Seven additional aspects of holiness in daily life
In the first article, rather than summarize the content of the apostolic exhortation by following the outline of the five chapters, I chose to point out five noticeable ‘take-aways’ that might strike the reader: joy and happiness, the holiness next door, the importance of silence in the midst of noise, digital custody of the tongue, and the genius of women. Continuing along the same vein, I now add seven others: attention to little details, a spirituality of the Beatitudes, a Jesuit approach to holiness, spiritual combat, the role of discernment, the importance of community, and a sound interior life.

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Where is the beauty of the temple for the disciples of Jesus?

Thomas O’Loughlin

We talk a great deal about ‘beauty’ when we discuss the liturgy, but is this just a matter of aesthetics? If so, then we are in danger of it becoming just a matter of personal taste and disputes over ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’. Perhaps liturgical beauty is a more complex matter, writes Thomas O’Loughlin, Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham.

One of the few items on which the majority, but not all, of Jesus’ fellow Jews were agreed upon was that the temple in Jerusalem was not only the place where heaven and earth touched each other, where the Creator made his Presence available and accessible, but that it was the most beautiful building in the world. This belief in its beauty is found in Psalms (e.g. 96.6), echoed in the Gospels (e.g. Mk. 13.1) and described in numerous other sources.1 If there was ever a religious ‘centre,’ it was Jerusalem. There were, however, other voices. For the Samaritans – retaining a tradition of several temples prior to the ‘official’ canonization of Jerusalem – there was the temple on Mount Gerizim; for many of the Greek-speaking Jews of Egypt there was another temple there; and for Essenes (located not only in Qumran but more widely in Palestine) and similar communities, such as those in the Nile delta, the temple had been replaced by their common dining hall, their dinner tables replaced the temple’s altar, and their song of thanksgiving at their weekly main meal was seen as replacing songs of praise uttered by the priests in Jerusalem.2

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