WHAT STYLE THE HOMILY?
THE first of four volumes of The Preacher's Encyclopedia covers the 12 Sundays from the beginning of Lent to the fifth Sunday after Easter. It is a massive, wellproduced volume of 734 pages, and provides reading material of some 60 pages for each Sunday.
Even so, this English translation and adaptation by Mgr. Greenstock represents an immense labour of reduction, since the original Spanish version runs to ten volumes with about 200 pages for each Sunday. The English version will he complete in four volumes.
The idea is excellent — to provide a quarry from which preachers may make their own sermons. For each Sunday there are seven or eight sections: they give Scriptural texts, general comments on the liturgical history and exegesis of the Epistle and Gospel, texts from the Fathers, from theologians, from spiritual writers, from papal documents, sometimes general historical and literary notes, and finally sermon schemes. Would that I could honestly say that I could see emerging from this enormous undertaking preaching that will really bring the living Word of God to the people, Perhaps I am allergic to this whole genre of writing.
Perhaps there are priests to whom this book will be a Godsend. But my own opinion is that somehow the whole thing misses the mark. It is difficult to say exactly why.
The over-all impression is of moralising and exclamation. The exegesis of the Epistle and Gospel seems particularly weak in this respect, and takes no account of the richness of contemporary Scriptural work. The great theological themes of the Bible are not drawn upon; there is no evidence of any awareness of present day theological renewal; the liturgical notes are based on the largely out-of-date work of Dom Guivanger and Schuster; even the Patristic texts (and it is often obscure whether we are offered the text itself or a resume of the ideas) seem to be chosen from passages of moral exhortation and exclamation, Take for example the treatment of Easter Sunday (and incidentally there is nothing for any of the other days of Holy Week). There is no development of the Paschal mystery theme, no reference to Christ's being "glorified", no drawing out of the Exodus BaptismNew Creation theme. Of course these things are implicit in many of the texts quoted, but the preacher is not helped to see them; instead we are told: "Its (Easter's) principal feature is joy . . . The main thought in the Western Liturgy is: This is the day which the Lord has made; let us he glad and rejoice therein .
"Another feature is the accent of hope it maintains. Christ has risen, and that is a pledge of our own resurrection one day with him."
Perhaps the real difficulty is given away by one tell-tale phrase used by the translator in a preface explaining how the hook is to be used. He tells us first to read through the liturgical sections and the exegesis; there to pick up one or two ideas. He tells us follow them through in the Patristic and other quotations, then to turn to the schemes, which may or may not be of help. "Finally, by turning hack to Section I you will find some scriptural texts which can then be introduced into their proper place in your own scheme."
here is the whole point at issue;
are our homilies to grow out of Scripture, or is Scripture to be used to embellish and adorn some thing else? C.R.* St. Paul and Christian Living was originally published ill France as a slender volume in the Lectio Divina series. The present translation happily makes this valuable book available to a wider circle of readers, and it reads well. Fr. Spicq starts by painting a picture of the state of society into which the Gospel clime (the world of that time is in many ways with us today) and then argues for the need of a revealed morality. Only God-given principles can cope with the myriad consequence, of sin and give us a positive and heaven-directed code of conduct. A wealth of well-chosen texts makes it clear that St. Paul provides profound principles for Christian living, and these proceed from the Father and are "in Christ Jesus" and by the Holy Spirit.
Then we are shown how "those who have faith in God must be anxious to excel in beautiful works" (Tits 3.8) and how lovers of the beauty of the spiritual life are to press on to that joy of charity which is properly beatitude: to see and possess completely him also who loves us (1. Cor. 14.12).
The Enemies of Love is a reprint of a book that first appeared in 1958. It is good that it should have been reprinted, for there is much value in it . . . "Love: perhaps the most common word upon our lips and yet what a multitude of different significances it has!" Precisely because of the polyvalence of the word "love' we need more and more hooks of this sort to show the possible harmonies of the love of God and love at a human level. And then, further to illustrate the positive teaching, it needs to be shown how anxiety and a sense of insecurity, jealousy, possessive ness, self indulgence, false romance, tarnish and even destroy true love of God. A hook which can he recommended for young people, as also for those who are not so young, for our loving can always be perfected. R.P.
A number of first-rate paperback reprints come to hand this week. Dr. F. C. Grant's The Gospels, Their Origin and Growth is the work of a distinguished scholar who very rightly stresses the importance of a new approach to the New Testament origins and to oral tradition. He shows, too, how the New Testament was "the Church's book". Some, however. would wish to make more of the Church's tradition in matters of Gospel origins. Gabriel Marcel's Being and Having mainly a metaphysical diary. but with some longer pieces at the end. is a welcome addition to the Fontana Library. This sensiI've and profound Catholic thinker, probing the "inside' of the deepest questions, is too little known in this country: above all is he aware of the humanness of our human situation? Prof. Wendel's Calvin, in the 15 years since its first publication in France, has already become something of a classic. No better introduction to his life and his thought is to be had, but it is more than an introduction, being the work of an expert in this field of Protestant history and theology. Also in the Fontana Library is an abrideed version of William Law's A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life that classic of Anglican devotional writ:in to which so many, from Dr. Johnson onwards, have owed their first serious turning to religion. The abridgment is skilfully made, a little here, a little there, and reduces the length by about a quarter. It spoils some of the fine eiehteenth century cadences, but this is better than hewing out whole sections.
A Faith for Today seeks to give a short account of the Christian religion as "a working faith and way of life for men and women in the second half of the twentieth century". Certainly books of this kind are needed in the attempt to convince unbelieving contemporaries that the Christian religion is neither outdated nor irrelevant to today, and still less tied up to outmoded ways of thought. But we would like rather more firmness and accuracy about the doctrinal basis of all such writing. Thus a chapter on the challenge of Christ leads us up to the belief that God was in him, then later that "the Word was made flesh" is accepted, but there is an ominous silence about "the Word was God". This is perhaps corrected on p. 39 where the Second Person of the Trinity was "united with a human personality in the Child Jesus".
But trouble comes when we are told that had not our Lord laid aside his divine power "he could not have helped mankind". The author is out of date as regards ecumenism, which now looms large in the Catholic Church, and has come to stay. Finally, we would query "right conduct is conformity to the will of God", A deeper view of human conduct bases 'it upon conformity to the mind of