The new Directory for Catechesis says some things that should interest liturgists and liturgy planners. For example, it says that all catechesis should be “inspired by the catechumenal model” (2). However, that does not mean that catechesis is supposed to imitate or strictly replicate the catechumenate. Instead, catechesis should take on the style and formative dynamism of the catechumenal model (64).
And—here’s the interesting part—one of the dynamics that that gives the catechumenal model its style is its “liturgical, ritual, and symbolic character.”
So for catechesis to be effective, it has to make “use of eloquent symbols” and provide a “renewed appreciation of the liturgical signs” (64 c).
The reason this matters to liturgical ministers is this question: who is going to teach the catechists about the “use of eloquent symbols” and provide a “renewed appreciation of the liturgical signs”?
Signs and symbols in the liturgy
I suppose they could read a book about signs and symbols or they could go to a workshop. But several years ago, Pope Benedict XVI told us: “It must first be said that ‘the best catechesis on the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself, celebrated well” (The Sacrament of Charity, 64).
We might say that in order to assist the catechists in our parishes with their ministry, we have to do our ministry really well. But that isn’t quite accurate. The Directory for Catechesis also says:
The liturgy is one of the essential and indispensable sources of the Church’s catechesis…above all because the two belong to one another in the very act of believing. (95)
The liturgy is ‘the privileged place for catechizing the People of God.’ This is not to be understood in the sense that the liturgy should lose its celebratory character and be turned into catechesis, or that catechesis is superfluous…. Catechesis, in fact, is set in motion by the effective encounter between the one being catechized and the community that celebrates the mystery…. Therefore, liturgy and catechesis are inseparable and nourish one another. (96)
So we should not say that we are assisting the catechists with their ministry. Rather, we as liturgists and liturgical ministers are coresponsible with the catechetical ministers for being witnesses to the mystery of Jesus Christ and leading others to an encounter with that mystery.How do we introduce people to the meaning of liturgical signs by the way we choose and use symbols and symbolic acts within the liturgy? Click To Tweet
The liturgy is part of the mytagogical journey
The directory goes on to say (based on the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI) that facilitating this encounter calls for “a mystagogical journey [that] springs from this fundamental structure of Christian experience, from which three essential elements emerge:”
- the interpretation of the rites in light of salvific events…
- an introduction to the meaning of liturgical signs…
- the presentation of the meaning of the ceremonies in relation to the whole of the Christian life… (98)
As liturgical ministers, then, we have to ask ourselves, how do we interpret the rites in light of our salvation by the way we celebrate the liturgy?
How do we introduce people to the meaning of liturgical signs by the way we choose and use symbols and symbolic acts within the liturgy?
How do we explain the meaning of the rites as a template for Christian living through the songs, prayers, readings, actions, and overall narrative of the sacred drama?
In other words, how do we use the liturgical arts themselves to catechize?
We’re going to explore this question more deeply in upcoming posts. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on the following questions or any insights on the teaching of the new directory has sparked for you:
- What do you think the Directory for Catechesis means when it says, “The liturgy is ‘the privileged place for catechizing the People of God’”?
- How would you describe the inseparability of liturgy and catechesis to some of the catechists of your parish?
- What springs to mind when you hear the phrase “mystagogical journey”?
Please share in the comments box below.
See also these related articles:
- Writing invocations for the Penitential Act, Form C
- The Penitential Act
- How the liturgy teaches us what is most needed today
- What the new Directory for Catechesis says about our ministry as liturgical minsters
- Liturgical adaptations during the pandemic