Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Often the Church is seen as a mega-organisation or as a juridical body. But the Church is above all a community of believers responding to the Lord’s call by a particular mode of living.
From the beginning, the Church was a communion of diverse communities with diverse faith responses. The Christ-mystery is seen in diverse, though legitimate, ways and the following of Christ also consequently takes on various forms. Each is a community following a particular way of life – a particular spirituality. The Second Vatican Council views the Church as a communion of Individual Churches having their legitimate autonomy. They have their differing versions of liturgy, spirituality, theology and discipline.
Spirituality is the result of a faith version and finds its expression in liturgy. Discipline is only to protect a particular way of life. Therefore it could be said that an Individual Church is a community living a particular spirituality. The Church is basically a spiritual community.
One becomes a Christian by becoming a member of the community of believers - the Church. This means that our Christian identity is to be understood also in terms of the spirituality of the particular ecclesial community to which we belong. In fact catechesis is but spiritual formation suited to the Individual Church one belongs to. It is analogous to the formation in a religious congregation.
But, is our catechesis today designed for this formation? For many it is only the learning of a few universal truths, knowing a few facts in the history of the Church or understanding the general outline of worship. Such an exercise can hardly be called catechesis. It is seldom a preparation for genuine liturgical celebration or the basis of a real ecclesial spirituality.
We have to go back to real catechesis, which had always its roots in the worship and life of the Church. Our catechesis should become once again real formation for a particular mode of spirituality, which of course will be open to other traditions and forms of spirituality. In truth, the ethnic and cultural groups are closed in upon themselves not so a spiritual group. If this truth is properly understood, there would he a better appreciation of ecclesial catechesis.
Fr. Varghese Pathikulangara CMI, who is familiar to many through his several liturgical and ecclesial works, is now drawing our attention to this catechesis proper to each Individual Church. This book Mar Thomma Margam, is then a pioneering work, a thought provoking venture, besides being a practical guide. As a pioneer work, it may be shocking to some, imperfect to some others. Of course, Fr. Pathikulangara is ready to learn from our comments and creative suggestions. What he wants to impress upon our minds is the need for ecclesial and liturgical catechesis for the proper growth of our Syro- Malabar Church.
The Malayalam book Mar Thommayude Margam which was published in May 1988 was an inspiration to many in this field. The English edition is specially intended for the Syro-Malabarians in the Diaspora communities.
The appendix to the English edition will definitely help the Mar Thomma Nazranees to peep into their East Syriac or Chaldeo- Indian spiritual heritage.
As a pioneering venture, the book deserves the attention of all concerned. More than that, shifting ourselves from the path of mere doctrinal catechesis, we should begin to consider the ecclesial and liturgical catechesis as the normal catechesis of our Church. We should chart a new course, especially in our multi-ecclesial context. Only then would our Church become really alive in our times and in our hearts.
The Great Feast of our Lord’s Resurrection
March 26, 1989.
Mar Joseph Powathil,Archbishop of Changanacherry.