Sunday, July 17, 2011

"The Mass in Scripture" - Expanding Catechesis for the New Roman Missal Through Lectio Divina

Stephen J. Binz's Lectio Divina Bible Study: The Mass in Scripture is a marvelous, deep study of the scriptural roots of the Mass which can prepare people to begin using the texts of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.  This resource gives adults an opportunity to grow in understanding the Mass through its biblical sources by discovering and praying over Scripture either individually, or as a group. In the ancient tradition of Lectio Divina, the assumption is that "the reader trusts that God is present and speaks to his people through the inspired word, working profoundly through our minds and hearts."

Beginning with early Christian accounts of the liturgy and its Jewish roots, Binz gives a brief outline, with questions for reflection.  He then opens with the first Lectio exercise - reflection on the Apostle Paul's teaching on the Lord's Supper, 1 Cor.11:17-19, which he calls "the Church's oldest existing teaching on the Eucharist."  Binz then guides the reader/participant through the process: Listening, Understanding, Reflecting, Praying and Acting. This is the process which will be used for the next 30 sessions.

The subsequent sections of this book consist of 6 "lessons" each, which focus on:
     Honoring God in Covenant Worship
     Introductory Rites of the Mass
     The Liturgy of the Word
     The Liturgy of the Eucharist
     The Communion Rite and Dismissal

While most resources about the Mass begin with the Sign of the Cross, Binz rightly starts with the Entrance Antiphon - and a scriptural reflection on what it means to process to the house and altar of God. Not only does he have lessons on the words we speak, but when an action has a scriptural significance, he guides the participant through that as well. An example is Lesson 12, "Praying to the Father, Through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit" - in which we are guided through the scriptural roots of the Collect prayer. Another is Lesson 24, where we focus on the scriptural tradition of sacrifice.

How can this in-depth study be used? Binz gives three options: individual study (with suggested accountability to another person), group study in a weekly format meeting to go through all 30 lessons, or group in a 6-week intensive format where  people meet once a week to share about the entire section.

What is immediately obvious from any of these options is that this study is a definite commitment. It is not for the casual Catholic, but rather for those who are willing to make an effort to explore their faith and are ready for the consequently deeper reward of greater understanding. Participation in this process can give people an opportunity to encounter the biblical roots of the Mass, to pray and reflect on those passages, and to allow that process to enrich the prayer of the Mass.

While The Mass in Scripture is a fine response to the call for a deeper catechesis on the Mass to coincide with the implementation of the new texts, it is definitely not for every group in a parish. It IS, however, perfect spiritual nourishment for Small Christian Communities and other people of mature faith who regularly and faithfully attend and fully participate in the Mass. I am of the mind that we should feed our most faithful and engaged parishioners the choicest spiritual food, if they are ready and hungry for it.  This resource definitely fills that need at this important time in the Church.

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