Vatican City, 10 February 2015 (VIS) – In a press conference held in the Holy See Press Office this morning, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, presented the “Homiletic Directory” drawn up by the same dicastery during the mandate of his predecessor, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera. The cardinal was accompanied by Archbishop Arthur Roche and Fr. Corrado Maggione, S.M.M., respectively secretary and under secretary of the Congregation.
“Often, for many faithful, it is precisely the homily, considered as good or bad, interesting or boring, that is the yardstick by which the entire celebration is judged”, explained Cardinal Sarah. “Certainly, the Mass is not the homily, but it represents a moment relevant for the purpose of participation in the holy Mysteries, that is, listening to the Word of God and the communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord”.
“The Directory was not born without a reason. The aim is to respond to the need to improve the service of ordained ministers in liturgical preaching”, he continued, noting that during the 2005 Synod of Bishops ordained ministers were asked to prepare their homilies carefully, and basing them on adequate knowledge of the Sacred Scripture. “This is the first fact to bear in mind”, he underlined: “that the homily is directly linked to the Sacred Scriptures, especially the Gospel, and is enlightened by them”. During the same Synod, it was also requested that in the homily “the great themes of the faith and the life of the Church should resound throughout the year”, in order to “help demonstrate the nexus connecting the message of the biblical readings with the doctrine of the faith as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church”. He added, “on the basis of these expectations, Benedict XVI in the exhortation Sacramentum caritatis … encouraged reflection on the matter”.
The bishops returned to this issue in the Synod on the Word of God, and Benedict XVI in the exhortation Verbum domini, while reiterating that preaching appropriately with reference to the Lectionary was “truly an art that must be cultivated”, also indicated that it would be opportune to compile a directory on the homily, so that preachers might find help in preparing for the exercise of their ministry”.
“The way was thus prepared and the Congregation initiated the project. A further impetus to bring it to a conclusion was provided by the emphasis placed on the homily by Pope Francis, who reserves 25 points to this theme in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium: 10 to the homily and 15 to its preparation”.
“The homily is a liturgical service reserved to the ordained minister, who is called upon by vocation to serve the Word of God according to the faith of the Church and not in a personalised fashion. It is not a mere discourse like any other, but rather a speech inspired by the Word of God that resounds in an assembly of believers, in the context of liturgical action, with a view to learning to put into practice the Gospel of Jesus Christ”.
Among the criteria mentioned in the Directory, the Cardinal mentioned, “first, the homily is inspired by the Scriptures inserted by the Church in the Lectionary, or rather the Book that contains, for all the days of the year, the biblical readings for the Mass; second, the homily is inspired by the celebration of which these readings form a part, or rather, by the prayers and the rites that constitute this liturgy, whose main protagonist is God, for Christ His Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit”.
“Obviously”, he concluded, “the homily makes demands of he who pronounces it. Therefore, the preparation of the homilist is of the first importance: this requires study and prayer, experience of God and knowledge of the community he addresses, love for the holy Mysteries and love for the living Body of Christ that is the Church”.