Sunday, May 23, 2010

κήρυγμα=kerygma=the basic Christian proclamation

κήρυγμα, or kerygma, is closely akin to κηρύσσω, or kērússō, a verb meaning something like to proclaim or herald, with kerygma, a noun, meaning proclamation, announcement, or, in a specifically Christian context, not just preaching, but the original content of what is proclaimed.

Today is Pentecost and in the second chapter of Acts we have a version of Peter's preaching that constitutes the original Christian kerygma. Of course, we see Pentecost as the beginning of the Church. Pentecost, a Greek term for fiftieth, and the word used in Acts for the Jewish festival of Shavu'ot, which begins begins 50 days, 7 weeks plus a day, after the second day of Passover. Shavu'ot is known as the Festival of Weeks, seven being a significant number. Shavu'ot commemorates God giving the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai.

As with any preaching, we look at Peter's in Acts 2, given in verses 14-39, and ask, "What is the take away?" Well, here it is: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself" (verses 38-39 ESV). Let there be no doubt, if you have heard these words, then you are called.


Closer to home for me on Pentecost is the idea of charism, which basically means a gift of grace, given by the Holy Spirit, who is the giver of charismata (plural of charism). Many of the so-called gifts of the spirit are given to us personally, like the gifts and fruits we speak about with regard to the sacrament of confirmation, but some are communal to the point that they give rise to something new in the Church, like when a new religious order is founded, or, in more recent times, when new forms arise in the Church, as with the ecclesial movements, like Opus Dei, Focolare, The Community of Sant'Egidio, et. al. The charism given to Msgr. Luigi Giussani is one such gift, one in which I am blessed beyond belief to share, which constitutes the raison d'être of Communion and Liberation. So, it means very much to me that today, Pentecost Sunday, my friend Sharon reminded me of something beautiful by Don Gius: "the first thing you have to help one another to do is to celebrate the evidence that there exists an ultimate endpoint of happiness who became man, that is, Christ; that Christ exists." The Lord sends the Holy Spirit so that we are not left orphans as we wait in joyful hope for His return. We have to understand that Christ's post-resurrection presence among us takes concrete form; in toto the concrete form is the Church, more particularly He is present in many and various ways.

The Church is institutional and charismatic at the same time, a state-of-affairs that causes tension, which, when lived properly, gives balance, making us witnesses to the one, true God who is a trinity of divine persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Like God, the Church, as the many charismata demonstrate, is also communion of persons, albeit of human persons- as we are certainly reminded these days, to use Nietzsche's lament, "all too human." Just look at the movements I mentioned above and compare, say, Opus Dei and the Community of Sant' Egidio. It would difficult find two groups in the church more different from each other, but they are both real, that is, concrete manifestations of the Spirit at work in the Church so the Church can be at work in the world.

I see the restoration of the permanent diaconate, the order to which I belong, in similiar terms: Deacons are very different from one another, but all of us bring distinct gifts. No two deacons have a ministry that looks alike, to which I say Deo gratias! We are neither laymen nor priests. Nonetheless, we are not defined by what are not, neither are we an either/or, a dilemma, a problem to be solved, which would inevitably result in being reduced to mere functionaries. The true gift of the permanent diaconate to the Church and to the world is the deacon himself, who, in his very being, is constituted a servant by sacramental grace given him at his ordination. Hence, he is a both/and, an affirmation, a big YES! shouted to God from the midst of the ekklesia, the assembly of God's priestly people.

The Lord himself teaches us about His Spirit: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (John 16:13-15 ESV).

Veni Sancte Spiritus, veni per Mariam!

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