28 May 2023

Speaking with tongues for the New Evangelisation: Pentecost homily

'They spoke with tongues'. You and I can speak with tongues: can go out of church and speak in an unusual language: if we let the Spirit empower us; if we let the Spirit take over the way we speak. And the language we can go out and talk is a dialect the World does not know; a dialect I would like to call 'Talking Christian'.

Talking Christian is what we do in church. The Scriptures and the Liturgy are written in Christian. Inside church, we all talk Christian, even sing it, without the least hesitation. But we're most dreadfully shy of Talking Christian once we step outside.

What do I mean by Talking Christian? Well, for starters, there's the word 'God'. Inside this building we can hardly open our mouths without using it. But out there, in the world God made, among men and women he created and loves and redeems, do we ever use the word? If our faith means anything, it means that God pokes his nose into everything, is concerned about everything, has, so to speak, a line on everything. But God is a word the World hates. It doesn't mind us doing our God-talking in church, but, the message is, just let them catch us doing it outside and we'll have all Dr Dawkins' spaniels snapping round our ankles.

Then there's 'Sin' and 'Repentance' and ... well, you know how I could go on. But you might ask what the point is in speaking to the World in Christian, if Christian is a dialect the World doesn't understand. It would be a fair question. After all, the Apostles did indeed talk at that first Pentecost to all the nations in the language which each did understand. There is a serious point here to which this is my serious answer: 1600 years ago Christianity converted the Greek and Roman worlds and did so very largely by converting their languages. It invaded, it walked ruthlessly into, the languages of Greece and Rome, creating Christian dialects of, and ways of speaking, both Latin and Greek. In effect, it was a Christian cultural takeover. For us, I am convinced, the task is to reChristianise the English language so as to reclaim our culture for Christ.

Rome gave a good lead a few years ago in Liturgiam authenticam when it told its committee responsible for translating liturgical texts to use the full and rich panoply of terms handed down by Tradition: words like Grace and Redemption and Mercy and Almighty and Majesty and Humility; rather than dumbing down the language of prayer. There had been a fashionable assumption that avoiding such language and opening to the World a window of linguistic banality - Daily Mirror English - would get the masses pouring in. But firstly: that was tried and it didn't work; and, secondly, Rome rightly judged that if you throw out both babies and bathwater, the World can hardly be blamed for concluding that you have nothing really to say. So that is why we got that new translation of the Mass ... a translation which, unlike the previous one, really does 'speak Christian'. 

The New Evangelisation means taking the battle culturally to the World instead of hoping that if we just retreat far enough and cringe submissively enough, the World will somehow rediscover Christ. That is why I suggest that Talking Christian may be our duty; and that the Holy Spirit of Pentecost is able to give us the power to speak in that strange dialect, if only we let him. He can touch our tongues as he touched the tongues of the Apostles.


Joshua said...

Thank you, Father, for your always-excellent homilies. I was delighted and enlightened by this latest sermon.

TLMWx said...

So very true. Flipping over an atheist blog I found the contributors were complaining about this very matter. They were protesting the Irish "over use" of the term "God Bless". They considered it a "passive aggressive" attack on their dearly held non-belief system.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

The New Evangelisation means taking the battle culturally to the World instead of hoping that if we just retreat far enough and cringe submissively enough, the World will somehow rediscover Christ

When our experts - up to an including Ratzinger - were talking about the necessity of us Catholics razing the bastions - I noticed I was never asked if I wanted Fortress Catholicism destroyed.

I didn't.

And when the 1960s Synod opened the the door to the fortress and invited the world inside, the Prince of the World Cakewalked into the Fortress and the then Pope said that somehow his smoke had entered through some fissure.

Lord have mercy. NO, Y'all invited him in.

I do what I can being a Catholic, searching for love among the ruins, but I insist the authorities expel Satan from the Church, beginning by breaking the teeth of the sodomite serpent which is slowly and assuredly strangling it to death.

Our faith is hierarchically structured and the authorities must act and stop telling the laity to do the job of evangelising.

Before it was thought wise to raze the bastions, we had millions of Missionaries leaving the fortress and going all over Hell and Half of Georgia striving to the convert the world but, since the 1960s Synod, it is thought there is on point trying to convert Non-Catholics because they are saved in their own communities etc.

I've been doing my job, it is way past time for the authorities to start doing theirs.

Arch lector said...

This is such a beautiful argument it should receive more oxygen. Preferably in the Speccie. Time for 'Prayer Life'?

Matthew F Kluk said...

Very well said!

lynn said...

What do we expect from an operation that eliminated the Lord and Giver of Life....gave Him one day and then called it all ordinary times?

Unknown said...

"Graciously accept the saving sacrifice which we offer you, O Lord, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and grant that, as we profess her, on account of your prevenient grace, to be untouched by any stain of sin, so, through her intercession, we may be delivered from all our faults."
This may be an imaginary language called "Christian," but its remarkably bad sentence construction is hardly English.
What's wrong with: "In your goodness, Lord, receive the sacrifice of salvation which we offer on the feast of the immaculate conception. We profess in faith that your grace preserved the Virgin Mary from every stain of sin; through her intercession deliver us from all our faults."