The Theology of Preaching
UNLESS THEY BE SENT, by Augustine Rock. O.P. (BlackFriars, Is.).
WHAT makes a talk, an oration, or a lecture, a sermon '? In what, through what, and by what, is a talk on spiritual matters, or a lecture expounding some point of doctrine of the Church, or an exhortation from someone in authority to the practice of right conduct, different from a sermon; Or does it differ at all ?
These are the questions with which Fr. Rock is pre-eminently concerned; in other words the philosophy of the sermon. the theology of the sermon. This is no preachers' manual; nor a hook
of how. or what, to preach: as the author himself says, " there are many books on the art of preaching." This is, as his subtitle states
forthrightly : " A Theological Study of the Nature and Purpose of Preaching."
Incidentally, of course. there is much on the art and practice of preaching; and much here which, when properly understood and pondered, will make for better preachers. and better congregations for preachers. For there is no doubt that in the English speaking world at least there are many who count themselves good Catholics who do not hear a sermon from one year's end to another Often in a large and busy parish where there are five Masses on a Sunday morning there will be only one sermon. The sermon tends to be relegated to " Devotions, Sermon. and Benediction " for the evening service.
Yet the scriptures show us that the Mission of the Apostles was above all the mission to preach Jesus and His doctrine; they show up chiefly as ministers of the word. Preaching is contained in the very idea of the apostolate. Or as Pere I,adner puts it, " Since the apostles received the command of Christ : ' Go and teach all nations ' preaching has remained the most eminent office of the Church . . . preaching is the duty and the most considerable duty of state of the successors of the apostles."
Swe know from the history of the Church that the chief function of the pastor, the Bishop, was preaching; he had an Archdeacon to whom he delegated disciplinary and organisational matters; and an Archpriest who helped him in the administration of the sacraments. But it was he alone who did the preaching. So it is now; a layman, a professor, or pries: for that matter, may talk. lecture. but only those duly empowered by the Bishop may " preach."
Here then is the point of importance both for the preacher and the faithful. It is in the sermon, in preaching " by the message of the Church that the Word of God in Christ has crossed the centuries to us." Not. note. by the hook, " not as a word of the past, but as a living Word. and in this word the Son of God is personally present. He speaks to us here and now."
Though this last quotation is taken by the author from the Protestant theologian Brunner. St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Albert the Great, and St. Flonaventure. on whom Fr. Rock chiefly depends for his theology of preaching, are no less insistent on the sacramental nature of the office and effect of preaching.
In short the Church of Christ is so organised that in the ordinary course of events it is to the " living word," not the dead, written letter. to which we must look for that light to the mind, that touch of the heart that moves us ultimately to " put on Christ " wholly. None, even the most erudite, most thoroughly " trained," can afford to neglect to listen to the living word of God. no matter how haltingly stammered.
MEDICAL EXPERIMENTATION ON MAN, Ed. Dorn Peter Flood, O.S.B.
MARY IN OUR 1.11FE, by the Rev. W. G. Most.
IN SILENCE WITH GOD, by Dom Benedict Baur, O.S.B. (Mercier Press. 12s. 6d., 15s., 12s. 6d.).
ONE of the most important functions that a publishing house can perform, though it is probably not the most lucrative or prestige-winning, is that of keeping track of, and translating worthwhile books published abroad. Of the three books noted above only one was written in English-and that was first published in America-the first is translated from the French and the last from German.
Dom Peter Flood edits one of the most important of the famous French series Ca/tiers Laennees for English readers. The subject of experiments on the human person is dealt with from the point of the doctor and the moralist, the scientist and the general practitioner. The essay is closed with an important document on Nazi Experimentation of Human Beings in Concentration Camps. A valuable addition to medical, moral, and general scientific literature, The Rev. W. J. Most is a member of the staff of Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa, and the special significance of his work is that he attempts to co-ordinate and integrate the doctrines and dogmas of Mariology which have built up in number and importance over centuries from the base and foundation of all, Theotokos. God-Bearer. Mother of God. of Ephesus. down to the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption " STILL MIT GOTT." first "--7 published in 1938, had a second and a third edition in 1940: in 1951 for the fourth edition Archabbot Bauer made several alterations, additions, and improvements; notably in the introduction, andthe chapters on the Mass and on Prayer
It is this edition of a treatise on the spiritual life intended " for those who are making an honest attempt to build up an inner life of perfection " which is now trans
lated by Elisabethe Corat hielNoonan. A " classic " of spiritual writing we have too long been denied. Abundantly clear. profound. inspiring !