By Kathleen Naab

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 7, 2012 ( The preacher of the pontifical household today offered the first of his Advent sermons, choosing to speak to the Pope and other Vatican officials about the Year of Faith.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa focused in his homily on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Benedict XVI has proposed the Catechism as the "privileged instrument for fruitfully living out the grace of this year," the preacher noted.

"I would like to try to show how this book can be transformed from a silent instrument, like a valuable violin resting on a velvet cloth, into an instrument that sounds and rouses hearts," he said.

Making a comparison with the score of Bach's "St. Matthew's Passion," which remained unappreciated for two centuries, Father Cantalamessa urged: "We must pass from the score to its performance, from the silent page to something living that makes the soul resound."

To do this, the Capuchin proposed, "we need to discover the CCC's pulsating heart. And what is this heart? It is not a dogma or a truth, a doctrine or an ethical principle. It is a Person: Jesus Christ!"

Kerygma and didachè

Father Cantalamessa went on to speak of the Catechism in the context of the early Church concepts of kerygma and didachè.

He explained: The kerygma "concerned God's work in Christ Jesus, the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection." And the didachè "indicated the teaching subsequent to the coming of faith; it referred to the development and complete formation of the believer."

Today, the "inner sense" of the Catechism can be compared to the didachè in the apostolic Church: It is "to give shape to the faith, to give it content and to show its ethical and practical demands, to bring faith to the point of 'working through love.'"

Anointing of faith

Father Cantalamessa then spoke of faith, of the embracing of the kerygma, as an anointing from the Holy Spirit. He reflected on the mystery of the gift of faith and the need for catechesis.

"External instruction is therefore needed; we need teachers," he affirmed. "But their voices penetrate the heart only if the interior voice of the Spirit is also present. [...] It is the Spirit's anointing that makes us pass from propositions to their realities."

The Capuchin recalled personal moments in which he has experienced an anointing of faith, saying it "usually occurs when the Holy Spirit's illumination unexpectedly falls upon a word of God or a statement of faith, and it is generally accompanied by deep emotion."

For example, he recalled, "I was assisting at Midnight Mass presided by John Paul II in St. Peter's. The moment had arrived for the singing of the Kalenda; that is, the solemn proclamation of the Savior's birth, which is present in the ancient Martyrology and was reintroduced in the Christmas liturgy after Vatican II:

"'Innumerable ages having passed since the creation of the world …

"'From the Exodus of the people out of Egypt, thirteen centuries …

"'In the year of the one hundred and ninety fourth Olympiad,

"'From the founding of the city of Rome, seven hundred and fifty two years …

"'In the rule of Caesar Augustus, the forty second year;

"'Jesus Christ, eternal God, the eternal Father's Son, by the Holy Spirit conceived, nine months having passed since His conception, in Bethlehem of Judah was born of the Virgin Mary, and become man.'

"At these final words, I experienced a sudden and unexpected moment of interior clarity, and I remember saying within myself: 'It is true! What is being sung is all true! They are not only words. The eternal enters into time. The final event in the series has broken the series; it has created an irreversible "before" and "after"; the reckoning of time which was previously based on different events (such and such Olympiad, such and such reign), now takes place in relation to a unique event': before Christ, after Christ. I was suddenly overcome by emotion, and I could only say: 'Thank you, Most Holy Trinity, and thank you too, Holy Mother of God!'"

Joy of proclaiming

The preacher of the pontifical household said that the Spirit's anointing has a further effect: It also produces in the messenger the experience of the joy of proclaiming Jesus.

"It transforms evangelization from incumbency and duty into honor and glory," he said. "It is the joy well known to the messenger who carries the announcement to a city under siege that the siege has come to an end, or to the herald in ancient times, who ran ahead to bring the people the announcement of a decisive victory obtained on the field by their army. The 'joyful news' brings its herald joy even before the one who receives it."

Every evangelizer's model

Father Cantalamessa concluded the first Advent homily with this reflection on Mary: "There was one time in history when Ezekiel's vision of the eaten scroll was fulfilled in a literal and not only in a metaphorical sense. It was when the scroll of God's words enclosed themselves in one Word, the Word. The Father brought him to Mary. Mary received him. She filled herself with him inwardly, even physically, and then she gave him to the world. She 'uttered' him by giving birth to him. 

"She is the model for every evangelizer and for every catechist. She teaches us to fill ourselves with Jesus in order to give him to others. Mary conceived Jesus 'through the working of the Holy Spirit' and so it must also be for everyone who proclaims him."

--- --- ---

On ZENIT's Web page:

Full text: