Fr Al’s Excerpts from:
THE INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION’S
SYNODALITY IN THE LIFE AND MISSION OF THE CHURCH
How can we be a Synodal Church without moving outwards?
PRELIMINARY NOTE: The International Theological Commission undertook a study of synodality in the life and mission of the Church. General discussions on this theme took place during the meetings of the sub-committee and during the Plenary Sessions of the Commission itself, held between 2014 and 2017. The present text was approved by the majority of the members of the Commission during its 2017 Plenary Session, by means of a written vote. It was later approved by the President, His Eminence Cardinal Luis F. Ladaria S.J., Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who authorized its publication on 2nd March 2018, after receiving a favorable response from Pope Francis.
The Spirituality of Communion and Formation for Synodal Life
109. The Eucharistic Assembly is the source and paradigm of the spirituality of communion. In it are expressed the specific elements of Christian life that are called to mold the flow and meaning of the synodal process.
a. The invocation of the Trinity. The Eucharistic Assembly starts from the invocation of the Blessed Trinity. Gathered by the Father, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Church becomes the living sacrament of Christ: “Where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18,19). The unity of the Blessed Trinity in the communion of the three divine Persons is revealed in the Christian community, which is called to live “the unity of God’s sons in truth and charity,” in the exercise of the various gifts and charisms received from the Holy Spirit for the common good.
b. Reconciliation. The Eucharistic Assembly paves the way for communion by means of reconciliation with God and our brothers and sisters. The confession of our sins celebrates the Father’s merciful love and expresses the desire to follow not the way of division caused by sin but the path to unity: “If you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you…, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering” (Matthew 5,23-24). Synodal events presume that we recognize our frailties and request forgiveness from each other. Reconciliation is the way to live the new evangelization.
c. Listening to the Word of God. In the Eucharistic Assembly, we listen to the Word in order to accept its message and let it illuminate our path. We learn how to hear God’s voice by meditating on Scripture, especially the Gospel, by celebrating the sacraments, above all the Eucharist, and by welcoming our brothers and sisters, especially the poor. Whoever exercises pastoral ministry and is called to break the bread of the Word along with the Eucharistic bread needs to be familiar with the life of the community, in order to communicate God’s message in the here and now of its life. The dialogical structure of the Eucharistic liturgy is the paradigm of community discernment: before listening to each other, disciples must listen to the Word.
d. Communion. The Eucharist “creates communion and fosters communion” with God and with our brothers and sisters. Generated by Christ through the Holy Spirit, communion is shared by men and women who, as baptized people, have equal dignity and receive different vocations from the Father and live them out responsibly – vocations which spring from baptism, confirmation, Holy Orders and from specific gifts of the Holy Spirit – to form a single Body from many members. The rich and free convergence of this plurality in unity is what is set in motion in synodal events.
e. Mission. Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life. Communion made real in the Eucharist spurs us on to mission. Whoever partakes of the Body and Blood of Christ is called to share the joyous experience of it with everyone. Every synodal event prompts the Church to go outside the camp (cf. Hebrews 13,13) in order to bring Christ to people who are waiting to be saved by Him. Saint Augustine says that we need “to be of one heart and one mind on our journey towards God.” The unity of the community is not real without this inner télos which guides it along the paths of time towards its eschatological goal, “that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15,28).
We must always face up to the question: how can we truly be a synodal Church unless we live “moving outwards” towards everyone in order to go together towards God?