Monday, June 3, 2013

Aggiornamento : Contemporary Belief, Contemporary Language

By John A. Dick

Note: This commentary was first published June 3, 2013 at Another Voice, a blogsite of "reflections about contemporary Catholic belief and practice."

Pope John XXIII died fifty years ago today. I think his greatest gift to us was the spirit of aggiornamento: probing our tradition and our contemporary faith experiences and then UPDATING our language, symbols, and rituals to better convey what we experience.

Some contemporary reflections about aggiornamento:

(1) We all possess great capacities to sense, understand and respond to real events of transcendence in our everyday existence. A sense of the transcendent, or what we can call an instinct for the Divine, responds to real disclosures within the natural and historical: in all of our daily life realities. Very often we simply have to take time to reflect.

(2) And then we need to speak about these disclosures in our own language: a language that is readily understood, easily communicated, and a language that inspires and motivates people rather than annoying them, condemning them, or putting them to sleep.

(3) “God” names the who and the what actually present in the people, the power, depth, and scope of daily life. Right before our eyes. But they are often closed. We need a language that opens us to disclosures of divinity within the natural world and the historical realities of human life.

(4) Critical thinking – careful and care-filled reflection – is a necessary moment in the interpretation of Divine disclosures. A vigilant faith, a resolute hope, and abundant love open doors to the Divine. We need a Christian humanism that promotes attitudes and feelings of heartfelt gratitude, steadfast humility, and demanding compassion. Such deeply established attitudes and feelings can disclose and reinforce our shared humanity and bring the always-near Divine into our awareness and experience.

(5) Such a Christian humanism discloses and affirms that in spite of sorrow, pain, and agony, human life is nevertheless grounded in the Good. Responsible human action draws together that goodness into a complete life with others and for oneself. At the heart of our Christian humanism is a deep affirmation for life: a yes to existence, despite its loss and occasional terror. Christianity must still proclaim Good News.

Let us thank Pope John for reminding us about aggiornamento and let us renew our commitment to put it into practice.

For last year’s words
belong to last year’s language.
And next year’s words
await another voice.

– T.S. Eliot
"Little Gidding"

John A. Dick (Jack) is an historical theologian who grew up in Michigan and has studied in Detroit, Louvain and Nijmegen. He completed his doctorates at the Catholic University of Leuven. He posts new reflections each week at his blog, Another Voice

Image: Bernard Safran.

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