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Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew

Author(s): Thomas OLoughlin

ISBN13: 9781856075930

ISBN10: 1856075931


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  • A treasure trove of extra resources, insights and practical suggestions for the liturgy of every Sunday and Major feastday in Year A, Matthews Year. Thomas OLoughlin has given us a book that is helpful for the priest who prepares the Sunday liturgy (perhaps with a group) with a full participation of the people in mind. Rich in helpful comments and suggestions, it integrates the homily within the context of the total celebration of the liturgy

  • Thomas OLoughlin

    Thomas O'Loughlin is professor of Historical Theology at the University of Wales, Lampeter. He has published extensively on how ancient texts can reveal the lives of Christians. His books include Discovering Saint Patrick; Celtic Theology: Humanity, World and God in Early lrish Writings; and Saint Patrick: The Man and His Works.

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  • Preface

    Celebrating the liturgy well is a far more complex task than providing good preaching; yet, right or wrong, preaching is used by many people as their thermometer of what they think about either a particular celebration or president. This may be a symptom of a more profound malaise that the rest of the liturgy is just a fixed formula and it is simply a matter of getting through it as fast and efficiently as possible. However, given that attitude that one can judge a priest by his preaching, I find it very interesting to ask groups of people what do they consider the qualities of a good sermon (most people do not respond to the word homily). The results are predictable. In most discussions three groups emerge. The first I call the Penny Catechism lobby who want instruction and information, often qualified by such adjectives a clear and straight forward. The second group I call the Thought for the Day brigade who want to be inspired and provided with a weekly fill of spiritual insights, while being given a new sense of pleasure/ beauty/ happiness. The third group are the Advocates of Youthful Relevance: they are not concerned for themselves (being beyond the stage of needing to hear any preaching for their own benefit) but for the young people. These young people, they argue, will listen only if the homily is interesting, relevant, and amusing. And on this note they usually get some support from the other two groups. It is a rather sad picture as one suspects that only half-a-dozen people in the whole history of the church would fit the bill , and that would not include Augustine, Gregory the Great, nor Thomas Aquinas!

    Turning from groups of listeners to writers on communications theory, one finds yet another set of demands: in a media-savvy age of politicians more famous for their media skills than their grasp of the implications of policy, the preacher who has only his / her voice and an audience that is only listening to them as part of a larger event is doomed. Anyone who offers skills-training for communication events when faced with the conditions of a Sunday homily is apt to throw up her/his hands and declare that it is a no-go in the media-saturated world we live in.

    Turning to writers on liturgy, and formal church pronouncements in particular, one finds yet another set of demands. The homily - and they are clear it is a homily not a sermon - is to be linked to the readings (but it is to be more than simply biblical exegesis), linked to the liturgical event being celebrated, and linked to the liturgical year.

    And, if all that was not enough, there is then the thorny question of time. Most people in the pews believe that preaching goes on far too long (ten minutes seems the ideal for most preachers; much less for most audiences); and in this perception they find support from teachers and communications experts who can demonstrate that the average attention span on any one topic is much less than ten minutes - a fact we witness in their love of getting politicians to use sound bites. The preacher is now someone who is set up to fail: she / he must inform, instruct, inspire, interpret, interest, influence, and even, amuse in about five minutes! Good luck! So why tell you all this at the beginning of a book of liturgical resources: with morale so battered, is there any purpose in even trying?

    The good news is that the above analysis is fundamentally flawed. It assumes that the activity of the preacher can be understood by analogy (or even, in the opinion of many communications specialists, by direct comparison) with that of the salesperson / marketer selling widgets, services, or ideas. This confuses the action of preaching for a few minutes with the action of a commercial (or infomercial), a party political broadcast, or a sales-pitch. In these cases there is a product and an end-result: acceptance or absorbance of what is being pushed. But while there may be occasions when Christianity has to engage in such sales pitches or in getting its ideas heard, that is not the activity of the homily and should never be compared with it. Propagating religious ideas may have a place in the work-load of the pastor, but not at the Sunday Eucharist. Indeed, going back over the examples of our Sunday preaching from the very beginning (and we have extant Sunday homilies that are older than our written gospels), selling religious ideas has never (at least, in Catholic and Orthodox preaching) been a major component. Our fundamental assumption is that the community is gathering already formed by the Spirit and animated by the Christ so that it can rejoice and offer praise, thanksgiving, and petition to the Father. It, most decidedly, is not some amorphous throng to be bombarded with ideas they do not yet possess.

    So how should we perceive preaching? First, and foremost, it is just one moment in the whole act of memory that is the communitys gathering. Just as we remember who we are in the opening rites (our identity or place in the year or our sinfulness), in the readings (our common basic memories that make us the group we are), in the eucharistic rite (when we engage in anamnesis of the paschal work of the Christ) or in eating and drinking as one body, so also, during the preaching, we remember in some viva voce thoughts who we are and what we are up to as Christians. Just as at any celebration there is need for a few words to actualise what it is that the gathering is about, so also there is that need at the Eucharist. Which, incidentally, is why the few words must link up with what we are doing, what we have read, and with the time of year. But the key point is that the homily must be just one element in the preparation and good execution of the whole liturgy that involves many ministries in the community apart from that of the preacher. The homily is but an element in what must be a richly prepared whole.

    The fact that the homily is neither a lecture nor a sales pitch does not mean that we should ignore the work of communications experts. One can learn many speaking and communicating skills, and one should do so. One should not be boring if one can help it; and if anyone has a talent to amuse then that is one more gift that should be placed at the service of Gods people. But, in a media saturated age, we must not forget our primary task. The homily is a spontaneous narration of where we as the community, a unified body made one with Christ in baptism, have come from; a narration of who we are; a narration of where we are going; and a questioning aloud of how we are performing as a pilgrim people. This narration looks backwards (where have we come from, which involves the whole mystery of faith and not just the readings), it looks forward to the vision of the kingdom and the end times, and it looks at today: our identity as the church in the world, and at our performance of our discipleship.

    It is to provide ideas in this work of narration, not just for the homily but the whole of the Eucharistic celebration, that these pages have been written.

    T.O L
    Pentecost 2007.

    Lectionary Unit I

    An overarching Theme
    The Year of Matthew is envisaged by the Lectionary as comprising seven units ranging in length from one Sunday (Unit VII) to nine Sundays (Unit VI) (see Lectionary, vol I, pp xlviii-xlix).

    The core of the year is the five great sermons that go to make up Matthews gospel, and these form Units II, III, IV, V, and VI; preceded by Unit I on the figure of Jesus the Christ; and concluded by the last Sunday of the year focusing on the fulfilment of Gods kingdom (Unit VII).

    In this year each Unit is made up of two types of text: some narrative (over one or more Sundays), then some discourse (always over more than one Sunday).

    The five sermons are:

    The Sermon on the Mount (Sundays 4-9);
    The Mission Sermon (Sundays 11-13);
    The Parable Sermon (Sundays 15-17);
    The Community Sermon (Sundays 23-24); and
    The Final Sermon (Sundays 32-33).

    As with schematic divisions of the gospels, it is neater to look at in the abstract than in terms of actual lections chosen. However, it is worth bearing in mind the lectionarys desire to respect, in so far as it can, the five-sermon structure of Matthew, as it often helps us to appreciate the rationale behind making the junctions occur where they do, and the choice of accompanying first reading, which often functions as a lens highlighting a particular aspect of the gospel on a particular Sunday.

    The First Unit
    This consists of just two Sundays and focuses on The Figure of Jesus the Messiah.

    The question, who is the Christ, is then explored with the story of Jesuss baptism (Sunday 1) and the witness of John the Baptist (Sunday 2).



    This feasts history really begins in 1970 when it was chosen as the last moment of the Christmas cycle. It has no conceptual link with Christmas except, it could be argued, that in the eastern rites it is part of Epiphany and so could be seen as an extension of Epiphany (and it is so linked in the current western Liturgy of the Hours). However, that is not how it is presented in the eucharistic liturgy where it is celebrated as a distinct event in the life of Jesus. So how should we approach this feast?

    First, it is now approaching mid-January and for everyone in the congregation, the president included, Christmas is long in the past, people have been back at work for weeks, schools have re-opened, people are already thinking of a Spring Break, and even chatter about the New Year seems a little dated. So looking back to Christmas or referring to this as the close of Christmas is just adding noise to the communication.

    Second, this is about the baptism of the Christ by John, it is not a celebration of baptism as a sacrament or even the concept of baptism within the Paschal Mystery. Such thoughts belong to Easter, and the Easter Vigil in particular, not to this day. So this is not a day for having a baptism during the Eucharist. Such a celebration just confuses the understanding of what is being recalled and fills the understanding with muddle. Indeed, if it is the communitys practice to celebrate the baptism of new members of the gathering during the Eucharist, then this is one of those Sundays which should not be used for baptisms.

    Third, when we look at the position of the baptism of Jesus within the gospel kerygma we note that it is the public announcement of the beginning of the work of the Messiah. It marks a beginning of a period, not a conclusion. The basic structure can be seen in Mark (after the opening of the gospel comes the work of John which comes to its conclusion in his baptism of Jesus and the glorious theophany of approbation): Thou art my beloved Son: with thee I am well pleased (Mk 1:1-11). The other synoptics maintain this structure except that they add the prelude of the Infancy Narratives, while in Jn 1:29-34 the testimony of John the Baptist is concluded by his reference to the theophany of the Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove. In all the gospels, this event is then followed by the messianic ministry (what we often refer to as the public life). So the baptism of the Lord by John had a distinct place in the preaching of the church, it marked the visible anointing by the Father in the Spirit for his work. It is the great beginning.

    Fourth, the baptism of Jesus now has a definite place in the liturgy of the church, it is now a moment in our common memory and celebration of the Lord. So it would be appropriate to look on it as the beginning of Ordinary Time and, in particular, a celebration of Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ. So the tone of these notes is that of beginnings, not of conclusions.

    Introduction to the Celebration
    Today we celebrate our faith in Jesus: he is the Beloved of the Father, the Anointed One, and the one on whom the Spirit rests. During the coming months we will be recalling each Sunday his works and preaching as the Chosen One of the Father, but Christians have always begun the retelling of the gospel of Jesus by reminding ourselves who Jesus is. The gospels tell us this by recalling that he was baptised by John the Baptist in the Jordan and at that moment the Fathers voice was heard and the Spirit appeared in the form of a dove.

    Let us pause and reflect that we are here because we believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Christ, the Messiah, the One who does the Fathers will.

    The Asperges
    Use Option A (the Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling Holy Water)and then the first form of the opening prayer; if you choose Option B (a rite of penance) then these kyrie-verses pick up the words of the gospel:

    Lord Jesus, you are the Son of the Father. Lord have mercy.
    Lord Jesus, upon you the Spirit descended in the form of a dove. Christ have mercy.
    Lord Jesus, you are the Beloved of the Father. Lord have mercy.
    Headings for Readings
    First Reading
    The Lords Anointed is the servant who does the will of the Father; he is the Chosen One, the one in whom Gods soul delights.

    Second Reading
    Today we celebrate the beginning of Jesuss work as the Messiah, which means he is the Anointed One, the Christ. In this reading we hear that Jesus is the one who is anointed, marked out, with the Holy Spirit. He is the one who brings healing to all who are suffering under the power of evil.

    Jesus is identified as the Christ by earth and heaven: John testified he is the One whom Israel awaited; the Fathers voice testified that he is the beloved Son.

    Prayer of the Faithful
    Friends, the work of the Messiah was to gather scattered individuals and make them a single people, a people of God, and a priestly people able to stand in the presence of the Father interceding for ourselves and all humanity. So now let us stand and, as a priestly people united with the Christ, ask the Father for our needs.

    Reader (s)

    That whenever during the coming year we hear the Word of God in the liturgy, we will hear it in our hearts. Lord hear us.
    That during the coming year we will respond to the Lords call to care for the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed. Lord hear us.
    That during the coming year there will be a new recognition that the world is Gods creation. Lord hear us.
    That during the coming year those who are leaders in our society will follow the ways of truth and integrity. Lord hear us.
    That during the coming year we will grow closer together as a community. Lord hear us.
    That during the coming year we will grow more attentive as a community to ways to bear testimony to the Christ. Lord hear us.
    That during the coming year we will be given new courage to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the beloved Son of the Father. Lord hear us.
    Father, you anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power as our Saviour. Hear our prayers to you and grant what we ask through your beloved Son, our Lord. Amen.

    Eucharistic Prayer
    Preface of the Baptism of the Lord (P7), (Missal, p 410). Use either Eucharistic Prayer 2 or 3 which mention the working of the Spirit in the mission of the Christ.

    Invitation to the Our Father
    The beloved Son was acclaimed from heaven when the Fathers voice was heard; now let us raise our voices to our Father in heaven:

    Sign of Peace
    When the Lord set out from the Jordan to preach, he announced a message of peace and called men and women to form the new people of God. Let us celebrate this new relationship he proclaimed by offering each other a sign of peace.

    Invitation to Communion
    Behold the Lamb of God, behold him upon whom the Spirit descended like a dove, blessed are we who are called to have a share in his supper.

    Communion Reflection
    The hymn given in the Breviary, When Jesus comes to be baptised (vol 1, p 371), for Evening Prayer I of this feast is appropriate as a reflection today.

    Solemn Blessing 3 for the Beginning of the New Year (Missal, p 368) is still appropriate - we should within our eucharistic assembly formally ask Gods blessings on the coming year - and we have been celebrating one of the great beginning moments of the churchs kerygma.


    First Reading: Isa 42: 1-4. 6-7
    This is taken from the first of the four Songs of the Suffering Servant found in Deutero-Isaiah. Its significance within the text of Isaiah is not relevant to this liturgical use, where it functions to identify in prophecy several of the themes heard in the voice from heaven in the gospel. The servant is the Lords, i.e. the Fathers, chosen one, the one who delights the Fathers soul, and upon whom he has put his spirit.

    Second Reading: Acts 10:34-38
    This is one of the great set-piece speeches in Acts in which Luke presents his view of the fundamental kerygma of the church by expressing it in perfectly formed homilies. This speech is set immediately after the crucial encounter with Cornelius when the difficulties in bringing the gospel to the nations is, for Lukes readers, finally settled. This is the ideal second reading for today for it is the only reference outside the gospels to the relationship between the work of John the Baptist and the beginning of the work of Jesus, in effect, the mystery we celebrate today.

    It is clear from the gospels that the baptism by John the Baptist was one of the key fixed points in telling the story of Jesus. Indeed it appears to have been the defining point in the narrative. Here we see that narrative retold in summary form and the baptism event retains that marker position at the start of the messianic work. Luke takes the trinitarian format of his account in Lk 3:22, refashions it without the narrative form, and presents it as an interpretation of the name Jesus Christ or Jesus the Christ. Jesus is the anointed one, the christ, but what does that mean. God (the Father, not mentioned in the Lk 3 but only heard) anoints Jesus with the Spirit. But this now means that Jesus acts in a unique way in the Spirit: that God has set upon him the Spirit and power in a way that is not found among all the others - the Christians - who have received the Spirit. In summary we could say that Lukes preaching here is God gets Jesus to act in the Spirit and that phrase is equivalent to saying Jesus is the Christ.

    First Reading > Gospel Links
    The link between Isa 40 and the gospel is one of prophecy and fulfillment. The passage in Isaiah is read as text from the past pointing to a particular moment in the future (time of service ended, the work of the one who prepares) which has now come with John the Baptist and Jesus, and indeed that moment is now the past and the background of the church.

    Gospel: Mt 3:13-17
    The simplest form of the baptism event is that found in Mk 1:9- 11 and the almost identical Lk 3:21-22. Matthew makes two changes. First, he adds vv 14-15 stressing John the Baptists hesitancy over baptising Jesus , this insertion may be his caution lest it be unclear that Jesus was not in need of baptism by John. The second significant difference is that here the heavenly voice - which the hearer is expected to identify as that of the Father - does not address Jesus as in Mark and Luke, but the assembly: This is my beloved Son...

    However, the key to the scene is not in its details but in its overall impact: the human and divine worlds, heaven and earth, the history of Israel and the eternity of Gods inner life, all come together in an unforgettable image. This is a mighty event that is fitting to act as the marker of the commencement of the work of the Christ. And so, it is one of the most explicitly theological scenes in the gospel narrative: the Father identifies Jesus as his Son and the Spirit is seen. Here lies the whole of later christology presented not as propositions but as something that the imagination can work with, while still not giving the false notion of seeing God. We see the Christ, the Son acclaimed as such by the voice from heaven which is heard and not seen, while the Spirit is seen descending like (hosei) a dove.

    Scenes such as this have become victims of two types of exegetical confusion during the twentieth century. The first was the product of a materialist notion of truth. It began with the materialist question: If I were there that day what would my TV camera have recorded? Then when the exegete said nothing, it seemed as if the scene was false and so the whole thing was a concoction to be avoided. We have to realise that this scene is sacramental and placed within a narrative precisely so our human imaginations can handle the mystery: to ask the TV camera question is not to get at the Truth but to commit the blasphemy of Wisdom 15 and imply god as referring to another object, a thing, in our universe. The second confusion is that of assuming that theology is an obscurity overlaid on the simple message of Jesus. The confusion runs like this: Jesus was a loving guy who spoke about God and captured hearts; then came the boffins who made everything complicated with notions of the incarnation, the trinity, and what not, but you can by-pass this and get to the heart of the matter. Its a lovely picture and one that still wins adherents, but there is no evidence for such a simple time. By the time that Mark began preaching his gospel , in the sixties , we see in the baptism-event a fully developed Christian doctrine of God, and it is this that we read again today in the liturgy.


    1. This is a good opportunity to give a simple catechetical homily whose aim is to impart some simple linguistic clarity in order to help people reflect on the gospels image more fruitfully.
    2. We use the words Jesus Christ over and over again. Indeed, we use these two words so often side-by-side that we forget that they have any meaning. Sometimes, we almost think that the word Christ is just a surname tacked on as if one needed to distinguish several people called Jesus. Most Christians use the words interchangeably. I have seen history books with the index entry: Christ, J. followed by page numbers. When I asked a student what was the significance that her essay kept varying between using Jesus said and Christ said, her answer was that she changed the usage simply to make it sound less repetitive. So this is a phrase whose significance we cannot take for granted.
    3. But our confession of faith is that Jesus is the Christ. The word christos means the marked one, the one who has been smeared with oil. But why use this as a description of Jesus? The people of Israel looked forward to the new David, the new king who would institute the Day of the Lord and his victory. David had been marked out as the chosen one of the Lord: Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward (1 Sam 16:13). To be marked out with oil is the same as being the anointed one or, if one uses Hebrew, the messiah or, if one uses Greek, the Christ or to say He is the chosen one of the Father.
    4. Jesus was not literally anointed with oil to mark him out as the anointed one, but in the gospels he is shown as being marked out by the Fathers voice and by the descent of the Spirit upon him. To say Jesus is the Christ is to say he is the one who is uniquely the Son of the Father, and uniquely the bearer of the Spirit.
    5. To say Jesus is the Christ is to utter a basic creed which only makes sense when we imagine that statement within the scene we have just read in the gospel. To say You, O Jesus are the Christ is to offer praise through the beloved Son to the Father in the Holy Spirit.



    Introduction to the Celebration
    We gather here each Sunday to encounter one another and to encounter the Chosen One of the Father. We are, as St Paul tells us, the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among all the saints everywhere who pray to our Lord Jesus Christ. So let us reflect on who we are as a group and on how we have become this holy people through our baptism.

    Rite of Penance
    Given the baptismal story in todays gospel, this is a day when the Asperges option is particularly appropriate.

    Lord Jesus, you are the Chosen One of God. Lord have mercy.
    Lord Jesus, you are the man on whom the Spirit has come down and rests. Christ have mercy.
    Lord Jesus, you are the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Lord have mercy.
    Headings for Readings
    First Reading
    The prophet speaks of the Servant of the Lord who will gather a scattered people and bring Gods light to all people right out to the ends of the earth. We see in Jesus the fulfillment of this act of obedience to the Fathers loving plan for all humanity.

    Second Reading
    Note: Announce the lection as: The Beginning of the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.
    This is the opening greeting of Paul to one of the churches he founded. He calls the members of the churchthe saints because they have been made holy through becoming one body in Christ through sharing the one loaf and the one cup at the eucharistic meal.

    Jesus our Lord is the Lamb of God, the bearer of the Spirit, the Chosen One of the Father: him we praise and him we witness.

    Prayer of the Faithful
    The Spirit comes down and rests upon us when we gather in the Lords Anointed for this holy meal; now empowered by the Spirit as a priestly people, let us intercede with the Father.


    For all Christians, that we will witness that Jesus is the Chosen One of God. Lord hear us.
    For all women and men, that we will respect the universe God has given us. Lord hear us.
    For all who are suffering due to the sin of the world, that they may receive new life. Lord hear us.
    For all who are seeking the ways of wisdom, that the Spirit will enlighten their searchings. Lord hear us.
    Specific local needs and topics of the day.
    For all who have died, that they may share in the heavenly banquet. Lord hear us.
    Father, you sent your Son among us to take away the sin of the world and to show us the path to you, listen to us and the needs we place before you for ourselves and our sisters and brothers, for we place these prayers before you in union with your Chosen One, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    Eucharistic Prayer
    Given that todays gospel is Johns presentation of the baptism event, the Preface of the Baptism of the Lord (P7), (Missal, p 410) is again suitable for today. Use either Eucharistic Prayer 2 or 3, which mention the working of the Spirit in the mission of the Christ.

    Invitation to the Our Father
    The Spirit gathers us in the Chosen One and makes us his people, so now in the Spirits power let us pray to the Father:

    Sign of Peace
    The Lamb of God has taken away sin and division and offered us the possibility of a new life of peace; let us express our willingness to begin that new life with one another.

    Invitation to Communion
    Today we recalled John the Baptists announcement Look, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; today we too can behold in this meal the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

    Communion Reflection
    Over the Christmas period the liturgy has been very full in terms of words: hymns, prayers, announcements, carols. Now is a good time to create a structured silence. Begin this with an opening such as: We shall now reflect in silence for a few moments on being the Body of Christ because we have shared in the one loaf and the one cup. Then measure the passing of two minutes and conclude the silence by standing and saying: Let us pray.

    Solemn Blessing 10: Ordinary Time I (Missal, p 372).

    1. Since last Sunday we read Matthews account of the baptism of Jesus for that feast, getting Johns account today seems like too much of a good thing. There are differences between the synoptic accounts and Johns of the baptism, but they are not such that an average congregation can appreciate these differences when the two readings are a week apart. Equally, the baptism event at the beginning of all four gospels is itself a significant pointer to its place in the early churchs understanding of Jesus, and so it is good that we read all four versions of the story; but again, the average congregation are not likely to note this when read on separate Sundays. So, in effect, we have entered into Ordinary Time and the Year of Matthew, yet today we have readings that are more suited to the explicit theme of last Sunday. This means that the liturgy today is either a continuation of last Sunday, if the focus is on the First Reading - Gospel; or else one concentrates on the Second Reading.
    2. The pneumatology of todays gospel, the Spirit descends upon the Son of God and remains on him, is that which is reflected in the Nicene Creed. This is therefore not a Sunday to use the (so-called) Apostles Creed option.


    First Reading: Isa 49: 3, 5-6
    This lection is made up of three verses of the section of Deutero-Isaiah that is the commissioning of the Servant-Prophet who will comfort Zion. The whole section is 49:1-7. As edited here only the divine voice is heard, not the servants reply, and this enables the text to be read as the Father addressing the Christ. This particular christological reading of Isaiah has been in use in the church since the earliest times. We see verses 5-6 echoed in the Song of Simeon (Lk 2:32).

    Psalm: 39 (40)
    The liturgy today interprets the speaker as the Servant of the Lord and then invites us to identify this with Jesus who delights in the Law of God and does the Fathers will.

    Second Reading: 1 Cor 1:1-3
    This is the opening greeting of the letter and as such it introduces a text that will be read, in bits, over seven Sundays. Since the next Pauline greeting will be heard on the Twenty-ninth Sunday, it is worth examining the theology that is inherent in Pauls greeting.

    In most religious views of the universe there is an assumption that sinfulness, impurity, and pollution are contagious: hence dietary laws, laws forbidding contact with the impure, and the widespread notion that people, objects and places become defiled. On the other hand, holiness is that which is found in limited amounts and has to be carefully guarded. It is as if holiness and purity are fragile and always threatened unless they are defended by high walls - often literally high walls as those built around enclosed convents - and legal safeguards. In this vision, sinfulness is the norm and holiness the exception. And, indeed, unless checked that worldliness will contaminate and spread everywhere until holiness has been corrupted and is expunged. This has been noticed by anthropologists of religion in religions far and wide. It is true of most Christians as well and can be seen to operate in Christian theology since the fourth century, with the rise of specific holy places (as distinct from the rest of the world: the ordinary places, the places that are not of any particular sacred worth) and in the rise of sacred persons. For instance, the regulations of the Council of Elvira, AD 306, that any presbyter who had sexual intercourse with his wife could not preside at the Eucharist on the following day. In this case, the earthiness of sexuality was threatening the holy and
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Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew

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