EN §47: Sacrament and evangelization

I was mildly critical of Paul VI in my last post for passing up a chance to advocate the catholic obligation for all Christians to evangelize, but here in §47 we find a great insight. It is this kind of passage that sets EN apart from run of the mill evangelical discourse, while also making it (EN) too urgent and passionate to simply discard as yet another document from the Vatican.

Paul VI here touches on the the union of sacrament and word in evangelism. One rather strong phrase is here:

In a certain sense it is a mistake to make a contrast between evangelization and sacramentalization, as is sometimes done.

This insight has actually been close to the heart of my personal approach to mission to Muslims and I have written an article on the topic which should be published online some time soon (will let you know) over at the most excellent St Francis Magazine.

But this insight is especially true for Muslims because Islam is a very ritually-oriented civilizational structure (notice that I don't call it a religion). Five times a day the Muslim must go through a highly ritualistic form of prayer (and I don't use the word ritualistic in a pejorative way). Five times a day! Overall Muslims have maintained a much higher degree in actual observance of (at least) the outward obligations of their rites than have Christians. Even non-devout Muslims will generally keep at least a partial fast during Ramadan, for example.

To take a Muslim out of the soteriological metanerrative of Islam without then giving him or her rites and rituals to replace that which has been discarded is a recipe for failure--both for the evangelizer and the evangelized. This is the case with Muslims more so than with secular Western folks. To evangelize without sacramentalizing is to offer an incomplete entry into the Kingdom of God and the Christian metanarrative.


Brett said…
HAHA, I can see the method here, but it is funny to think of converting from islam in basically the same context as quitting smoking. You get used to the motions, you just need to substitute it with something similar, but healthy.

BTW...on a smoking note. I recommend blowing bubbles. It seems silly but it saved me in college as far as stress relief. You are holding something, you are breathing slowly and deeply, and you are viewing something beautiful. My roomate thought I was weird, but we are still friends to this day.
E. Twist said…
Great stuff, Abu. I remember reading something the Pontificator wrote, "the gospel is always sacramental."

This is scandalous to many western Christians.

Gnosticism just won't leave us alone.
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Brett and Twist: yes, it is a sort of behavioral aspect to mission and evangelism.

The funny thing is that evangelicalism cannot suppress the hunger for ritual in the human soul. I think this is part of the reason for the revival of Pentecostalism in the early 20th C. and continuing now.

In both Pentecostalism and sacramental Christianity one finds the conviction that material matters (ha!) and is well-suited to God's gracious purposes. For this reason over the last year or so I have found myself closer and closer to Pentecostal missionaries than to anti-sacramental evangelicals.

One is ultimately left with the question: if we do not participate in God's grace through matter then how do we do it? It must be in the theatre of the mind--I see no other option.

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