If the liturgy is going to evangelize then it must be on its own terms. If it is going to point the people of God upward then it must be allowed to do so in the way it was fashioned to. And liturgy – the holy sacrifice of the Mass – evangelizes the baptized by using language and imagery and sound that is of this world and yet strangely beyond it.
And it is for that very reason that the liturgy should not be used as the model for evangelization of the unbaptized.
Look at it another way. The composer of the symphony uses the trumpet and horn, violins and cielos to woo the minds of their listeners into a world that is both foreign and familiar. But the violin, the harp and one hundred other instruments are not to be found in the ghettos. They are therefore always for the initiated, those who can discern with a listening ear the distinct movements of the maestro’s hand.
If however, music is to be made in the streets, where children are found and busy men and women hasten to and fro, then music will come not from the perfectly polished saxophone but the trashcan. To make a slow but serious ascent upward, sticks will be found to control a beat and untrained voices will gather in the most untuned of ways.
Both the orchestra hall and the slum are about the same thing, but because of their tools and where they are played we might make the mistake of assuming the opposite. And if we are particularly caring but nonetheless naive, we might also fall for the tragic error of waiting on the symphony to expose the world to music.
The liturgy too, in that most sacred space where it finds itself, evangelizes on a level that cannot be found among the profane.
To reach the masses, so that they eventually get to Mass, the evangelizer must pick up the words and songs and poetry and imagery of the marketplace. He must not wait on the sacred icon or the incense found slowly wafting up to the thrice holy God.
No, for there to be music before there are cymbals resounding in a great hall; for there to be love of Jesus Christ before one ever beholds the great banquet held in every last cathedral; we need to start with where people find themselves.
So evangelize, but keep it simple. Do it imperfectly and without much finesse. When amidst the harvest that is found in every city and town, you and I are working with broken tools. Let’s be God’s labourers anyway.
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