Saturday 3 January 2015

Francis on culture

Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, has what Lonergan calls an 'empirical' notion of culture - which just means that every people has its own culture, there is no one thing call Culture with a capital C, a normative something developed in some place and in some particular time, with one particular language, one way of eating, one set of great books, one set of heroes, one particular history.... "The concept of culture is valuable for grasping the various expressions of the Christian life present in God's people. It has to do with the lifestyle of a given society, the specific way in which its members relate to one another, to other creatures and to God. Understood in this way, culture embraces the totality of a people's life. [Puebla, nn. 386-87] Each people in the course of its history develops its culture with legitimate autonomy. [GS 36]." (EG 115)
What then of Latin and Greek? Greek, of course, is the language of the New Testament, and of the Septuagint version of the Old - which, I learnt from Richard Amalanathan, is being recognized as of greater and greater importance, for a large variety of reasons. Latin? It is the language of a large part of the first great inculturation of the faith, as John Paul II puts it in Fides et Ratio. It is time for a second great inculturation, the same pope says, but - and I find myself in deep agreement with him - without abandoning the first. The 'permanently valid achievements' of the first have to be transposed into the second. And for that, we will always need some in the church who know the languages of that first inculturation, not only well but very well. The fusion of horizons demands mastery of both horizons. Bridges have to rest on two shores.

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