The Holy Preaching: The Sacramentality of the Word in the Liturgical Assembly

By Larson-Miller, Lizette | Anglican Theological Review, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

The Holy Preaching: The Sacramentality of the Word in the Liturgical Assembly


Larson-Miller, Lizette, Anglican Theological Review


The Holy Preaching: The Sacramentality of the Word in the Liturgical Assembly. By Paul Janowiak, S.J. Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 2000. xv + 187 pp. $24.95 (paper).

Sacraments and sacramental imagination are not foreign concepts to either the Anglican or Roman Catholic communions, but when all is said and done, the bulk of writing in both communities with regard to what is sacramental has focused on the words and gestures of actions like Baptism and Eucharist. In spite of the biblical research of the past century and the liturgical movements that have brought the importance of the Word to the forefront again, it is only in more recent writings that a sacramental theology of the word has been reclaimed and applied to pastoral realities. It is that marriage of theory and practice that marks the starting point for Jesuit Paul Janowiak's "investigation into liturgical proclamation as a sacramental act" (p. 4). This work emerges from his Ph.D. dissertation at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley in which he continues the fruitful dialogue between liturgical studies and the social sciences, in this case bringing the insights of two contemporary literary theories to assist in articulating a sacramental theology of the proclamation of the Word of God and the act of preaching.

The first two chapters of Part I introduce and review the liturgical movement of the twentieth century and then enflesh those insights by using three specific theologians as examples. Part II picks up the literary theories that Janowiak will add to the conversation.

The first chapter reviews a fundamental outcome of the liturgical renewal movement, namely a "re-imagination of the ways the Church understood the nature of sacramentality and its ritual expression" (p. 11). The focus of the "re-imagination" was to see sacraments as actions in which "the Church as a dynamic body of believers . . . encounter God in this holy meeting" (p. 19). The language of encounter, revelation and action were hallmarks of the liturgical reform that sought to move beyond the static metaphysical explanations of the second millennium to the theology of active participation in the paschal mystery. In the second chapter, Janowiak summarizes the work of "three representative theologians" who elucidated "Roman Catholic thinking on sacramentality" (p. 19) prior to the council of Vatican II: Otto Semmelroth, S.J., Karl Rahner, S.J., and Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P. These three were chosen because of "their emphasis on the sacramentality of the word and the liturgical implications that accompany their ecclesial understanding of sacraments" (p. 20). From Semmelroth comes the articulation of the "complementary functions" (p. 21) of the proclamation of the word and the sacramental action that make a "single work" (p. 21) of effecting grace. Out of Karl Rahner's extensive and dense writing on sacramental theology the focus on Christ as the foundational sacrament, and especially Christ the Word made flesh, will prove most helpful in developing this theology of the word proclaimed. The heart of sacramental theology for Schillebeeckx is personal encounter between God and humanity, and the proclamation functions as "a twofold source of revelation, in both the sacred word proclaimed and in the life situations out of which they are heard and lived. Proclamation is not therefore `about God' but `reveals God"' (pp. 47-48). In each of these authors the proclamation of the word reveals the "real and active presence of Christ" (p. …

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