In the ancient Greek theater, you better speak up. Some plays sat up to fourteen thousand in the audience, so acoustics can be a challenge when you're playing Achilles comforting Priam on the death of Hector.
From center stage of theaters on the coast of Greece the early Christians adopted the word 'katekhein' which, in reference to the theaters, meant to "echo down" or to "resound in the ears". And for thousands of years, from the death of Christ in 33 AD until the invention of the movable-type printing press in the 1400's, Christianity was a lot like the theater. The 'soul' of the Christian message lived in the sound.
Christians used this word to describe the echoing of the Christian faith down through the ages, or the teaching of the faith to new Christians. 'Catechists' would 'echo down' the epic story of God's saving acts in human history, climaxing in the second act with Jesus Christ's life, passion, death, resurrection, and the hope of His coming again. The story ends with the invitation for hearers to respond to the sounds of the story by becoming part of it, as it lives on in the Church and now in them.
The difference between the epic of Homer and the epic of Christ is that, like a dream where the characters of a fairy tale are suddenly real, the story of Jesus Christ is REAL. It is this same rawness of historicity and incredulous-ness of the resurrection that screams out from the hearts of the thousands who hear St. Peter's first homily: a re-echoing of the story of Jesus.
"Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Acts 2:37
And for centuries the echoes of this story, the loud echoes from the hearts of Christians - mothers, husbands, sisters, bakers, soldiers, cobblers, poets, children, sinners and saints - have not been deadened. This echo, the soul of the story, Jesus, is the Deposit of Faith. And this great Tradition was passed on orally for thousands of years. It is a treasured story guarded by the Church and entrusted first to the Apostles, and then to us.
"O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid profane babbling and the absurdities of so-called knowledge. By professing it, some people have deviated from the faith."
- 1 Timothy 6:20-21
"Guarding the Deposit of Faith is the mission which the Lord entrusted to His Church, and which she fulfills in every age."
- Pope John Paul II, Fidei Depositum
I love the Bible. It is the inspired word of God. But the Bible as we know it wasn't compiled into a collection by the Bishops of the Catholic Church until the late 4th Century. What did the Catholic faith consist of before then? It lived in the oral Tradition of the Deposit of Faith, the story of God's works in history culminating in the story of Jesus Christ, and it was lived out in the Sacraments of the Church and the Charity of the Saints.
On October 11, 1992, the 30th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, Pope John Paul II promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
This was one of the loudest events in the recent history of the Catholic Church. The recent Catechism of the Catholic Church is a definitive, systematic, and complete presentation of everything Catholics believe. It is the 'soul' of Christianity. It is a presentation in 2865 paragraphs of the entire Deposit of Faith, soaked in Scripture, Tradition, and the teaching of the Apostles and Bishops of the Church.
The last universal Catechism (meaning written, edited, and approved by all the Bishops of the Church around the world) to be written was the Catechism of the Council of Trent, or the Roman Catechism, promulgated in 1566 by Pope Pius V. Before the Roman Catechism, the closest similar systematic statement of the entire Deposit of Faith on behalf of the Universal Catholic Church was the Didache written in the early 2nd century.
In 1993 Cardinal Ratzinger said "The deeper reception of the Catechism in the life of the Church still lies ahead." We believe this to still be the case. As Christians, we have lost the sense of echoing, of reverberating, the Deposit of Faith. We turn to blogs, podcasts, opinions, pious meditations, and anything else that can mediate the faith to us.
Don’t get me wrong, these things aren't bad. This website is one of them. But the problem is that often when we stay here we end up focusing on the periphery of the faith. We get caught up in the debate on marriage, abortion, liturgy, liturgical music, religious education, but do we ever have a "ressourcement" – a return to the sources – of our Faith? Not just a return to the Bible alone, but a return to the Deposit, a return to the essentials and fundamentals and most basic. Before we talk of marriage, are we soaked in the Church’s doctrine and language of the Trinity? Before we talk about abortion, are we inebriated by the doctrine of the creation of man? Are we sitting at the wellspring of the Faith?
Flannery O'Conner fans clubs, blogs about charismatics, debating Ad Orientum, critiquing Bill O'Reilly, and arguing for the protection of traditional marriage are great and all, but it's time we get with Pope Francis and stop being so defensive and presumptuous. When the Catechism was published around the world in the 90's, it instantly became a best-seller. Millions of copies were sold. What you will NOT find in the catechism are opinions or defenses. The Catechism proposes the faith, it does not presuppose the faith.
This isn't about a million pious reflections on "God is love." This is about sitting at the heart of the Church and listening closely to the echo of Faith, and then reverberating it in our lives and in our culture. As Catholics the Deposit of Faith, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, should be the least common denominator, the basic common words in our dialect and a "sure norm" for our conversations and the culture we build around the story of Jesus Christ.
As a Father, my goal in raising my boys is not that they remember me when I'm gone by saying "Dad always said..." but that they remember "Jesus says...".
As Catholics, our goal should be to communicate the faith by saying "Jesus says...".
And Jesus 'says' through the Deposit of Faith He gave to the Apostles. This Deposit is echoed down to us by the Apostles in the Bible. But in a very special, organic, systematic, and explicitly complete way this Deposit of Faith is echoed to us through the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism explicitly contains everything Catholics believe.
"Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith." 86
Echoing the story of Jesus, not the "profane babbling and the absurdities of so-called knowledge", is Reverb Culture.
“…in short, we need to discover the catechism’s pulsating heart. And what is this heart? It is not a dogma or a truth, a doctrine or an ethical principle. It is a Person: Jesus Christ! “On page after page,” – the Holy Father writes regarding the catechism in the same Apostolic Letter – “we find that what is presented here is no theory, but an encounter with a Person who lives within the Church”.” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, 1st Advent Homily to the Papal Household 2012
Echoing the Catechism in the modern theater of humanity is Reverb Culture.
Edmund Mitchell is married to an attractive cowgirl from Texas and has three kids (one on the way). He also enjoys hipsters and books.
He's a youth minister too.
You can follow him at edmundmitchell.com and @edmundmitchell on Twitter.