A treasury of reflections on the Scripture Readings
YEAR OF THE LORD’S FAVOUR:
A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy
by Aidan Nichols, OP
(Freedom Publishing, PB. $30.00 each volume.)
Vol 1: The Sanctoral Cycle. ISBN 978-1-78182-996-7.
Vol 2: The Temporal Cycle, Advent and Christmastide, Lent and Eastertide. ISBN 978-1-78182-997-4.
Vol 3: The Temporal Cycle: Sundays through the Year. ISBN 978-1-78182-998-1.
Vol 4: The Temporal Cycle: Weekdays through the Year. ISBN 978-1-78182-999-8.
Fr Aidan Nichols is one of the best-known and most prolific Catholic writers in the English world at the present time. A Dominican from Blackfriars Cambridge, he is a member of the Faculty of Divinity of the University of Cambridge.
This book is designed to be an aid to better preach homilies at Mass, based on the particular reading for the day. It can be read, however, by anyone interested in getting a deeper understanding of the scriptural texts of the day, and how they relate to one another and to the church’s teaching.
On saints’ days, Fr Nichols gives a short appreciation of the life of a particular saint.
Fr Nichols adopts the Dominican approach of doctrinal preaching. He does not look at the scripture readings in isolation, but looks at them through the prism of the doctrines of the Church: “a preaching of scripture which takes doctrine as guide to the clarification of the Bible’s main lines.”
He adds, “Without doctrine, we should find it more difficult to find the biblical wood from the profusion of the Scriptural trees. Doctrine is necessary for preachers because in its absence, the Scriptural claims and themes do not hang together.”
This is quite different from the approaches usually taken to preaching which are expository, textual and topical.
The expository approach consists of going through a particular passage of scripture, and explaining those parts which are difficult to understand. It does not seek to relate readings to one another, nor does it link the preaching to a particular season or feast day.
Textual preaching is like the expository approach, but examines a section of scripture, and relates it to the events of the day or season. For example, it will link the readings of the post-resurrection period with the Easter season in the liturgy.
Topical preaching links the readings of a particular day, but may or may not look for the doctrinal underpinning of the readings.
Why does the author consider that doctrinal preaching is so important? He says, “Doctrine ensures that preaching does not fall short of its true dimensions which are co-extensive with the biblical revelation, the faith of the church.”
He adds, “Preaching about the lives of the saints is a partial exception to these principles, and yet every saint throws light on some aspect of the mystery of Christ and the Church.”
In these four volumes, Fr Nichols reflects on the daily scripture readings, putting them into the context of the Church’s history and teachings. In some case, he shows how the scripture readings contributed to the articulation of doctrine, in others, he shows how the church’s doctrine clarifies the scriptures.
His comments are chatty, informal and informative – but always orthodox. He makes the scriptures come alive, by showing its connection with the contemporary world, and the issues we face today.
Sometimes, his comments are slightly irreverent. In the scripture readings for the Feast of the Assumption (15 August), he refers to the response to the Psalm, “The Queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.”
Fr Nichols says, “With considerable boldness, the Roman Liturgy applies to today’s Solemnity this text from an ancient Israelite wedding song, probably written for the marriage of the rather dodgy King Ahab to the quite unspeakable Princess Jezebel.”
He adds, “The Queen, Mary, stands at the right hands of the King, Christ, in glory. These words give us a clue, however, to the thinking or intuition behind today’s feast and the extraordinary event of which that thinking or intuition is an echo.
“The clue lies in the closeness, the intimacy, of Mary and Christ. The Gospels portray Mary as closely joined to her divine Son, and drawn into his lot.”
Fr Nichols’ reflections are fresh and vivid, and will be of considerable value to priests preparing homilies, and to lay people wanting to explore below the surface of the scripture readings.