I have to be honest that I get a little annoyed sometimes by the rather constant refrain of “The New Evangelization.” What is new about it and why use the word “new” for an ancient faith?
Irritation of this sort is perhaps understandable, when a phrase gets picked up and used widely in multivariate ways, and thereby comes to be seen more as a slogan than as informative.
That said, the New Evangelization is officially used to mean several rather specific things. First it is new, in the sense that we, as a Church, cannot afford to do business as usual. We must behave in new ways. We can no longer be content to sit within our four walls and talk about the faith among ourselves; we must go out. We cannot simply think that evangelization is opening the doors and hoping people come. If there ever was a kind of inertia that brought people to church, that is not so now. It is clear that we must go into the community, into the culture, and re-propose the gospel. In this sense, “everything old is new again.” For the new evangelization seeks to go back to Christ’s initial Instruction, "Go unto all the nations and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19).
New evangelization also appreciates that we cannot simply say what we believe, we must explain why, and show its reasonableness. Perhaps in previous times, it was sufficient to argue from authority, but these days, people want to know why, not just what.
Thirdly, evangelization is “new” in that we must vigorously engage in all the new ways of communicating that have exploded on the scene today. We must creatively engage all these new forms of communication, along with the traditional modes of communication, such as writing, cinema, radio and so forth.
I recently saw a picture of Pope Francis seated near the back of the chapel instead of up front in the special chair for the Celebrant. I am moved by this humility, and wonder why must the priest sit up front during Mass.
To clarify, Pope Francis was seated in the back of the chapel prior to the sacred liturgy. Once the liturgy began he vested and moved forward to the celebrant’s chair.
The celebrant of the mass sits up front in virtue of the fact that he acts in persona Christi. Hence, the celebrant’s chair, and he, being seated in a prominent, visible place in the sanctuary, is not honoring of “Fr. Joe Smith” the man, but, rather, of Jesus Christ who acts in and through the priest, who is configured to Jesus by holy orders.
In this sense, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the priest in the liturgy is a kind of sacrament of the presence of Christ. It is Christ who is honored, and has a prominent seat. Jesus Christ is the true celebrant and high priest of every liturgy.
"Building our Catholic faith one question at a time."