Practicing Worshipful Wisdom
Employing a Christian practice approach to pastoral theology (one that is interdisciplinary in its scope), this dissertation argues that Augustine's mystagogical theology and catechesis provides the basis for a contemporary liturgical formation that transforms human experience into liturgical existence through the practice of worshipful wisdom. Chapter one considers the formative nature of liturgical worship. Both liturgical theologians and catechists view liturgical prayer as a privileged source for liturgical formation. That is, the liturgy mediates an experience and lived knowledge of the Christian message through its performance, one that forms the Christian in a way of life. The first chapter concludes by acknowledging recent scholarship in liturgical studies that has been critical of this approach to formation through liturgical prayer. Fruitful participation in this prayer, one that contributes to a way of life characterized by a life infused with liturgical meaning, requires the appropriation of specific theological and spiritual dispositions that are essential to any act of Christian worship. Yet, what are the theological and spiritual dispositions required for fruitful liturgical worship? Chapter two does not answer this question directly but rather offers a heuristic through the ritual models of Clifford Geertz, Victor Turner, and Catherine Bell. This chapter suggests that for ritual prayer to function fruitfully, one must acquire specific dispositions, ways of knowing and practicing, necessary for any act of worship within a religion. In addition, ritual prayer presumes a specific telos, an end toward which the human person is directed and formed through ritual engagement. Finally, ritual prayer is formative when it leads to the acquisition of a certain habitus, a way of acting in which the ritual agent becomes capable of "ritualizing" in other areas of life. While these disciplines cannot provide a Christian specificity to liturgical worship, they can suggest the foundational questions that will guide liturgical theologians and catechists as they consider the theological and spiritual dispositions necessary for Christian liturgical prayer. Chapters three, four, and five, serve as an interruption to the more common approaches to liturgical theology and catechesis analyzed in the first chapter. In chapter three, I consider the mystagogical theology of Augustine of Hippo. For Augustine, Christian worship is intrinsic to the process of salvation in Christ, a renewal of human perception in which the signs of the created world are to be used to enjoy the reality of God. This renewal of human perception takes place through entrance into the school of Christ--the Church's reading of the Scriptures and its sacramental celebrations. To participate fruitfully in liturgical worship, thus requires the capacity to use the signs of the Scriptures and the liturgical rites to enjoy God through deeper understanding of the texts and practice under examination. This is what I will call practicing worshipful wisdom. In chapter four, I contemplate what the Christian becomes through this fruitful worship, particularly in the Eucharistic celebration. Through the Eucharistic pedagogy of faith, the Christian becomes a sacrifice of love offered to God. In this transformation of human identity, the renewal of the Christian made in the image and likeness of God, the Christian's memory, understanding and will grow into a site for divine sacrifice. Thus, the interior life of divine contemplation is more perfectly expressed in one's visible actions. The Christian, within the life of the Church, becomes a living Eucharistic sign. Finally in chapter five, I conclude with an analysis of Augustine's mystagogical pedagogy. I argue that Augustine's sermons are rhetorical performances, using the signs of Scripture, to form the imaginations of Christians, their way of thinking about God, and to lead the congregation to become what they received in the preaching event. One learns about the liturgical act in the context of the Christian narrative, as a cultivation of memory; thinks about the practice through a theological seeking that is oriented toward both conversion and prayer, cultivating understanding; and then performs the practice anew through the results of these exercises, cultivating love. In chapter six, this Augustinian mystagogical approach is interrupted by the contemporary context of the Catholic parish. This interruption first includes a diagnosis of the primary malaise effecting religious practice in the United States--secularization. American secularization consists of an attenuation of the religious imagination, a discomfort with theological thinking, and an emphasis upon individual flourishing. Then, this chapter turns to contemporary educational theory, including John Dewey and Etienne Wenger, as a way of discerning how to perform this Augustinian mystagogical approach in a secular age through the catechetical ministry of the parish. I conclude that an Augustinian mystagogical approach in the present context requires a de-habituation from previous ways of thinking, as well as an intelligent socialization into a mystagogical imagination within communities of practice. Finally, in chapter seven, I set forth a plan of formation in which the whole catechetical life of a parish becomes an initiation into the practice of worshipful wisdom through the four fundamental tasks of catechesis and an Augustinian mystagogical approach to catechetical pedagogy. By means of this Augustinian mystagogical formation, the Christian learns to offer all of one's existence as a sacrifice to God, the Eucharistic vocation of the Christian.