Evangelization: various elements play off each other

Evangelizatio est processus implicatior variisque elementis compositus, cuiusmodi sunt: renovatio humanitatis, testificatio, nuntiatio aperta, animi adhaesio, ingressio in communitatem, acceptio signorum, apostolatus opera. Pope Paul VI,   Evangelization in the Modern World §24

The renewal of humanity is one element in evangelization, as you can see from the above passage from  Evangelii nuntiandi. All the elements must be related together into a whole and play off of each other. The first element, “renovatio humanitatis” receives more treatment because renewal, radical newness,  is the purpose or end of evangelization. “Behold I make all things new.”

But there follow six more elements. “Testificatio,” or witness, is an element closely connected to “nuntiatio aperta,” or explicit proclamation. They are two sides of the same coin. Witness of life establishes trust, attraction and inquiry. Proclamation gives the reasons for our hope, the narrative of salvation in Christ. Notice that the title of the work is taken from “nuntiatio,” viz., Evangelii nuntiandi. Proclaiming the gospel has pride of place. Someone must express the content of faith out loud.

At some point the Holy Spirit works through inner persuasion and the inquirer/seeker adheres to the truth in his soul, “animi adhaesio.” And there would result some expression in response, I believe, or Jesus is Lord. This is an act of faith.

But faith dwells in a communion of faith, so there must be ingressio in communitatem, entry into a community. That commitment to the fellowship or communion of faith makes the act of faith concrete and real. A friend of Augustine would say “walls do not make the Church,” but he did not want to stand with the Christians in opposition to his conservative Roman friends. He did finally come to stand with Augustine and the fellowship of believers.

 The believer and the community live by signs and sacraments, hence there emerges the “acceptio signorum.” This term should be translated by more than “acceptance” it means reception of sacraments, attention to and participation in the sacred signs that abound with meaning such as the liturgical year, the sign of the cross, icons, music, and the sacraments proper. The “acceptio signorum” is a vital part of evangelization and re-evangelization. For many with languid belief those signs must be re-activated and made to pulsate with the energy and the grace of the Holy Spirit, renovating their personal life and the lives of those around them and the surrounding culture.

Last, but not least, is the work of apostolate, “apostolatus opera.” Pope Paul VI says that this is the “test of truth.” It is unthinkable, he says, that one would accept the word, give oneself to the Kingdom, and not go forth to witness and proclaim this truth. The kingdom of God is like the yeast — it grows and expands. The increase should be thirty-fold or sixty-fold, even one hundred-fold.

It struck me when reading Augustine’s Confessions how his story of conversion was but one open frame around many previous frames of conversion stories. There is the story of St. Anthony, who heard the story of the gospel concerning he rich young man; then roman administrators heard the story of Anthony and they convert; Ponticianus heard these stories within stories . . . down to Augustine, who upon hearing these stories (and the witness of his mother and St Ambrose) turns his life toward God. And we the readers can add our own frame and story, ing out to one more soul.

Evangelization is a complex phenomenon, as Pope Paul VI explained. But there is a simple truth at its core, it is the living Word of God..

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