Albert Meyenberg.

Homiletic and catechetic studies, according to the spirit of Holy Scripture and of the ecclesiatical year online

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Si Unguis hominum loquar et angelorum,
charitatem autem non habeam, f actus sum
velut aes sonans et cymhalum tinniens.

— I. Cor. 13: 1.

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Canon and Professpr of Theology in Luzerne


51^^ '^e'sstttnb '^txbinatth ^r^^sairl, |J^^»
OF Covington, Kentucky

Printers to The Holy Apostolic See and the Sacred
Congregation of Rites







Archbishop of New York.

New York, Aug. i, igxa

Copyright, 191 2


New York and CiNaNNATi

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\HE German language abounds in rich homiletic and catechetic
literature for students and pastors of souls. But for the
English-speaking clergy there is a dearth, much felt. Dr.
Meyenberg's work fills this great want better, probably, than
anything else hitherto presented. He has succeeded in pointing out direct
practical ways upon a strictly scientific basis. His work appeals, there-
fore, most strongly to the seminarian, the incipient preacher, and to the
pastor of souls. As a text-book it would supply a long-desired help in the
line of practical pastoral science combined with a solid scientific theory
that lead directly to rich practical work for the years of studies and many
years beyond. For the pastor of souls it is of an incalculable value by its
direct, practical, and stimulating power and many suggestions combined
with theoretical and extensively instructive expositions. "The narrow,
organic combination of religion and life, of science and practise, of theology
and ascetics has ever constituted the signature of the Catholic Church^ ^ —
says Dr. Meyenberg.

Dr. Meyenberg is an experienced professor of many years'^ standing in
collegiate and seminarian institutions; besides, he has had, in the mean-
time, many occasions to fill pulpits in various parts of Europe, and has
proven himself one of the foremost pulpit orators of today. He has become
thoroughly convinced that homiletics should not remain a purely formal
science, if it is to form and educate real preachers. He found that the
greatest difficulty for young preachers lies in the popularization of the rich
contents of our holy religion : that the homilist should — as Christ Himself
says — produce nova et Vetera, like a good master of a house, from the rich
treasury of his theological knowledge, life and feeling, in order that his
hearers may possess life and have it more abundantly.

'But,'^ he continues to tell us, 'Uhe popularization of the entire
theology will then be most fruitful when the preacher himself draws not
merely from diverted brooks and rivulets, but, above all, from the first
and the direct source of sacred eloquence to which he is led by the Church
herself.'^ He maintains, and it seems justly so, that our present pulpit
literature has neglected too much the drawing from first sources and that
in the training of preachers too little stress is laid upon the use of these



first sources: Holy Scripture, liturgy, and theology. He claims that it is
the duty of the teacher of homiletics not merely to laud these sources of
eloquence before the future preachers of the word of God, hut that he must
attempt, in a scientific and practical manner, supported by a theological
preparation of his pupils, to press into their hands the key to the many
concealed and sealed homiletic sources. He should point out to them,
from all sides, the inexhaustible homiletic treasures hidden in Holy
Scripture, in liturgy, and in theology. Like the true artist in the super-
natural field, the teacher should stimulate his pupils by personal sugges-
tions, inducements, sketches, and elaborations to independent work. And
all this should be done in following the footsteps and the spirit of our
holy Catholic Church. To teach the incipient preacher and the pastor of
souls that Holy Scripture, the missal, and the breviary contain an ines-
timable and an inexhaustible fund of treasures, and to show them the way
to bring theology home to the cultured and to the common people, to make
them the happy possessors of the really precious and supernatural for a
perennial power of life — this is the great and noble task of the homilist.

The preacher will find, especially in the treatise on Holy Scripture and of
the ecclesiastical year, much of direct, practical value, and in the theoretic
chapters much that will lead to practical stimulation, and is of the utmost
advantage to the preacher and the pastor of souls.

These Homiletic and Catechetic Studies are most excellently adapted
and arranged, in text-book form, for a thorough homiletic course and for
theological seminaries where, unfortunately, so little is done in this line.
The author^ s treatise on Holy Scripture is of an incalculable value. It pre-
sents a general view of Holy Scripture in a most marked and inspiring
manner, from most instructive homiletic and practical viewpoints. It will
impress upon the mind of the reader that Holy Scripture is, indeed, the first
hook for sermons, in the full sense of the word; that through ^'Holy Scripture
zeal is extended that is according to knowledge,'' which reacts upon the
Church and helps, indeed, to renew the face of the earth; that every preacher
should really be ^'by the jpower of the divine word a coadjutor of the Provi-
Tv^ ^ dence of God'' — as Pope Leo XIII says, or ''a force, mighty as the cataract
or the avalanche" in the divine plan. He will find Holy Scripture "a
source of living waters, most fruitful for sacred preaching."

In the liturgical part of these studies the author unfolds the whole life
of Jesus and His entire holy religion. Therefore, it is admirably calculated
to be to the preacher the best guide for a presentation of our entire holy
Catholic religion. The historical and the archeological, as well as the homi-
letic and exegetic combination of the exposition of the liturgy, supplemented


by a number of dogmatic, moral, and pastoral excursions, are of the utmost
interest and value. The Catechetic Studies are short, direct, and to the point.
Much of their foundation and many analogous themes are referred to and
extensively treated in the Eomiletic Studies, and, therefore, are not repeated.
At the suggestion of a dear clerical friend, thoroughly imbued with the
value and the interesting and stimulating treatment of the subject by Dr,
Meyenberg, I undertook the doubly difficult task of translating this grandwork
into English. I know no work that surpasses this in usefulness and value
to seminarians and to the preacher of the word of God. It has cost many Vt^
moments of otherwise well-filled hours to put these magnificent thoughts, j £()jA^
instructions, and directions of Dr. Meyenberg into a readable English dress, j
How far I have succeeded, others may judge. The fact that extremely
short intervals only could, as a rule, be employed in the work left little time
for a better selection of words and phrases, and must account for many short-
comings. However, I did cheerfully what I could to enable our hardworked
and noble English-speaking clergy to avail themselves of a work that has
justly received such a ready and general welcome among the valuable books
of the German and Swiss theologians and students, so that within a very
short period six editions of this grand work have been exhausted. May
God grant that it or some similar book be adopted in our seminaries as a text-
hook, and that these Eomiletic and Catechetic Studies be given, in the English
dress, that rank and position in our theological studies that they deserve
and the needs of the age demand — and that every priest, who really loves the
word of God and its proper treatment, may place it upon his desk as a book
of inestimable value for constant use, calculated to inspire him with a warm
and exalted love for the study of God's holy word and with an eager desire
to spread it with unction and a commensurate fruit among his people: ut

vitam habeant et abundantius habeant.


Covington, Ky.,

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes,

Feb. II, 191 2

^ahU 0i ^0nUni» '^a^t SIS


I. Christ and the Office of Teaching. — Every practical theological
science is rooted in dogmatic theology, according to the general law,
which also controls every scientific consideration: ^^ Justus ex fide
vivity^ Thus also the proper conception of Homiletics and Cate-
chetics arises from the consideration of the teaching office of Christ
and of the Church, Here it suffices to recall briefly the essence and
characteristics and the aim of the teaching office,

(I Christ is, above all else. Redeemer and, therefore, High-Priest, As\
God-man He canceled the guilt of the sins of humanity by His atone- \
ment; by His sacrifice He tore asunder the handwriting that stood \
against us; He removed it and nailed it to the cross. ^ He conquered /
Satan, death, and hell, and He gave us — as the first supreme good of I
life — supernatural life, ^^ Ego sum vita^^ — " Veni ut vitam habeant,'^^
Life, however, is no dead capital. It should become efficacious in
and with us — to act, to combat, and to progress toward our destiny.
But we must know the way that leads to this destiny.

Therefore Christ has become our Teacher, He is the Truth, has
the truth, gives and teaches the truth, which leads us to our destiny,
and Whom, someday, we shall see face to face: ^^Ego sum Veritas ^\'
^^ Ego in hoc natus sum et ad hoc veni in mundum ut testimonium per-
hibeam veritati.'^ * But Christ has not brought grace and truth into ^
the world to leave them to themselves, but to put them at the disposal
of all men of all times for the salvation of souls.

Therefore Christ is King. — As God He is the King of all things.
But as the Son of God and Man He established a supernatural kingdom,
both within and without, and to this His sovereignty He subjected all

^ Rom. 1:17; H abac. 2:4; Gal. 2:11; Heb. 10:38. ^ Coloss. 2 : 14.

* John 14:6; John 10:10. * John 14:6; John 18: 37.



minds and all hearts. As King and Shepherd He leads all things
toward their end in majesty and in mildness, in grace and in truth :
**Ego sum via — ego sum pastor bonus — quia rex sum ego — rex
regum et dominus dominantium — data est mihi omnis potestas in
coelo et in terraJ^ ^ The teaching office of Christ is, however, according
to its inner dignity, not the first of His offices. And yet, in a certain
sense, it is the first. For truth alone leads to the end; only along the
path of truth does grace live and operate. AU_ju^ernatmal life tends
toward an end, and needs truth a s a guide . The teaching office of
Christ, therefore, occupied a very prominent place in the life of Christ.
With it the Saviour began His public activity in the work of the redemp-
tion. As soon as He had left the desert He began to teach: He taught
\in the synagogues, and preached the gospel of the kingdom of God.
I Activity in teaching marks His whole career: He teaches the people, He
Heaches the future teachers of the people; He organizes a permanent
teaching office: ^^oportet me evangelizare regnum Dei, quia ideo missus
sum.'' 2

In the course of these studies we shall often find occasion to con-
sider the picture of the Teacher — Christ Jesus — more closely. Here
it will suffice to assert the fact that the teaching office of Christ appears
in the Gospels in a most prominent manner, and that it is proclaimed
by Christ Himself most emphatically and with a Messianic dignity
precisely in the most critical moments of His life.

2. The Church and the Teaching Office. — With other offices Christ
also delivered His teaching office to the Church. And precisely in this
delivery, the teaching office was placed in a most conspicuous manner
in the foreground, not as if it were in the Church the first in dignity
but because it precedes in a certain sense all other offices and directs
all else toward an end.

The first of the great and principal aims of Christ is the exer-
cise of His teaching office and the permanent creation of a supernatural
office of teaching, of a school of truth and of faith for the world.
But this is exactly the teaching office of the Church. The Church was
to be the immediate teacher of faith, the proximate rule of faith, the
medium of transmission and authority of Revelation in the world.

^John 14:6; John 10:11; John 18:37; Apoc. ig:i6; Matth. 28:18.
* Luke 4: 43.


For the homiletic consideration it is wonderfully surprising how
the final accounts of the four Gospels and the beginning of the Acts of
the Apostles point out the decisive creation and the assertion of the life
of such a teaching office and of the school of faith combined therewith.
Scheeben remarks very strikingly: ^^The documentary evidence of the
establishment of the teaching Apostolate is found in the Scriptures just
where it is most expected, and it is expected in the final account of all
the Evangelists and at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles — and,
indeed, with a precision and completeness which leaves nothing to be
desired, but which is, however, complemented and strengthened by acts
and words of the Saviour reported earlier in the Gospels, since the final
accounts mutually complement and confirm each other. ^^ ^

The fundamental account is given by Matthew: he puts, in a most
prominent place, the foundation of the mission, the sovereign authority
of Christ, and shows the continuation of the mission of Christ in the
Church and the inner guarantee of this mission as the continuation
of the presence of Christ; thus the school of faith is entitled to a claim
of submission and obedience of the world. ^ Mark ^ points out very
fully and clearly, through commission and miracles and signs, the
exterior supernatural legitimation and sanction of the teachers sent as
the heralds of God, who, precisely on this account, proclaim the doctrine
as an authoritative message of the Creator to the entire humanity as to
His creatures. Luke ^ describes the continued activity in teaching as a
magnificent testimony in favor of Christ, full of interior and exterior
guarantee and authenticity, warranted by the Holy Ghost, who really,
in the place of Christ, gives testimony through the teaching office.
Whilst the three synoptic gospels place the universal character of the
school of faith in the first rank, the last of the Evangelists — John ^ —
emphasizes strongly the unity, the perpetuity, and the exclusiveness of
this school of faith — the firm center, viz., the primacy — the sover-
eignly directing power, to which all lambs and sheep of Christ must
render the same obedience as that which is due to Christ Himself. Thus

^ Scheeben, Dogmatik, 1557 n. qj sqq. Compare the uniqtie and beautiful demon-
stration of the thesis bearing on this subject.

2 Matth. 28 : 18 sqq. Teacher of the truth of Christ.
' Mark 16 : 15 sqq. Preacher of the Law of Christ.

* Luke 24 : 47 sqq. See A cts i : 8. Witness of the life of Christ.

* John 21 : 15 sqq. Organized teacher, preacher, witness, and priest.


tke ecclesiastical teaching office and its school of faith is the outgrowth
and the continuation of the mission of Christ.^ The authority of the
Apostolic teaching office is presented to the Apostles deeply and peda-
gogicallyy in the very words and the concept in which they had learned,
in their own school, the authority of the Saviour Himself: Praedicator
evangelii, doctor, magister, quasi potestatem habens, testis, pastor
ovium I

^ J. The Teaching Office of the Church in Relation to the Other
Offices. — // is customary to enumerate the offices of the Church, the
same as the offices of Christ, in the well-known three-fold division: the
office of Teacher, of Priest, and of King, The entire office of Christ is
designated biblically as the office of Shepherd. This entire office
Christ transferred de facto upon Peter also under this name: pasce
agnos meos: pasce oves meas — be shepherd in my stead. Therefore,
practical theology, which treats of the administration of the offices of
the Church, is most appropriately called — pastoral theology. It
treats of the administration of the teaching, the priestly and the royal

Nevertheless, for a scientifically deeper conception, especially of
the teaching office, the twofold division of the ecclesiastical power, into
a potesias ordinis et jurisdictionis, is likewise to be considered.

The potestas ordinis is conferred by a sacramental ac t, the pqtestas
Jurisdictionis by a lesitimate canonical transmission or missio n. The
wtestas ordinis imparts an indelible and permanent faculty ; the con-
ferred potestas jurisdictionis can be imparted to the possessor either
[limited or divided, or can be again withdrawn: it is, as it were, simply
i borrowed from a higher power.

Both powers can be possessed, under certain conditions and in cer-
tain degrees, independently of each other — but in reality they are not
independent nor separated, but rather most intimately and organi-
cally connected. All this is very important in order to form a proper
conception of the teaching office.

The teaching office is considered a part of the potestas jurisdictionis:
in this it has its deepest roots. Inasmuch as the teaching office pro-

^Note the expressions purposely chosen by the various evangelists to designate the
teaching office: "docere" — "praedicare" (x'y/ov^aTc) — ''testes esse" ''pasce agnos et


poses, administers, superintends, and, in a manner, defines and jtcdges
doctrine authoritatively as a precept of teaching and a law of truth,
it is fully and entirely a potestas jurisdictionis, as a representative of
the jurisdiction of Christ. But, however, as the teaching office trans-
mits doctrine as a supernatural light, as a supernatural good, as the
root of supernatural life, it is, in a certain sense, a potestas ordinis, a
channel through which grace and truth flow from the fountain, which is

4. The Bearers of the Ecclesiastical Teaching Office. — Here also
we shall only remind the reader of the fundamental principles of dogma
and canon law, in order to continue the secure construction of practical
science upon this very foundation. The Roman Pontiffi is the suc-
cessor of St. Peter in the primacy, and, therefore, is also the supreme
and first teacher of truth in the Church. The bishops are the successors
of the Apostles: they, and not the people or the state, are selected and
appointed hearers of the government of the Church and, therefore, also
hearers of the teaching authority of the Church. For this very reason
the Pope and the hishops are exclusively appointed hy Christ the hearers
of the teaching office, though not in the same manner. To them alone
can the teaching authority he exclusively traced, according to the dis-
position of Christ. Here there is question of that supreme teaching
authority which preserves the treasures of faith, determines its meaning,
judges and develops it with the gift of infallihility. But the hearers of
the teaching authority have co-lahorers for their more extensive opera-
tion, partakers of their teaching office to whom they communicate their
power through a mission {pastors, priests, deacons, in short, every
puhlic teacher of religion, though he he hut a layman). The supreme
hearers of the teaching office operate likewise through richly and wisely
organized auxiliary hodies of their teaching office, such as the Roman
Congregations which, though they have not the gift of infallihility, still
uirough their close participation in the teaching power of the Church
and of her direction hy the Holy Ghost, possess very high authority;
after the infallihle decisions they offier the greatest guaranty of truth,
and therefore also can and must demand ohedience and submission,
even though a definite decision to the contrary hy the highest authority
is possible. Nor are respectful discussions with these tribunals ex-

^ Scheeben, I. n. 114.


eluded by any spirit of obedience,^ For the fulfilment of this teaching
power and office, concerning its object and sources, we obtain the
following scheme in detail:

(a) The Church exercises her teaching power through ecumenical
councils, which represent her entire living body, in head and members,
and set it in motion. The councils are infallible in their solemn
decisions of matters of faith and morals,

(b) But the Pope alone also exercises the teaching power whenever
he solemnly decides, ex cathedra, questions of faith and morals as the
supreme head and teacher of the universal Church, For this he pos-
sesses the gift of infallibility. Moreover, beyond the rather limited range
of ex cathedra definitions, he is the custodian and teacher of religious
truths. In his solemn definitions the Pope is free to act without
previously obtaining the consent of the Church,

{c) The Church exercises the teaching power and office whenever
the bishops, scattered throughout the world, decide in union with
the Pope any real point of doctrine. These definitions are also marked
with the gift of infallibility. Thus, many heresies, especially of the
three first centuries, were condemned, and professions of faith were
adopted and confirmed,

(d) The Church exercises the power and office of teaching also
through the ordinary, daily announcement of the Word of God over the
face of the earth (magisterium ordinarium). To this unanimous
teaching body in solidarity, the infallible assistance of the Holy Ghost
is also promised: Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum
est, hoc et vere proprieque Catholicum est, (Vine, Lerin, commonit,


(e) The object of this teaching is the entire revelation, the word of
God: all and everything that belongs, in the fullest sense, to the concept
of the doctrines of faith or of morals.

(/) The living fountains of this teaching office, from which it draws
the unadulterated living water of religious truth, are Holy Scripture
and Tradition,

(g) The proximate rule of truth and of genuine doctrine, is, as we
have already said, the Church herself, that is, the living teaching author-
ity of the Catholic Church, She draws from the fountains, through the

> See Lehmkuhl, Theol. Moral. I. n. 304.


assistance of the Holy Ghost, with supernaturaly infallible certainty and
fidelity J and presents the doctrines of Christ, the entire revelation, and
this alone, to the world and to the faithful. She is the proximate, direct,
infallible, and living regula fidei. She places before us the entire
Scripture as the word of God and all tradition as emanating from God;
she directs, judges, decides, develops, as we have seen above,

(h) The ordinary announcement of the Church, the fulfilment of the
teaching office, is accomplished ordinarily through preaching: Quomodo
credent ei, quem non audierunt? Quomodo autem audient sine
praedicante? quomodo vero praedicabunt nisi mittantur? sicut scrip-
tum est: quam speciosi pedes evangelizantium pacem, evangelizantium
bona {Isai, 52: 7; Nahum i, 15) . . . Ergo fides ex auditu, auditus
autem per verbum Christi. Sed dico: nunquid non audierunt? Et
quidem in omnem orbem terrarum exivit sonus eorum et in fines orbis
terrae verba eorum,^ The first and ordinary preachers, in the full sense
of the word, are the bishops who, however, have their instruments,
organs, helpers, and co-laborers.

5. The Catholic Preacher. — Thus we finally attain the proper con-
ception of the particular, real Catholic preacher of the second order, of the
ordinary preacher: the pastor and the priest; and of the extraordinary,
the deacon. J[hejpriests {and deacons) are created and empowered in
ordin ation by the bishops as vessels of grace and truth, and are by an
authoritative mission called and set apart for making the official
announcement of the doctrines of Christ. They are :

{a) Not equally empowered with the bishops, but subordinate wit-

Online LibraryAlbert MeyenbergHomiletic and catechetic studies, according to the spirit of Holy Scripture and of the ecclesiatical year → online text (page 1 of 88)