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SIDIC Periodical XIX - 1986/2
Notes on Preaching and Cathechesis (Pages 50 - 51)

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Typology and memorial
Sofia Cavalletti


A burning issue in the NOTES is chapter II, which deals with the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, looked at particularly from the point of view of typology. This is the first time that the term has appeared in a document of this kind. how are we to judge this new departure? For the most part, reactions have been negative.

We believe it is essential to clarify what is meant by typology. The word derives from the Greek tupos, which in its turn comes from the verb tupto, and indicates the hollowed-out imprint of a mould. Typology is a method of reading which looks for comparisons and relationships between the different events in the history of salvation, the reciprocal imprints of one upon another. It isa method of reading which goes back to the prophets themselves. When Isaiah wants to speak of eschatological renewal, he uses terms taken from the account of creation; when he wants to speak of eschatological liberation, he refers to the Exodus (Is 43:16). This method of reading is also found in the Gospels, although there attention is directed more towards Christ and less towards eschatology. It is a method which has been kept alive in both Jewish and Christian traditions.

This typology is a very important question. Given its constant use in Catholic liturgy whether it is well or badly used is a secondary consideration since it can become an instrument for either good or extremely bad education it is essential to be clear about the different dimensions of history. The NOTES (1) insist, rightly, on the need to "present the unity of revelation", to consider each event "in history as a whole from creation to fulfilment". Dei Verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, 3:12) has shown already the "unity of the whole of Scripture" as a hermeneutical aid to reading it. It is not clear in our document, nevertheless, what is meant by fulfilment: does it mean all things are already fulfilled in Christ or that all things will be fulfilled when God will be everything to everyone (I Cot 15:28)? Is there question of a history comprising a past and a present which, in itself, exhausts every possible signification (this is the point of view which led to substitution theology), or is it a history in three stages, so to speak, in which the present is both linked to the past and also open to eschatological hope? On this point the document is confused and sometimes self contradictory (cf. 7, 8, 10 in contrast to 5 and 9).

Typology is a method of reading which helps us to consider each historical event in its own right, linked with those events which went before and which looks towards the eschatological event. Only a reading of this kind can reveal the full value of the mystery inherent in history. For such a value to emerge in all its richness, we cannot neglect the aspect of eschatological expectation. A typology which is not in three stages is a typology deprived of hope which mutilates the very plan of God. On this point we should like to observe that the liturgy, in the celebration of memorial, is accustomed to live past events in the present while turning towards the end-time. To be aware of this, it suffices to have some familiarity with both the Jewish Passover celebration and the Eucharist. The memorial annihilates time in some way, celebrating today the events of the past which, without celebration, would be lost forever, At the same time it projects itself towards the end-time, thus preparing the fulfilment of history.

We then discover, with surprise, perhaps, that if we want to speak of memorial, we arc bound to use the same expressions used in relation to typology. In both cases we find ourselves faced with a kind of freedom from time. by which the distance separating the events seems to vanish and the events themselves converge in the unity of an expression of salvation and love on the part of God which fills the whole of history.

Both typology and memorial make use of this freedom. It would seem, therefore, that they are only fully themselves within such a freedom. Is it not memorial which, today, concretizes in celebration the salvation expressed already in past events, and does it not thus prepare for eschatological fulfilment, projecting itself towards the latter, anticipating it and preparing for it in prayer and hope? Is it not typology which links together in the present reading both past history and what is still an object of hope, searching for this golden thread, as Augustine calls it, which is the idea of a God who makes one single history out of so many disparate events?

In the face of this evidence, we may ask ourselves what it is that links typology and memorial together. If they both show the same characteristics, they must be linked at a very deep level, but what arc the bonds, and what is the depth?

Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Liturgy, paras. 2, 48, 51) speaks of the table of both the Word and the Body of the Lord, using the same expression for each. Thus, typology and memorial both refer to the unity of this table and the reason for their similitude will be found in this unity. Such a resemblance arises from within, flowing from the single source from which they both derive.

Typology and memorial are thus linked at the level of the Reality to which they both draw near the infinite Mystery of God. This Mystery both speaks and acts and is encountered in the listening celebration as well as in that of the sacramental. When the Mystery speaks and we listen, the method for listening is typology. When the Mystery is celebrated and we participate, the method of participation is memorial. Whether there is question of listening to the Word or of celebrating the Memorial, the Reality we live is the same: this single table of the Word and of the Body of the Lord. If the table is one, the rules governing the table must be the same. We therefore need a single methodology in order to receive the message of God and to live by it, one which helps us to penetrate its totality, to live history in both its past and future dimensions as if they were concentrated in the present moment.

On this point typology seems just as essential as memorial in order to approach the Mystery. This is not an arbitrary method of reading, not a mere teaching device; it is the way to read Scripture demanded by its very content, which is the Word of God. Reading with faith cannot ignore typology; a reading which really wishes to delve into the Mystery end to penetrate its meaning (and not just study the Bible) cannot do it without typology; in the same way, the celebration of the same Mystery can only take place within memorial.

Just as, however, memorial renders present the event which is celebrated, actualizing the past and opening the doors of eschatological hope, so typology must include three stages before it can really help us to approach this Word in which God reveals himself. We have to recognize, unfortunately, that most of the time this has not been the case, nor is it present practice, with serious theological and practical consequences an attenuation of hope, a loss of dynamism in the expectation of "a new heaven and a new earth" and, sad to say, the birth of substitution theology with all its tragic consequences.

Reactions to the mention of typology in the NOTES are therefore justified on the grounds of past practice; they should now, however, be reviewed in the light of a truer and clearer vision of the real nature of typology. Let us hope that a better understanding will bring better use in its train!

" Prof. Sofia Cavalletti directs a Montessori Catechetical Center in Rome. A member of the Board of Directors of the SIDIC Center and a Consultant to the Editorial Board of its Review, she has been appointed recently to the Ecumenical Commission of the Conference of Italian Bishops.


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