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people.  We need to outline the history of the assembly.  This is a challenge for the Maronite laity just as much or perhaps more than for the priests, for the laity must live that assembly both inside and outside the church walls in a way that the priests cannot.  Their experience of assembly should help guide that theology.

In the Bible, we see Israel as a people gathered at Yah­weh's summons.  The structure of the primitive Jewish people was built around concentric groups:  family, clan, tribe.  The further they developed away from the family, the less important was the role of blood in community.  On a national scale, unity did not depend on poli­tical organization but on acknowledgment of the same God.  It was in the name of Yahweh that the federation of tribes was formed.  They became an assembly constantly being convoked by God.  

The focus of unity was the actual, cultic assembly.  From the desert sojourn onward we see Moses, the bearer of God's message, convoking such assemblies.  The covenant which conveyed the Law was ratified on such a cultic, even sacrificial occasion, in the pres­ence of the assembled people.  Through and in the assembly the deepening of faith took place.  Only Yahweh can convoke the assem­bly, because salvation lives in unity, and thus

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