School of the Announciation - Centre for the New Evanghelism School of the Announciation - Angel Statue
at Buckfast Abbey - Devon

A Pedagogy for the Transmission of the Faith

The School of the Annunciation grounds its pedagogy for a new evangelisation in the historical moment of the Annunciation as the living source for understanding the transmission of the Faith.[1] At the Incarnation we see the full Revelation of God in history, made present in the womb of Mary.[2] Mary is the daughter Zion prepared and made ready for the reception of the divine Son. ‘For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling-place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men.’[3] As has been noted, ‘In this revelation of the condescension, mercy and faithfulness of God, and in the perfection of Mary’s response, we see the whole of the craft of catechesis’.[4] When John Paul invokes the Holy Spirit, at the close of his apostolic exhortation on catechesis, he therefore specifically asks for Mary’s intercession since ‘no one has been “taught by God” (cf Jn 6:45) to such depth’[5]. In an image echoing her title of ‘Seat of Wisdom’ he then goes on to call her ‘a living catechism’.[6] 

What are the features of this pedagogy and what are the implications for those who are formed through such a pedagogy? This transmission of the faith is inspired by the ‘dialogue of salvation’ which is portrayed in the Annunciation story.  

  • At the Annunciation, the messenger of God appears, entrusted with ‘words of instruction and of catechesis’,[7] to communicate the way in which the pedagogy of God throughout history has led to this moment of grace in the fullness of time,[8] when the Word is to be handed over for the ‘whole fullness of deity’ to dwell ‘bodily’.[9]The precious Deposit of Faith is guarded and handed on in its fullness and beauty.

  • The Annunciation narrative also helps those transmitting the faith to centre their attention not only on the message to be announced but also upon the one being invited to receive God’s gift of himself. The person receiving the Word is a ‘Marian’ figure.

  • Finally, the conception of the Word in Mary takes place through the agency of the Holy Spirit: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’;[10] and it is here that we see, historically and archetypically, the mode of the transmission of the Word as it is handed on for the accomplishing of God’s redemptive mission.[11] In Mary, the ‘Mother of the living’[12] we see the beginning of the Church,[13] and therefore of ‘the school of the word of God’ in which ‘the disciple, thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit, grows like his Teacher’.[14]

‘…as those who try to remove a film that is over their eyes, do not supply to them from without the light which they do not possess, but removing the obstacle from the eyes, leave the pupil free; thus also we who are baptized, having wiped off the sins which obscure the light of the Divine Spirit, have the eye of the spirit free, unimpeded, and full of light, by which alone we contemplate the Divine, the Holy Spirit flowing down to us from above.’[15] 

It is an inner transformation which is needed. Moreover, it is an inner transformation united to a transformation of the life of the person – it is sin, and not merely ignorance, which needs to be wiped away for the light of the Spirit to shine through in the person.  And this transformation is the work of God. Those involved in the New Evangelisation, inspired by the pedagogy of the Annunciation, proclaim and explain the Good News, all the time focused on assisting those to whom the Word is being transmitted in their reception of this word.

[1]See Lk 1:26-38.

[2]See General Directory for Catechesis 140. ‘The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates “the fullness of time” (Gal.4:4)’ (CCC 484; see also CCC 494; 721).

[3] The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 721.

[4] Cointet, B.Morgan and P.Willey, The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Craft of Catechesis. San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2008, ix.

[5]Catechesi Tradendae, 73.

[6] For a detailed analysis of the background and the catechetical implications of this latter title see W.Khadouri, Mary, ‘Living Catechism’ and ‘Mother and Model of Catechists’, MA Thesis, Birmingham: Maryvale Institute 2009.

[7] General Directory for Catechesis, 139.

[8] For this reason, the name given to Mary is ‘full of grace’, in Greek, κεχαριτομενη. For the time leading up to the Annunciation as one of the stages of preparation within the economy of salvation, see CCC 488-489.

[9] Col.2:9.

[10] The conception of the Word corresponds to the moment of Mary’s consent: ‘Thus, giving her consent to God’s Word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus’ (CCC 494). And this ordering reflects a certain priority: ‘Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ’ (CCC 506, citing Augustine, De virg.3: PL 40, 398). Mary ‘conceives’ first in her mind, and then in her womb. This teaching helps us to appreciate the notion of the Holy Spirit ‘bringing to birth’ the Word in each person as he or she makes a response of faith to that which is transmitted in the work of evangelisation.

[11] See General Directory Catechesis, 140. Neither of the two words, ‘come upon’ ‘and ‘overshadow’, used by the angel to Mary have, in fact, any particular connotation of conception: the point here, which is especially pertinent for understanding the Annunciation as the model for the ongoing transmission of the Word, is that both emphasise the divine agency in this transmission

[12] Catechism of the Catholic Church 494, referencing Lumen Gentium, 56.

[13] For this reason, the title of ‘Mother of Christ’ is linked to her title of ‘Mother of the Church’. See Catechism of the Catholic Church 963-975.

[14] General Directory for Catechesis 142. For the Holy Spirit as Pedagogue in the Christian life, see also CCC 1697, which specifies that moral catechesis should focus first on the Holy Spirit, who is ‘the interior Master of life according to Christ, a gentle guest who inspires, guides, corrects and strengthens this life’.

[15] Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus I, 6.