3 September 2012
Scripture stories are intended to be heard by communities of people who challenge each other to practise the story’s message.
US storyteller, writer and theologian Megan McKenna, a key speaker at last month’s Catholic Education Convention, told a workshop at St Joseph’s Mt Victoria that the word ‘religion’ means something that binds together – in medical terms, ‘all the sinews, muscles, nerves and tendons that hold the bones together so that you can keep moving; so religion brings us into community and keeps us functioning as a collective.
‘That is why we gather and proclaim the word.’
The power of the oral tradition is in the fact that we all hear different points of a story and when we discuss what we heard with others, the message of the story gains a more complete understanding. The story is ‘pulling in all of creation and it becomes a seed in us and comes forth as word … the way the earth responds to rain and snow.
‘In the early church everyone who heard the word held everyone else accountable – did you hear that? So why aren’t you doing it?’ People did not see themselves as individuals as we do today.
When Jesus said, ‘Get behind me Satan,’ he was talking to all of us.
‘So if you don’t belong to a community that holds you accountable on a regular basis you have very little to say about God.’
We live inside a story
The workshop on Saturday August 11 was titled ‘We live inside a story’ and Megan McKenna used the analogy of the Russian matryroshka or nesting dolls to suggest the layers of personal stories each of us holds. When we talk about the mystery of life, we talk about ourselves and religion starting with the smallest part of us.
‘What would happen if we started with the big mysteries – the Trinity first and then the Spirit in the world, the Spirit in the Church in the world, the Spirit in our world?
‘Stories are interested in huge truths. They start with the questions that are really unanswerable.
- How do you know you’re alive?
- Does the fact that you’re going to die change the way you live on a daily basis, momentarily?
- Does the geographical place you live in form your idea of God?’
As Christians we are known for the story of the resurrection. The first five books of the bible, practically all of the prophets, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts were written down as mnemonic devices to trigger memory.
‘Literally (scripture stories) lived in communities before they went down on the page.’
In liturgy we listen to the words and scriptures, we sing, break open the word – moving from the written to the oral traditions. We stand on our words and say the Creed, then we take our lives as a gift on the altar.
‘Whatever is happening to the bread and wine is happening to us, the body of Christ. Then we eat our words and we become more of the body and blood of Christ not as individuals but as the collective community. Then we go out the door as the good news and as the body of blood of Christ.
‘We become the living breathing traditions … You tell the story, you eat the story you are the story. You break the bread you share the cup and the rest of the world feeds on our traditions, our stories.’