The Synodal way of Being Church

The church being a sacrament of communion with the divine and union with the human cannot but be synodal. As a channel of mediation and spatio-temporal embodiment of grace, she has a fundamental mission to build the body of Christ. This is why the synodal process that opens us to the spirit of discernment of the charisms of the Holy Spirit and the Will of God cannot be optional but is unavoidable for being Church in the world. Given the fact that both clergy and the laity have unique missions, the synodal process is anything but necessary. The synodal process provides the best means to join God’s mission as members of the Church in the world. Synodality has close links with the phronesis (practical wisdom) of Aristotle. It is the best possible way to make the universal and the consensual applicable to the local and the contextual. It enables us to take seriously the sensus fidei of the faithful and sensus fidelium of the believing community and bring about a fusion of horizons with deposit of faith entrusted to the magisterium.

The Catholic faith is a call for synodal living. It is not merely a journey of an individual alone. It is a common journey of a faith community. Therefore, synodality becomes a check on the absolutization of the pyramidal (hierarchical) structure of the Church. It is an invitation to a life of humility and obedience of our Lord which engenders fuller and more joyful participation in the mission of the Church. Although Indian ‘ athato brahmajijnasa’ appears to be an individual desire for the direct experience (sayujja) of God, it is not fully egocentric and therefore not individualist in nature. Perhaps, we can truly find synodality in the principle of neti neti ( not this and not that ) if we employ it collectively with a discerning ( viveka) attention. Synodality is the churching of the ocean by the devas and the asuras in search of the nectar of immortality parabolically narrated in our Indic tradition. It is our synodal living that will convert our Church in India into a Kalpavriksha like the vine of the Gospel full of wisdom and light expressed as tam eva bhantam anubhati sarvam-which says ‘ everything reflects the one who alone shines’ (Katha Upanishad 5:15).

The synodal journeying together has a true Indian as well as Goan spirit. The journeying together arises from our indic Sravana ( listening) that has to be complemented by Manana ( deeper meditation) and Nidhidyasana ( profound contemplation). Listening (Sravana) is the first step towards Encounter. Indeed, listening with the Holy Spirit opens us to Shruti ( that which is heard …considered as a revelation in Indian tradition ) which calls for a response of faith (sraddha) which as St. Paul teaches us is a fruit of listening with a discerning heart. Thus listening to the Word (Sabda) proclaimed in the Church leads us to the sacramental anubhava ( experience/ encounter) of God in and through his Church in the world. This means synodality would certainly bring out the catholicity (openers and harmony in pluralism) of the Church and effectively demonstrate what is beautifully articulated by the sutra: ekam sat vipra bhaudha vadanti (truth is one but sages call it by many names. Rig Veda This dialogical openness will certainly build our encounter with the Ekam eva advitiyam ( one alone without the second).

Synodal living therefore entail cultivation of a docile heart (sahrdaya) to listen (sravana) so as to speak out (sambashita) and journey alongside a faith-community ( shraddha-sangha). Synodality basically involves sahrdaya sravana sambashita shradda sangha. Maybe we can see as Goans the challenge is to let synodality be a dovornem of the yesteryears that provided resting point and rejuvenation to a traveler at important crossroads in our villages. We as pilgrims of faith have this gift and task to come to the dovornem (Lord Jesus Christ ) from all directions and find the path that we have to take as we journey together with each other. Therefore to the ruah/ peram atma, let us surrender as we journey together praying for a new Pentecost.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao