Most interesting pieces of advice for priests–preachers from the Pastoral Letter of Bishop Vasyl Ivasyuk of the Kolomyya–Chernivtsi Diocese of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
An interesting sermon, a boring sermon, a long sermon, an overlong sermon… Each layperson has a different experience of going through this important part of almost every liturgy. And it turns out that the Church preachers have long been giving very practical pieces of advice to priests as to how to teach the Good News to people for them to get excited, for their hearts to feel it and yet not to get bored.
Referring to the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the works of the righteous metropolitan Andrey Sheptysky and not only his, bishop Vasyl Ivasyuk has developed a universal reference book for preachers, the statements from which are provided on DyvenSvit.
Читай українською: НЕ ПРОПОВІДУЙТЕ БЕЗ ПІДГОТОВКИ!
These days one can trace the tendency for young priests to get ready for sermons since they want to become good preachers, while experienced pastors are accustomed to preach without proper preparation.
Sometimes priests prepare their preachers during the service since it seems to them that the Holy Spirit has come to be under their care and is obliged to send them the necessary words for the unprepared sermon, for them to convey the divine truths in the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes one may even hear the opinion that it is rather sinful to prepare for the sermon since such preparation reduces the power of the Holy Spirit.
Quite often we may see the situation when the preacher comes to the front and starts ‘philosophizing’ at random, instead of proclaiming the Word of God. In this case the believers, in spite of their willingness and great effort, are unable to get either the topic of the sermon, or to see any connection to the text of the Gospel read. And hence the question arises: ‘Where do we see the conveyance of the biblical truths and the power of the Holy Spirit here?’
The Holy Spirit will never send the necessary and important Word to a lazy preacher. A good sermon requires a lot of time for preparation, and then the Spirit of the Truth will cooperate with the preacher.
Jesus Christ was the best preacher ever, but even He prepared for each of his speeches, spending a lot of time in communication with His Heavenly Father.
Let not you and your skills be manifested in your sermon, but those of the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ.
The first minutes of the preacher’s stay on the solium determine the future of his whole sermon. That is the moment when it is necessary to attract attention of the believers, to make them interested in the topic of the sermon and to point to its topicality. A well-made introduction sets the believers for listening to the sermon, while a dry and uninteresting beginning leads to reduced interest, therefore such a sermon is perceived worse.
For the believers to be able to better absorb the information provided to them, the sermon must contain one clear idea. The layout should be clear and well-planned: the key ideas and secondary ones, which disclose the core idea of the sermon in a consistent way.
As far as the preacher’s gestures are concerned, they must correspond to his words. And it should be borne in mind that excessive gesture, the same as statue-like position is inadmissible.
The preaching of the Word of God is a good news for each believer, therefore one needs to preach in the way for the news to become clear and understandable for every listener.
The sermon must not be delivered in a monotonous way since such delivery makes the believers get bored and inattentive.
A sermon delivered by an emotional and cheerful preacher is perceived better. ‘Ideal preacher is the preacher who speaks with conviction, like a person who has seen it with one’s own eyes or touched with one’s own hands, – speaks as a witness’ (Metropolitan А. Sheptytskyy, On Priest’s Dignity, 1934. ).
Some preachers use the practice of putting questions to believers and listening to their answers. This method is highly efficient since it presupposes that a believer does not only passively react to the sermon, but also participates in the discussion and disclosure of the topic selected by the preacher, which definitely raises the interest and usefulness of the sermon.
A good preacher knows and uses the golden rule of the preacher in his/her service that needs to be borne in mind by everyone coming onto the solium in the church: ‘Tell what you need to tell, and tell no more’. Amen.
And the basic rules for concluding the sermon are as follows:
- To conclude positively. Even if your sermon was rather tough, finish it with a ray of hope.
- Don’t delay with the sermon completion. The mother of one famous preacher once told him after his sermon: ‘You lost a couple of perfect moments to finish your sermon and take your seat’.
- Preserve enough energy for a nice conclusion during the sermon. A bad ending will reduce the benefits and eliminate a good impression made by your sermon right away.
- Don’t tell in your sermon ‘And to conclude …’. Many people, on hearing those words, switch off their mind, if they did not do it before. Let your intonation and your ideas show that you have already come to a conclusion.
Based on the materials of the official site of the Kolomyya-Chernivtsi Diocese of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church