Homily vs Sermon


Something that I've noticed is that Modern Catholics use the phrase 'Homily' instead of 'Sermon'.

I've often wondered about this difference.

Here's what I found

Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) Homily:
...Since Origen's time homily has meant, and still means, a commentary, without formal introduction, division, or conclusion, on some part of Sacred Scripture, the aim being to explain the literal, and evolve the spiritual, meaning of the Sacred Text.  ...

Wikipedia Sermon::
A sermon is an oration, lecture, or talk by a member of a religious institution or clergy. Sermons address a scriptural, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law, or behavior within both past and present contexts. Elements of the sermon often include exposition, exhortation, and practical application.  

Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) Sermon:
As to preaching at the present day, we can clearly trace the influence, in many respects, of Scholasticism, both as to matter and form. In matter a sermon may be either moral, dogmatic, historical, or liturgical — by moral and dogmatic it is meant that one element will predominate, without, however, excluding the other. As to form, a discourse may be either a formal, or set, sermon; a homily (for different kinds see HOMILY); or a catechetical instruction. In the formal, or set, sermon the influence of Scholasticism is most strikingly seen in the analytic method, resulting in divisions and subdivisions.

While discovering a Catholic definition for sermon was a little harder.  One thing that I have noted is that in Catholic circles (pre-Council at least) there were three types of discourses, the: Homily, Sermon, and catechetical instruction.  These different modes were used at different times and liturgies.
The most appropriate time for the homily is at the early Mass; for the formal sermon, at the principal Mass; and for the catechetical sermon (see HOMILETICS), at the evening devotions.(Catholic Encyclopedia)
So what is the difference between a Sermon and a Homily?
  • Homily: An informal discourse on a Sacred Text read as part of the liturgy.
  • Sermon: A formal discourse on a moral, dogmatic, historical, or liturgical subject.
Based on my memory of SSPX discourses, I would concluded that the majority were either Sermons or catechetical in nature, with a few that were homilies.

Now another question: Why is the word 'Homily' so prevalent in Novus Ordo liturgies vs Sermons in the Tridentine Mass?

My personal theory is that, given that sin, hell, and a number of other Catholic doctrines have been largely excised from the Novus Ordo Lectionary, it makes sense that they focus on informal homilies. In this manner the Novus Ordo Catholics will be fed a pablum of happy teachings.

Conversely, those Catholics who attend the Tridentine Mass provided by priests of the SSPX or those likewise formed, will receive formal sermons and catechetical instructions on the truths of the faith.

I think I begin to see the reasons for some of the questions and opinions that I encounter when I meet modern Catholics.



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