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Friday, October 21, 2005

Eucharistic Presence and the Theology of Disclosure

A few posts earlier I mentioned that I would post some stuff by Fr. Robert Sokolowski from his book Eucharistic Presence: A Study in the Theology of Disclosure. I took note of the specific distinctions that he is making between the three historical acts: 1) The Last Supper, 2) Christ's death/resurrection 3) What takes place at the Altar. These three acts become one in the Eucharistic celebration and transcend time as they come before the Transcendent God. Sokolowski writes the following on Eucharistic Sacrifice. Take note of his distinctions of sacrament and sacrifice. He, like Thomas Aquinas, as well as my topic of dissertation, Lancelot Andrewes, also spoke of the Eucharist as Sacrifice and Sacrament. Here is Sokolowski:

After all, besides being a true sacrifice, the Eucharist is also essentially a sign. As Vonier says, the Eucharist is a sacramental sacrifice and not a natural one.7 It involves a representation. While it would be theologically incorrect to deny the sacrificial character of the Eucharist and the real presence of Christ in the sacrament, it would be no less incorrect to deny its character as a sign. Indeed, if the Eucharist were simply a new natural sacrifice and not a sacramental one, the altar would become a rival to the cross.8 The Eucharist accomplishes what it signifies, but this accomplishment does not eliminate its being as a sign; the Eucharist continues to signify. Since it is a sign, its distinctive mode of appearing becomes part of what it is; even an ontological reflection on the Eucharist would have to take into account its mode of presentation. Being a sign is not a matter of just psychological interpretation or of something that occurs "only" in our minds. We can react to the Eucharist as a sacramental sign only because it is such a sign.

The fact of being a sign takes on particular importance in the Eucharist, because the Mass can be considered a true and proper sacrifice each time it is offered only if the sacramental appearance brings an increase in identity and being. If the new appearance did not have something entitative about itself—in the way in which manifestation in all its forms is a dimension of offering—the present celebration would fail to distinguish itself appropriately from the event that occurred only once. The necessary range of differences would not be available to allow the sacramental reenactment of the original action. Thus, it is in the area of presentation that the new element of the liturgical celebration takes place; it is there that we can find the differences within which the identity of the redemptive action of Christ can be sacramentally disclosed. James T. O'Connor observes that the Council of Trent left many issues concerning the Eucharist open for further theological discussion, and among them "it left unexplained the novum (the new element) present in each Mass." It is not that more is offered in the Mass than in the original sacrifice or that something else is offered, but the mode of presentation is changed, along with the new datives for this presentation, who are then drawn into the offering. The sacramental sacrifice both is and is not "new," in the way—analogously—that a picture both is and is not other to what it depicts, and a quotation both is and is not a new statement.'"

The Mass is different from such worldly analogues, however, because at its core it is a presentation not just before us but before the eternal Father. The Eucharist is a reenactment in time of the action of the incarnate Son before the Father; what is it to quote, image, recall, and proclaim this act before God the Father? The original sacrifice is not "past" for the eternal Father in the way it is past for us; hence quotation and representation before the Father are not like quotations and representations exercised simply among men. The Eucharist transcends time for us because it presents itself before the transcendence of God. In these and many other respects, the way in which the Eucharist is a sign is an issue for the theology of disclosure.

1 Comments:

Blogger Adam said...

This is stunning. In a way it reminds me of Abraham Joshua Heschel's poetic writing in "The Sabbath." I am looking forward to reading your completed work.

3:43 pm  

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