Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Eucharist is “surrounded by temporal ripples through which past and future things are refracted” PART 2

Here is the second part of the passage from Pages 104-108 of Eucharistic Presence: A Study in the Theology of Disclosure by Robert Sokolowski. 


. . . the Eucharist . . . reenacts [Calvary] as occurring before God and reenacts it in a prayer that addresses God. In this presence before God, the emergence of the present and the determination of the future now show up as not being the final context for what occurs. The succession of things and events, which in the natural order is the ultimate setting for whatever is, now becomes an image. Time becomes a moving image of eternity. Succession, which seemed to lie under everything that happens and seemed to be the "last thing" there is, now seems itself to rest against a life or an event that has no before or after, the eternal life of God, and this life is directly involved and invoked in the Eucharist. 

In celebrating the Eucharist, we do not "'feel" the life of which succession is the image, since whatever we can feel must move along in time. If we were to "feel" this life, it would not be imaged any longer; it would be given to vision, not to faith. But because succession is now understood as an image, what it images is somehow presented to us: not merely in words, but in the image we have of it specifically in succession. 

The very temporality and public movement of the Eucharistic celebration are perhaps a more effective presentation of eternity than might be a religious moment "out of time," precisely because the time and motion of the Eucharist can serve as a privileged image of eternal life. The Eucharist takes time when it is celebrated, but it also overcomes time as it reenacts an event that took place at another time. In doing this, the Eucharist calls time into question. It claims to go beyond time and thereby indicates that time and its succession are not ultimate. It makes time to be an image; it makes succession to be a representation. Thus the Eucharist, in its reenactment of the past and anticipation of the future, also enacts for us the context that encloses past, future, and present: it enacts the eternal life of the God who could be all that he is, in undiminished goodness and greatness, even if the world and its time were not. The Eucharist engages, and perpetually reminds us of, the Christian distinction between the world and God. 

Because the Eucharist engages the relationship between the world and God, it reaches beyond the context set by the Passover, which we took initially as the first setting in our chronological study of Eucharistic contexts. In our exposition in this chapter, we first examined the Passover, then the Last Supper, and finally the present Eucharistic celebration; our discussion reached back to the Passover as the widest horizon for the Eucharist. But now we find that the Eucharist extends back into Creation itself, into the biblical understanding of the relationship between the world and God. In reaching back to Creation, the Eucharist finds itself in the same context as that of the eschaton, the moment in which all things will be restored in Christ. The widest horizon is the place for both the beginning and the end. What the Eucharist anticipates as the eschaton is found to be in the same place as what it attains when it reaches back to Creation, the context in which all things begin and end in God. 

This final setting, in which worldly time becomes profiled against eternal life, in which worldly time itself becomes relativized against eternity, permeates the Eucharist and gives it its sense. Only the God who lives in eternal plenitude and independence could become part of his creation; only he could save us in the way we have been redeemed; only he could achieve in the Eucharist the sacramental reenactment of our Redemption. Our celebration of the Eucharist, our sacramental way of looking back on the one sacrifice of Christ and being present to it, becomes a temporal icon of how we will look "back" on that .5ame sacrifice from the eschaton, from the eternal present of our life with God. 

If God were not as Christians understand him to be, the Eucharist would be either a mere symbol or a kind of idol. A worldly divinity that intervened in human affairs would have to become subject to the inevitabilities of time: either it would only seem to enter into history and hence only be symbolized by a commemoration of that "event," or it would be captured by its own worldly involvement and hence idolized in it. Only the God who is so independent of the world as the biblical God is revealed to be could become incarnate and sacramentally present in the Eucharist. Only before this God could sacramental time become an image of eternity. The Eucharist is a constant reminder of the transcendence of God.


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