Blogger Template by Blogcrowds

Cavanaugh Chapter 5 (at last)

Ok, so, I'm finally posting some Cavanaugh. This is going to be a monumental task, so I'm starting with the most important chapter, Chapter 5. This is just the first installment, of what will hopefully be many such posts, just from chapter five.
This is basically a walking through the chapter, mostly by means of key quotes (the bold headings are Cavanaugh's). (Note: I'm going to have to go back through here soon and italicize all the italicized words)

Eucharist is the church’s “counter-politics” to the politics of torture

The Eucharist makes real the presence of Christ in the Church; resists the disappearance of the Body.
“Where torture is an anti-liturgy for the realization of the state’s power on the bodies of others, Eucharist is the liturgical realization of Christ’s suffering and redemptive body in the bodies of His followers. Torture creates fearful and isolated bodies, bodies docile to the purposes of the regime; the Eucharist effects the body of Christ, a body marked by resistance to worldly power. Torture creates victims; Eucharist creates witnesses, martyrs. Isolation is overcome in the Eucharist by the building of a communal body which resists the state’s attempts to disappear it.”

“Whereas New Christendom ecclesiology would cordon off the Kingdom of God into a space outside of time, in the Eucharist the Kingdom irrupts into time and ‘confuses’ the spiritual and the temporal. The Eucharist thus realizes a body which is neither purely ‘mystical’ nor simply analogous to the modern state: the true body of Christ.”

“In the Eucharist the church is always called to become what it eschatologically is. The Eucharist does make the church ex opere operato, but the effects are not always visible due to human sin. Christians are called to conform their parctic to the Eucharistic imagination. . . . the Eucharistic imagination is a vision of what is really real, the Kingdom of God, as it disrupts the imagination of violence.”

1: The Mystical and the True
The Church, with the coming of modernity, can no longer be seen as political institution of its own, but as consisting more in the invisible communion with believers.
Henri de Lubac pointed out that a dichotomy was created between the external institutional church and the invisible interior church. “In the term ‘mystical body,’ the adjective had swamped the noun.”

For this dichotomy,
“The church does not constitute a social body. Its visibility and unity rather consists in the external bonds of sharing the same profession of faith, the same rites, the same church laws, and above all the same allegiance to the Pope’s guidance.”

Beginning in the twelfth century, there begins to be an inversion of corpus mysticum and corpus verum. Corpus mysticum is now applied to the Church, corpus verum to the elements of the Eucharist.

“In the older understanding, according to de Lubac, the sacramental body and the church body are closely linked, and there is a ‘gap’ between this pair and the history body. The Eucharist and the church, both of which are understood by the term communio, are together the contemporary performance of the historical body, the unique historical event of Jesus. Christians are the real body of Christ, and the Eucharist is where the church mystically comes to be. The church and the Eucharist form the liturgical pair of visible community (corpus verum) and invisible action or mystery (corpus mysticum) which together re-present and re-member Christ’s historical body. The gap is a temporal one. The link between past event and the present church is formed by the invisible action of the sacrament. The ‘mystical,’ then, is that which ‘insures the unity between two times’ and brings the Christ event into present historical time in the church body, the corpus verum.”

In the inversion, “The Eucharistic host has become corpus verum, and has now taken on a ‘thingly realism,’ a visible and available sign in the here and now which produces reverence and awe. Eucharist is increasingly described in terms not of action but of object, such that the scholastic concentration is on the miracle produced in the elements, and not on the edification of the church by the presence of Christ in the sacrament. At the same time, the church is identified as corpus mysticum, whose essence is hidden. The visibility of the church in the communal performance of the sacrament is replaced by the visibility of the Eucharistic object. Signified and signifier have exhanged places, such that the sacramental body is the visible signifier of the hidden signified, which is the social body of Christ. . . . The real life of the church is relegated to the ‘mystical,’ the hidden, that which will only be realized outside of time in the eschaton. Rather than linking the present with Jesus’ first – and, we should add, second –coming, the mystical is now cordoned off from historical space and time. At this point in Christian history the temporal is beginning to be construed not as the time between the times, but as an increasingly autonomous space which is distinct from a spiritual space.”

Cavanaugh pauses here to clarify that this is not intended to undermine the doctrine of transubstantiation, only to guard against misguided emphases. He clarifies that de Lubac “thought that the best way to emphasize ‘eucharistic realism’ was precisely through an ‘ecclesial realism’ which sees Christ’s real presence in the elements as dynamic, working toward the edification of the church. What concerned de Lubac about the inversion of verum and mysticum was its tendency to reduce the Eucharist to a mere spectacle for the laity. The growth of the cult of the host itself in the later medieval period…was not necessarily an advance for Eucharistic practice. As Sarah Beckwith puts it, ‘the emphasis was increasingly on watching Christ’s body rather than being incorporated in it.’ ”

This discussion is of particular relevance for Protestants. And indeed, Cavanaugh goes on to critique the late medieval practice of the Eucharist (which Protestantism was a reaction to) in terms that are no less applicable to the modern Protestant practice:
“Laypeople were increasingly left to silent contemplation of the awesome spectacle, and this corresponded with a diminishing of the communal nature of the Eucharist and an individualizing of Eucharistic piety. Dom Gregory Dix describes this period in these terms: ‘The old corporate worship of the eucharist is declining into a mere focus for the subjective devotion of each separate worshipper in the isolation of his own mind. And it is the latter which is beginning to seem to him more important than the corporate act.’ . . . The individual Christian relates not to other Christians but directly to Christ as to the center of the circle, instead of incorporation with one’s fellow Christians into the body of Christ, which has a head, but no center.”


That inversion of mystery is fascinating, and tragic. Beforehand, the church was seen as a body, but it took faith to see the church as the body of Christ through the lens of the Eucharist. Afterward, I can mechanically explain how union with Christ works, but I don't know about any of you guys -- it takes faith to see the church as a body at all.

July 4, 2007 at 7:42 AM  

Newer Post Older Post Home