Title: Identity Through the Liturgical Word: Imagining the Dynamics of Religious Identity Through L.-M. Chauvet’s Identification of the Liturgical Assembly as the Place of Scripture and Identity Formation
Authors: Witherington, Timothy Derrick
Issue Date: 27-May-2015
Conference: Homo Spiritualis of the XX and XXI Centuries location:Nicholas Copernicus University, Torun, Poland date:27-28 May 2015
Abstract: Through Louis-Marie Chauvet’s creative appropriation of Heidegger, he has re-imagined the dynamics of the sacramental economy in terms of ‘symbolic mediation’ in contradistinction to the causal sacramental mechanics of traditional scholastic sacramental theology. In this paper we will focus on Chauvet’s relation between scripture and sacrament, and how this relation helps to elucidate what Chauvet sees as the identity of the Christian believer in the world.
For Chauvet, for a believer to be able to rightly identify as a Christian believer s/he must be a member of an ecclesia and must also actively participate in the public liturgical worship of that ecclesia. Within this public liturgy, the reading and hearing of Scripture occupies a great pride of place. It is through this collective listening to the text that liturgical praxis establishes the ‘text of the text’ or even a kind of ‘page’ on which the text is written. Therefore, the demographics of the assembled individuals serve collectively to establish a context, indeed, the ‘page’ on which the text is written, proclaimed, and heard. The interplay of text and context thus makes the word become alive and actualized to the gathered liturgical assembly. Furthermore, this gathered assembly recognizes in these proclaimed texts, for Chauvet, a kind of ‘exemplar’ of its identity. All in all then, we can briefly summarize that for Chauvet the homo spiritualis who identifies as Christian is always necessarily a homo ecclesiasticus who by his/her membership in the ecclesia is necessarily a homo liturgicus. The homo ecclesiastucus-liturgicus both actively creates the liturgical context wherein the Word of God is read and actualized, and is also receptive to the promptings of this Word which serve to create his/her identity as a believer.
Using these insights as a starting point, we will first critically investigate whether Chauvet’s definition of Christian identity is strong enough to resist the challenges of a cultural situation which is, at least in the West, increasingly hostile to Christianity. In effect, we will consider whether or not the homo ecclesiasticus-liturgicus of Chauvet is able to stand up to the epistemological challenges posed by a contemporary western ‘postmodern’ context, challenges which can be characterized as a lack of a unifying narrative of identity which leads to a loss and lack of epistemic foundations, particularly in the religious sphere. Furthermore, we will be critically examining whether or not Chauvet’s approach takes seriously the postmodern critique, perhaps seeing it as a source of some opportunity rather than strictly as something to be avoided and combatted. In doing this, we will be evaluating whether or not Chauvet’s paradigm is able to accommodate and engage the (ir)religious other, an other who figures prominently in a contemporary Western context. In effect, we will be considering whether or not Chauvet’s conception will be able to fully engage the (ir)religious other in all his/her irreducible otherness without first insisting that the ‘other’ become ‘not-other’ by joining the locally gathered liturgical ecclesia. Insofar as we will try to be both critical of and receptive to the postmodern critique, this paper will help to fill out the contours of a debate, which at least in certain Catholic circles, tends to favor one extreme or the other.
All in all, this paper will serve to critically engage a prominent voice in contemporary theology and will determine if a particular aspect of his large project is capable of effectively articulating the place and identity of the homo spiritualis in a contemporary western context. In going about this, we will be limiting ourselves primarily to Chapter 6 of Chauvet’s Symbole et Sacrement, as well as the work done by Lieven Boeve in determining the relevance of the postmodern critique for theology (Interrupting Tradition and God Interrupts History). Indeed, we will be showing how Chauvet’s homo-ecclesiasticus-liturgicus may provide a new way forward in conversations surrounding issues of Christian identity and Christianity’s relationship to (ir)religious otherness.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Research Unit Systematic Theology - miscellaneous

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