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Title: Worship in the narthex : identifying a contemporary site for the Eucharist
Author: Davis, Claire Henderson
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1999
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The aim of this thesis is to describe a contemporary site for eucharistic celebration. In the Introduction, we begin with the premise that a common context for understanding the liturgy, and in particular the Eucharist, as the public language of the Roman Catholic Church, has been lost. In order to restore the practice of the Eucharist, it is therefore necessary to restore a common context in relation to which the Eucharist makes sense. In Chapter One, we begin this task by exploring the history of the relationship between the Eucharist and the Church with the help of an important recent book by P.J. FitzPatrick, In Breaking ofBread: The Eucharist and Ritual. We look in particular at how the form of the Eucharist is shaped by the centralization and clericalization of power in the Church. In Chapters Two and Three, we take up FitzPatrick's suggestion that the way forward for our understanding of the Eucharist is to describe it as a ritual. What this accomplishes is to situate us within the arena of human action. In these two chapters, we explore what it means to say that the world is linguistically-structured. Language, as we discover, is not simply a tool for naming objects, rather, it embodies patterns of meaning and relationship which form us at a pre-conscious, bodily level. Likewise, the purpose of the liturgy as the Church's public language is not to pass on consciously-held beliefs or knowledge, but to give Christians a particular, pre-conscious bodily formation. Describing the Eucharist as a ritual is not sufficient, because the Church's rituals express whatever kind of life the Church is actually leading. Unless the Church is living the Gospel in practice, her rituals will not provide an adequate Christian formation. In Chapter Four, we situate this discourse in relation to the discourses of modernity and post-modemity. With the breakdown of the unified social vision of the Middle Ages, we find, in modernity, the hope that differences can be united through a common rationality. In post-modemity, we discover the extent to which our rationality is itself contingent - tied to our formation at particular locations in space and time. This awareness of the limits of what we say creates a crisis in human action. We can find no basis for common action which does not appear to eliminate differences, and we cannot act individually without being aware that what we do and say is put in question by the position of others. It is within this context that the theologian John Milbank proposes a return to Christianity as a metanarrative. Only Christianity, he argues, provides an account of difference which is not simply the occasion of violence. Milbank demonstrates how secular rationality, which presupposes the inevitability of violence, arises out of an heretical departure from Christian orthodoxy. The problem with Milbank, however, is that he creates a dichotomy between the Church and the secular which gives the impression that there is such a thing as the Christian Church uncorrupted by collusion with the secular order. Milbank creates what the philosopher Gillian Rose calls a "holy middle", a sociality outside time and space, and therefore, not a real beginning for action. Rose, by contrast, is concerned in her idea of the broken middle of modernity with the problem of how to act, aware of the limits which always already constrain us, but not paralyzed by them. We explore Rose's metaphor of modernity in Chapter Six. In the Conclusion, we return to the question of the Eucharist to show how Rose's broken middle of modernity locates for us a contemporary site for eucharistic celebration. The revolution which Christ embodies has to do with his relationship to those who fall outside the Law. Jesus teaches that love is the medium of this encounter. This love, however, demands the kind of risk which Gillian Rose describes, because it involves a movement outward from our present categories of understanding towards a greater vision which we cannot yet articulate. The poor are those who fall outside our present vision of the social whole. It is only from the perspective of the poor, therefore, that the Church can celebrate the Eucharist as the sacrament of Christ's real presence in the world.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available