The scandal of sacramentality: the Eucharist in literary and theological perspectives

Hancock, Brannon (2010) The scandal of sacramentality: the Eucharist in literary and theological perspectives. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In spite of the realities of an increasingly post-ecclesial world, sacrament continues to appear as a theme in contemporary culture, often in places least expected. What it means to describe something – a text, ritual, experience, etc – as “sacramental” derives from the unique yet complex conception of sacrament as practiced (liturgy) and theorized (theology) within the Christian tradition. Indeed, whilst simultaneously upheld as the “constitutive” action and foundational sacrament of Christ's Body called church, the Eucharist has confounded the Christian faith throughout its history. Its symbolism points to the paradox of the incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth, and his sacrificial death on Calvary, which St. Paul describes as a stumbling-block (skandalon) and foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23). And yet this scandalous quality of sacramentality, not only illustrated by but enacted in the Eucharist, has not been sufficiently accounted for in the ecclesiologies and sacramental theologies of the Christian tradition.
Following the image from the Fourth gospel of “the word made flesh,” this interdisciplinary study examines the scandal of sacramentality along the two-pronged thematic of the scandal of language (word) and the scandal of the body (flesh). While sacred theology can think through this scandal only at significant risk to its own stability, the fictional discourses of literature and the arts are free to explore this scandal in a manner that simultaneously augments and challenges notions of sacrament and sacramentality, and by extension, what it means to describe the Church as a “eucharistic community.”
Our aim is less a reassertion of the vitality of traditional sacramental rituals even within contemporary culture and more an effort to understand why the notion of sacrament and sacramentality has held such staying power, despite significant cultural shifts and movement away from the traditional practices of the Christian faith. Why do novelists, artists, theologians, philosophers and religious communities continue to make use of and draw upon the language and evocation of ‘sacrament’? Our thesis is that it is precisely the scandalous, subversive power of the eucharistic mystery, the thematic and symbolic tensions and destabilizing effect inherent to sacramentality, that make it such a fertile trope for artists and writers, especially within a postmodern context preoccupied with the themes of language, embodiment, presence/absence, immanence/transcendence, and so on.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: theology, eucharist, sacrament, liturgy, worship, arts, interdisciplinary, religious studies, literature, church history
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jasper, Prof. David
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Dr Brannon Hancock
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-2568
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 May 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:57

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