Johann Metz, Louis-Marie Chauvet, sacrament

Chauvet on Ritual and Existential Memory

Thus, the ritual memory of Jesus’ death and resurrection is not Christian unless it is veri-fied in an existential memory whose place is none other than the believers’ bodies… To wash one another’s feet is to live existentially the memory of Christ that the Eucharist makes us live ritually.

It is precisely because the ritual memory sends us to the existential memory that the sacraments in general, and the Eucharist in particular, constitute a “dangerous memory,” in the words of Metz. It is dangerous for the Church and for each believer, not only because the sequela Christi (“following Christ”) leads everyone onto the crucifying path of liberation (as much economic as spiritual, collective as personal), but because this “following of Christ” is “sacramentally” the location where Christ himself continues to carry out through those who invoke him the liberation for which he gave his life. The ritual story at each eucharist, retelling why Jesus handed over his life, sends all Christians back to their own responsibility to take charge of history in his name; and so they become his living memory in the world because he himself is “sacramentally” engaged in the body of humanity they work at building for him.

Louis-Marie Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence, Translated by Patrick Madigan, S.J., and Madeleine Beaumont, pg. 260-261.

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2 thoughts on “Chauvet on Ritual and Existential Memory

  1. “…the liberation for which he gave his life.”

    I really like Chauvet and have read this book in its entirety twice. But I think here is possibly a key weakness of his overall reconstruction of being. Liberated from what? From onto-theology? Jesus dies to liberate us from onto-theology, or he dies so that we can finally “let God be God”? Or he dies to reveal to us that ultimately we are all implicated in Jesus’ death, and that God’s Law killed God’s Son? Saving us from bad language games? Saving us from an instrumentalist view of language?

    His soteriology seems, to me, weak here. It is not clear to me what Jesus saves us from in Chauvet’s thought. Aquinas at had (at least) one clear answer to the question: Jesus saves us from Hell. I don’t see Chauvet going down that road.

  2. Well, grace is always about saving us from ourselves. That seems rather soteriological. This specific quote is Chauvet virtually embedding Metz’s political theology into Chauvet’s project. Metz seeks to remind us that remembering Jesus — to be formed by the memory of Jesus — is a dangerous memory as it makes us like Jesus. I’ve got more on Metz here: https://flyingfarther.wordpress.com/2008/08/16/recovering-neglected-theologians-series-for-levellers-johann-baptist-metz/ . This sounds an awful lot like liberation from who we are now and into the life of Jesus, which brings me to my next point.

    I have an issue that death itself is the salvific event. Rather its Jesus in his entirety — incarnation, life and preaching, death and resurrection. I think Chauvet would agree with that as well, but I couldn’t prove it right now. I’d have to go back and read it again and school is starting. Although, I would point you back to section two in chapter 12 — baptism, eucharistic anamnesis, liturgical year, Easter and the life of Jesus in light of Easter, which Chauvet contrasts with Aquinas in section one.

    With such a holistic and interruptive Christology, we are made interruptive like Jesus — we extend the grace of Jesus, as grace is extended to us — perhaps to the point of death, and at least in solidarity. That is Christian salvation in a very real way. We have ceased to be like ourselves and have become like our master, the one who was crucified as we wait in hope of the resurrection he experienced. However, you’re right that the way Chauvet deals with soteriology isn’t exactly explicit. He seems to imply it in some areas and others, like when he uses the word grace or sacraments, we should read something like an active or experiential soteriology often, rather than what we are saved from. Still, I think he does have one, but perhaps different than you were looking for.

    As for language games, I think its more substantial than a language game. Its an epistomological shift from, say, Platonic or Aristotelian theories of knowledge to a theory of language. This is rather crucial to understanding humanity and how it interacts. It isn’t just knowledge that constitutes the community, but language, among other things. The sacramental nature of grace is made intelligent through the grammar of the church (i.e. liturgy/ritual, symbol).

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