grace, incarnation, Louis-Marie Chauvet

Chauvet, Grace, and the Incarnation

I’m working on my incarnation paper, due all too soon. Below is an excerpt. If anyone has a word about the following content (yeah, I know, I’ll get an editor soon), I would be interested. Especially the last sentence.

The world, humanity, and history, must be reconciled. But what method for reconciliation would God incarnate use? Grace and interruption was and is the method.

Grace is characterized by an over-flowing, or beyond what is necessary. As Louis-Marie Chauvet put it: “grace is essentially that which cannot be calculated and cannot be stocked.” Grace is not achieved in bargain, but through “super-abundance.” Indeed there is a sense of joy at providing more than is necessary, further than any need may go. With grace understood as such, the method of grace speaks partly to the measure of the incarnational action and life, that the incarnation is immeasurable. This over-abundance indicates that grace supersedes, or meets and surpasses a need, but through a process from one to another that is not understood through an economy of bargain.

Thus Chauvet touches on the other half to grace – a gift freely given from someone not ourself. Grace, rightly understood, is gift. But Chauvet does not simply stop with gift, possibly extended without hope for response; rather, for gift to be gratuitous, it must be dialogical: “the gratuitousness of the gift carries the obligation of the return-gift of a response.” Grace, the process of extending graciousness and waiting for reply to complete the “whole circuit,” is not safe, but includes exposure to rejection. The incarnation then was the literal embodiment of divine gratuitousness and graciousness open to humanity; a different kind of messiah than expected, Jesus of Nazareth was divine hesed within humanity seeking reciprocation. Thus, the incarnation was grace, or, by another name, a eucharistic self-giving that affirmed existence, but called for the human story to participate in reconciliation.

The quotes are from Symbol and Sacrament, pages 108 and 109.

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2 thoughts on “Chauvet, Grace, and the Incarnation

  1. Don’t forget that much of so called “postmodernism” is concerned about this idea of grace that carries with it an obligation for response/return and which seeks to close the circuit. For Derrida this would be an example of a “restricted economy” whereby a gift is given conditionally only to seek its own return. I don’t think Derrida’s “pure gift” is any help (and it has its own restricted economy as well), but you’ll have to clarify what you mean by grace and its economy of dialogical return here. As beleaguered as Milbank’s name is (especially in the theological blogosphere, and so I mention it hesitatingly) I still think he offers an astute theological analysis of gift and reciprocity that does not lapse into a simple restricted economy. Just some thoughts as you develop this further.

  2. Yeah, I’m somewhat aware of the problem with Derrida. And you’re picking up on what some people call Chauvet, a “postmodern” liturgist. Thanks for the heads up. However, I think I can still make use of Chauvet if I strengthen the connection of response to reconciliation, because that is what divine action is aimed towards, then we don’t lapse into bargain. Instead we participate in the kingdom as we call others out of their warped relationships. Reconciliation is a divine economy.

    After hearing one of Milbank’s talks, he might even agree. The work of God sacrally breaks us from our way of living and calls us to graciously forgive. In fact, Milbank maintained that this is the only way forgiveness begins, and therefore works.

    Still, thanks for the heads up. I’ll make that connection more explicit.

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