Johann Metz, martyrdom, Oscar Romero

The Dangerous Jesus in the Martyrdom of an Archbishop (Part 4: Romero and Metz)

This is part 4, continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3, of The Dangerous Jesus in the Martyrdom of an Archbishop: Oscar Romero, Johann Metz, and the Iconography of the Interruptive No.

Romero and Metz
Jon Sobrino, James Brockman, and others have given narratives for Romero’s life. He has been recounted in numerous other ways – even as a drawn icon, but instead of the iconographic scene, the background has helicopter gunships – but I have never seen Romero through Metz. However, once Metz is applied, dangerous memory, solidarity, and hope are easily recognized in Romero.

Romero took great pains to remember the dead and the suffering of people around him. Indeed remembrance was virtually his entire job; it was how he enacted solidarity, it was how he maintained the voice of the poor, it was how he refused to let the deads’ witness disappear with time. In fact, one could say, the death of Father Grande functioned in Romero’s life as a dangerous memory. While he denied that there was a ‘conversion’ to liberation theology, something changed after Father Grande, an old man, and a young boy were shot. Remembrance was key to Romero’s entire struggle.

By remembering his dead friends and priests, his dead congregants, and the suffering poor, Romero was brought into a viewpoint seemingly alien to him. This view grabbed Romero and pulled him in; it seized him. He took on a kenotic life because of the dangerous memory that altered him. The step into the world of the poor, with the poor, for the poor was to identify as poor. It was, in a word, solidarity.

Despite the kenotic life, Romero did not lose hope in the promises and work of God. In fact, the kenotic life, one could say, brought its own hope because it revolutionized the understanding of salvation: God was on the side of the poor. The kenotic life, as noted earlier, is not simply or easy, but it was right.

A less obvious intersection between Romero and Metz is that of anamnesis. While anamnesis as formative remembrance is already noted, what I did not do was to follow Bruce Morrill’s liturgical work in anamnesis with Metz.[60] In my endeavor to develop Romero as an icon, an icon that interrupted the simulacrum by exposing it, I chose to remain in iconography, rather than take it into the next step, sacramental theology where anamnesis refers to more than constructive remembrance, it also can directly refer to the Eucharist. However, I did leave implicit such a connection in noting the death of Romero while giving a homily, a homily about the Eucharist and a remembrance of the dead.

Romero’s Eucharistic self-giving in this paper is actually stronger than an unmade connection. His Eucharistic self-giving was also said in another way: kenosis and incarnation. Incarnating the Christ life with and for the poor, and then dying a violent death at the hands of the oppressive government, showed that Romero gave his whole being to a cruciform life. This is the essence of Eucharistic self-giving: the incarnated life died, but death did not win.

The last connection to make between Metz and Romero is that of interruption. The dangerous memory, the solidarity, the hope, the Eucharistic self-giving all point to a larger category for the work of Romero: interruption. His work broke barriers, created conflict, heightened tension, fuelled gossip, and proved a thorn in the side of the Salvadorian government. This all Romero did, not because he relished drama, but because the Gospel called him to it; he would not be quiet because there was someone greater than him to which he was called. God first determined Romero and the interruption of injustice simply followed.

I have sought to draw Romero and Metz together so as to achieve a stronger theology that underlies martyrdom and can relate back to an interruptive Jesus and interruptive ecclesiology. In Metz there is a system for living the memory of the suffering, the dead, and specifically Jesus in an interruptive fashion. Thus, read by Metz, Romero embodied a synthesis between the politically interruptive nature of the Christological life and its spiritual life.

[60] Bruce T. Morrill, Anamnesis as Dangerous Memory: Political and Liturgical Theology in Dialogue (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2000). See chapters 2 and 4.


5 thoughts on “The Dangerous Jesus in the Martyrdom of an Archbishop (Part 4: Romero and Metz)

  1. Pingback: The Dangerous Jesus in the Martyrdom of an Archbishop (Part 1: Introduction) « flying.farther

  2. Pingback: The Dangerous Jesus in the Martyrdom of an Archbishop (Part 2: Romero) « flying.farther

  3. Pingback: The Dangerous Jesus in the Martyrdom of an Archbishop (Part 3: Metz) « flying.farther

  4. masonmusic says:

    I love the concept of “dangerous memory.” More explicitly, I appreciate the accuracy that in the event of Father Grande’s murder, a memory was created that continued to function; that’s really important I think.

    Have you read “Memories In Mosaic”? It is a collection of stories about Romero from all the way through his life. Fantastic. Though there are hundreds of contributors, the editor arranges it like a narrative, like members of a choir, a presente!, all calling out their memories at different times.


    Joel Mason

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