Daily Archives: April 21, 2008

The Anglican Scotist on the Eucharist

In his comment to my post below and in a new post on his blog, the Anglican Scotist takes issue with my suggestion that those representing the national church and those clergy with progressive political views remember that demands for justice in church flow best from acknowledging God’s call to humanity in light of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

He states:

Granted, loosey goosey lefty preachers might preach social justice and
be too dull to notice the sacramental context in which they preach is
soaked in political references, but there is also a loosey goosey
mentality perversely abstracting the Eucharist from the political, as
if real labor and real money and real paychecks and real exchanges were
not actually involved and actually sanctified, as if it were all just
symbolic or even pretend.

I can’t tell if he’s directly accusing me of holding the second “a loosey goosey
mentality [that] perversely abstract[s] the Eucharist from the political” or not… If he is, it’s a caricature and not an accurate representation of what I said or believe. I agree that there are some who have tried to make a hard separation between the religious and the political and that doesn’t make sense to me either. You can’t pray the Psalms and believe that “YHWH is king” has no political implications.

However, let me reiterate to clarify my position to the Scotist. The Eucharist is a powerful multivalent symbol. The Eucharist is misunderstood whenever we attempt to reduce its complexity.  Our historic liturgy and architecture is designed to highlight these multivalent elements and the move in recent years to change things has resulted in just such a reduction. That is, an east-wall altar speaks of a table, a sacrificial altar, and a tomb. The bread, wine, and water speak of simple family meals, the fruits of the earth,and—yes—the products of human labor. The liturgical words speak of covenant relationships, political injustice, the triumph of love, and a God who choose to permeate human life through multiple modes of presence and incarnation. And these items that I have pointed out just barely scratch the surface…

I would not claim that the Eucharist is “simply religious,” abstracted from the political. That’s not how I understand “religious”—it can never be “simply” anything because it’s fundamentally not simple.

In a similar fashion, I would hope that the Scotist would shy away from reducing the Eucharist to the purely economic or even political and miss the full splendor of its spectrum of meanings.