Thursday, March 27, 2008

Accessing the Mystery

Over the next three days I will be posting from Jean-Luc Marion's chapter in God Without Being entitled "Of the Eucharistic Site of Theology." In it he tackles the fundamental problem of theology, i.e., from where to begin. Theology must always begin from the Resurrection and the Christ Event, yet those are not directly accessible to the theologian. Marion moves from a discussion of Christ as the Said of God, to an exegesis of the Emmaus story, which is especially pertinent these days, to finally a discussion of the role of the Bishop in theology. In these days of the Resurrection, such a topic is uniquely important for us Christians whose faith depends on an Event that occurred beyond Lessing's 2000 year gutter of history.

Jesus, says Marion, abolishes the gap between the speaker and the sign. He is the Word. If all speech is violence because it disrupts and reduces that which it speaks of, then Jesus overcomes this violence in his Body. This continues in the Eucharist, a continual overcoming of the violence of human speech by his Speech. Language, as Augustine said, is a product of the Fall. Christ overcomes this in his body and in the rite of the Liturgy. Christ says himself and all is said. “And hence the Word, the Said, finally says nothing; he lets people speak, he lets people talk, ‘Jesus gave him no answer.’”

The Word cannot accurately be said in any tongue since he is Sign, Signifier, Signified; Sign, Speaker, and Referent. In classic mid-20th century linguistic study, there is sign, signifier, signified. The sign breeches the gap between the signified and the signifier without being independent of either nor reducible to either. The signifier is the sound-image used to signify; the signified is the concept that is signified; the sign moves between the two, mediating them and approximating them both. Christ transgresses language. By speaking our words, the Word redoubles his Incarnation. The Word comes to us before words. “Any speech that speaks only from this side of language cannot reach the referent,” who is Christ. “No human tongue can say the Said of God.”

“The Trinity respires from being able to breath among us.” Christianity is a logos of the Logos, a said of the Said, a word of the Word. “Theology: most certainly a human logos where man must not master language, but must let himself be governed by it” (Heidegger). “For the Word, by speaking our words, which he says word-for-word, without changing any of them (not an iota), takes us at our word, literally.”

How does this Event occur to us as theologians? From hearing. “Inevitably it transmits a text.” Through the text comes the Event. But the text does not contain the Event, only traces of it, as Veronica’s veil. The text is like the shadows from a nuclear explosion. The Text does not coincide with the Event. Not a reproduction of the nuclear explosion, but only its shadow. The text cannot give us the Event itself, but only shadows, meanings.

Markel, SJ

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