political/cultic Jesus and the Eucharist

this post accomplanies my “three bodies of Christ” as I’m exploring my sacramental theology (w/ echos back to the worship/community/individual discussion). This will be in two parts: the first an outline of tensions; the second the Eucharistic resolution.

When we come to the gospels two reading of jesus emerge, the political and the cultic. And when taking the cultic route we generally presuppose Christological and Atonement doctrines. When coming from these two perspectives several tensions emerge.First, the political (his teachings/practice) doesn’t need the cultic (sacrificial death); and the cultic (bloody atonement) doesn’t really to be supplemented by the political. Second, the political reading makes Jesus an example, a model, a repeatable figure who we follow (continuity); but the cultic reading makes Jesus the represetative, substitute, non-repeatable second Adam (discontinuity). Third, the political reading see Jesus as entering into established practices of love, justice, and forgiveness such that he is merely an instantiation of the universal standard; while the cultic reading sees Jesus as the founder, establisher of these practices of love, justice, forgivenss. But these tensions only occur when we look at the political/cultic, with attending Christologies and Atonement theories, separated from ecclesiology.

In his essay “The Name of Jesus” (in The Word Made Strange), which I have been summarizing above, John Milbank seeks to move beyond a merely political (liberal) and cultic (conservative) reading of the gospels, while still upholding the a type of high Chistology and Atonement. His basic premise is that “Christological and Atonement doctrines…are theoretically secondary to definitions of the character of the new universal community or Church.” These doctrines are the end of an argument concerning the nature of the church, and what happen through Jesus.

He says, “The gospels can be read, not as the story of Jesus, but as the story of the (re)foundation of a new city, a new kind of human community,” and we must therefore make an ecclesiological deduction of the incarnation and the atonment. In a sense, Jesus arrives with the Church. Jesus is presented as the founder (beginning) and the culmination (end) of the new community. He is both the seed and the tree; the foundation and the temple; the cornerstone and the capstone; the head and the body.

When we focus on Milbank’s ecclesial deduction of the atonement we can see how he links together the politic and cultic and how it bears on our understanding of the Eucharist. As we will see, the Cross and the Eucharist represent and inaugarate both a new meaning in language (the passing of signs) and a new political practices.

but enough for today. sorry its so heady.