I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Incarnation, Eucharist and the Eschaton




by Brother Gilbert Bloomer

This essay will address the connection between eschatology and the Eucharist in the context of the Jewish ‘roots’ or origins of both Christian eschatology and the Eucharistic Mystery and how this manifests in the teaching of the Western and Eastern Churches. Lumen Gentium 11[1] and the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1324[2] teach that the source and summit of all Christian Life is the Eucharist. Thus the topic of eschatology and eschatological hope must be perceived through the prism of the Eucharistic Mystery. It will demonstrate that one cannot fully understand either the Eucharistic Mystery or the Christian eschatological hope without an understanding of the Jewish and Biblical roots. This understanding whether in the East or the West takes us into the Mystery of the Incarnation in Eternity.

 Vladimir Soloviev (1853-1900) the great Russian Orthodox philosopher and mystic proclaimed that it would be the Jews as a spiritual-ethnic identity that would bring about the reunion of the Western and Eastern Churches. This would be achieved through a deeper penetration of Jewish mysticism which Jews in both the Western Church and the Eastern Church would bring to the wider Church.[3] The Russian Orthodox priest and theologian Father Lev Gillet (1893-1980) in discussing the Jewish messianic hope and its importance for Christian faith states that the Russian Christians have maintained this eschatological dimension of Christian faith. He writes:
“... for the Orthodox Church, the things that are to come have always been more important ...This has given to the Orthodox Church that other-worldly atmosphere and orientation...it has maintained...an eschatologic and often apocalyptic consciousness...”[4].

            Father Gillet draws on the teachings of the Hasidic (Chabad) Jewish scholar Paul Levertoff  (1878-1954) who embraced Christianity and became an Anglican priest, led a Hebrew Anglican community in England, developed a Hassidic style Eucharistic Liturgy and was one of the expert translators of the Socino edition of the Zohar.  Gillet writes:

           “...Levertoff gives the following expression to the inner desire of the Jewish mystics: “Everything is longing for that   Messianic redemption, through which God’s immanence will be fully realised. We must enter deeply into this groaning of Creation, and listen with the ears of the spirit to the plaint of the imprisoned soul of Nature and its longing for redemption. For in the days of Messiah the inner nature of God will be revealed, and His light will permeate Man. And if Israel would only pray in the true spirit, the Messiah would reveal Himself in all his glory now”. The true Messianic relationship, the true coming of the Messiah, is to be taken possession of by Him. But this being taken possession of will be perfect only in the “beyond”. We believe in the end of the present world and in a new world. The world renewal, linked with the Messianic Parousia, must not remain in the background. We must not be shy of the last things. We should already throw our hearts on the other side, where sin and death will not be...”

Gillet writes that this eschatological and apocalyptic thinking of the Eastern Church is found at the core of the great Russian Orthodox writers Khomiakov, Soloviev, Fedorov, Berdyaev and Bulgakov. He writes rather poetically of this eschatological dimension in Eastern orthodox thought.

            “... The Messiah is still for us a rising sun above the horizon. He is not yet the sun at midday, the white brilliance which will pervade all. We should wait for the midday brightness with all the eschatological expectation of the primitive Church...”[5]

            Gillet also sees the ideas of Martin Buber on ‘I and Thou’, which is also the name of Buber’s book on Jewish mysticism, as important in developing a Jewish Christian eschatological Messianic hope.  Gillet sees these ideas of Buber as focused on God as the ‘wholly Other’ who encompasses all others but at the same time is ‘wholly Present’.  He writes “I stand “before the face”.[6] This would seem to have some connection to the philosophy of Levinas on the concept of the “Other” and his Jewish concept of ‘face to face’(panim l’panim).

            John Panteleimon Manoussakis, reflecting his interpretation of the writings and teachings of  John Zizioulas the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Pergamon, connects the idea of the eschaton as not only future but ‘present’ or ‘now’ in the Eucharist. Manoussakis states that based on this eschatological ontology of which the Metropolitan writes that a “new understanding of eschatology, has emerged, one that recognises in the Parousia not only the event that stands at the end of history...but also as that event that, grounded in the Eucharist, flows continuously from the ‘Eschata’ and permeates every moment in history.”[7] He outlines three important points in Christian eschatology. Firstly the Eschaton is not the end of history. Secondly the Eschaton is the Incarnation and thirdly that the Eschaton is the incarnation as it unfolds in history through the celebration of the Eucharist.[8]  While these three points are very important in a deeper theological penetration and understanding of the richness of the Eucharistic Mystery, there are a number of ideas and understandings of these points that Manoussakis is inadequate.

            In regards to the first point he writes that one should not confuse the Eschaton with the ‘telos’ or ‘end’ itself and that the Eschaton is to be found on both sides of the end.[9]  However ‘end’ is not a very good English translation for the Greek word ‘telos’. ‘Telos’ is used in the New Testament by St Paul.  ‘Telos’ would be better rendered as “purpose” or “goal” and it may be linked with the mystical Hebrew concept of the “Teli” (Axis). The Jewish mystical book of the Bahir (106) states that the ‘Teli’ is “the likeness is He that is before the Blessed Holy One that is in all things.”[10]

            In a sense this 'telos' is the Divine Will present in all things. The ‘Teli’ is visualised in Mystical Judaism as an invisible spiral ladder or staircase similar to the spiral sidecurls of the religious Jew (which are called payot or taltalim in the Song of Songs). It is remarkably similar to the dna strand discovered by modern science. This Divine Will present in all things (which is a kind of spiritual dna) is seeking to reach its goal by releasing the glorious praise hidden in all things that are upheld by the hidden Divine Will or Light in all creation. This is why Paul states that the whole of Creation is groaning with desire for this fulfilment [telos] which will come with the revelation of the Sons of God. 

            The second and third points of Manoussakis article -  that the Eschaton is the Incarnation and that the Eschaton as Incarnation is present in the Eucharistic Mystery - are very important understandings. Hans Urs Von Balthasar (as Manoussakis points out) also makes this point and strengthens it by writing, 
“... The Incarnation is the eschaton and as such, is unsurpassable.”[11]  This safeguards the uniqueness of the Messiah Jesus in Christian eschatology with its focus on the Incarnated and Eucharistic Christ who is the Father’s final and definitive Word.[12]

            Manoussakis states that Judaism like Islam has only one eschatological centre situated in the distant future.[13] However this is also incorrect as Judaism has the weekly Sabbath as a present taste of the Eschaton or World that is coming.[14]  In Temple times Judaism also had a taste of this Eschaton in the Divine Presence in the Holy of Holies of the Jewish Temple. The Christian Eucharistic Liturgy is partly based on the table rituals of Judaism that have their source in the Sabbath and partly on the rituals of the Jewish Temple.

            Manoussakis has a limited understanding of the Mystery of Incarnation which is not just the event in time but its concept and reality in Eternity. He states that Christian eschatology is situated between two nodes- one the ‘already’ of the Incarnation and the ‘not-yet’ of the Parousia.[15] While there is some truth in this idea, it is not a dualistic model that is needed but a trinitarian one. The Incarnation was God’s first (reshit) thought outside of himself and thus the eschaton as Incarnational and Eucharistic Mystery  was present in the beginning (beReshit) as a conceptual light. Manoussakis seems to neglect the insight of the Scriptures that Jesus is the first as well as the last.[16] The passage in Hebrews that speaks of the divine Son as God’s final word also speaks of his role in the Beginning of Creation. Hebrews 1:2-3 states : “...but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Jesus is the Divine Messiah who was (in the Beginning), who is (the Incarnation and its prolongation in the Eucharist) and who will be (the eschaton of the Kingdom).[17] This in itself is linked to the Jewish liturgical phrase “Adonai has reigned, Adonai reigns and Adonai will reign”.[18]

            The study of Soloviev and his Jewish mystical sources would have helped complete this eschatological ontology without downgrading the protologic ontological approach and led to more moderation in Manoussakis conclusions. Soloviev in writing about his ‘cosmogonical process’ in three stages states:

            "In God’s thought, the heaven and the earth, the higher and the lower world, were created together in one foundation, which is essential Wisdom- the absolute unity of all. The union of the heaven and the earth, established in the foundation (reshith), at the beginning of the creative work, must be actualised through the cosmogonic and historical process, which leads to the perfect realization of this unity in the Kingdom of God (malkouth)...”[19]

Soloviev understood this three stage process as connected to the Virgin Mary, Christ  the Incarnated God Man and the Church as Bride, as three manifestations of Divine Wisdom which was in God’s thought from Eternity. This was manifested as the conceptual lights or potential which initiated the whole Creation (Cosmogonic and historical) process leading to the Eschaton or Kingdom of God.[20]

            In recent years many Catholics of the West have also developed a more eschatological and apocalyptic consciousness through spiritual movements and Marian apparitions and manifestations as demonstrated in the Charismatic and Marian Movements. More recent Catholic theologians and Popes have also started to address the eschatological dimension of Christian faith.

            Cardinal Raymond Burke in his “Divine Love Made Flesh: The Holy Eucharist As the Sacrament of Charity ” discusses in one chapter the Eucharist and Eschatology. He writes:

            “The Holy Eucharist is the spiritual food of our earthly pilgrimage which reaches its completion in our passing from this life to the life which is to come. The Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament permits us, already now, to share in the company of Christ, which we are destined to have with Him perfectly in Heaven.”[21]

Cardinal Burke situates his study in the context of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical called Sacramentum Caritatis. Burke says that the Eucharist opens one to the deepest reality connected to our destiny in God. He says that this destiny will be fully realised on the Last Day at the return of Christ in glory. He reflects on Pope Benedict’s statement in Sacramentum  Caritatis:

            “Even though we remain ‘aliens and exiles’ in this world (I Peter 2:11), through faith we already share in the fullness of risen life. The Eucharistic Banquet, by disclosing its powerful eschatological dimension, comes to the aid of our freedom as we continue our journey.”[22]

            Cardinal Burke disagrees with those that say ‘live as if there were no tomorrows’. When we participate in the Eucharist and pray in Adoration of the Sacrament then we experience the eternal tomorrow now.[23] Burke then discusses aspects of this from a Jewish perspective in regards to the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. He sees Israel’s desire to be one in unity and for creation to be restored to be also the deepest desire of all men and all creation too. Whenever the Eucharist is celebrated all men are gathered together in the love of the Messiah and they are offered to the Heavenly Father in expectation of the Messiah’s Parousia at the end of history.[24] He also stresses that the Jewish people always retain “...the honour and dignity of being the first to be chosen by God as the messengers of His saving work through the coming of the Messiah...”.[25] He also speaks of the eschatological concern of the Church with our final destiny in the practice of praying for the dead and offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice for them. [26]

            Father Dermot Lane an Irish Catholic priest in his article titled “The Eucharist as the Sacrament of the Eschaton” discusses the link between the Eucharist and the eschatological dimension. He perceives that the past, present and future are united in the Eucharist which reveals the unfolding of the “historical drama of Christian eschatology”. He states that the eschatological dimension or the eschaton is sacramentally present in the Eucharist.[27] He also sees that from an eschatological perspective the Eucharist is a counter-cultural sign to Secular Western Society. The Eucharist is not just a celebration of a past event but a celebration of the future.[28] He sees a new eschatological empowerment of the word anamnesis (memorial). He writes:

“Through the power of memory...the Eucharist stands out as that event which reactivates God’s saving deeds in the past within the present...If the memory of God within Judaism is about making the past active in the present and if human memory is about being faithful to the solidarity that exists between the past and present generations, then the celebration of the Eucharist can become that event which makes the eschatological work of Christ available in the present...” [29]

            The strength of Father Lane’s article is his emphasis on the Eucharist as the Sacrament of the Eschaton and the uniting in the Eucharistic celebration of the past, present and future. He also links this to a ethical praxis and the eschatological longing and time for justice and equality being brought into the present through the Eucharist.

            The Australian Catholic theologian Anthony Kelly has written an interesting book on Eschatology and Hope and he writes much of interest in regards to the Eucharist and eschatology. He encourages Catholics to develop, in accord with the teaching of St Irenaeus of Lyon, the concept of a Eucharistic ‘way of thinking’. He then applies this to eschatological Christian hope.[30] Kelly also emphasises the concept of Eucharistic imagining. His Eucharistic imagining flows into a more cosmic understanding of the Eucharist.[31] Using the Gospel of John he sees that the Word was in the Beginning and all was created through him. This Word then took flesh in the Incarnation.  Kelly sees that the eschatological concern which he calls “horizon of hope” means that the Universe is ‘in Christ’. Thus Christ embodies the eschatological ultimate realities of life and the final transformation of the Cosmos.[32] While many of the ideas of Kelly have an unacknowledged Jewish messianic and eschatological source his work seems to lack in the area of understanding or even discussing this Jewish contribution which is at the heart of Christian eschatology and the Eucharist.

            A Catholic theologian who remedies this lack of Kelly is a convert from Protestantism to Catholicism, Brant Pitre, who has written much on the Jewish roots of the Eucharist. Some reviewers have criticised Pitre’s book on the Jewish roots of the Eucharist[33] as lacking an eschatological and apocalyptic element. However they are obviously unaware of his article entitled “Jesus, the Messianic Banquet, and the Kingdom of God” which deals with this in detail. He believes that Jesus’ teachings about the Messianic Banquet in the Kingdom of God, have been neglected by modern theologians. Pitre in his article seeks to correct this imbalance by situating Jesus’ teaching about this in its Jewish, eschatological and Eucharistic context. He writes:

            “...when Jesus’ words and deeds are interpreted in their ancient Jewish context, they reveal several important but sometimes overlooked facets of the Kingdom Jesus expected...Jesus not only saw the Kingdom as an eschatological reality. He also saw it as a messianic kingdom, an international kingdom and a heavenly kingdom... Moreover, when Jesus’ teachings about the banquet are juxtaposed with his words and deeds in the Upper Room, together they suggest that Jesus himself saw himself and his disciples as participating in the heavenly kingdom and anticipating the    eschatological kingdom precisely by means of the liturgy of the Last Supper...”[34]

            In this short essay it is impossible to do justice to the in-depth discussion by Pitre of the Jewish context of the eschatological and Messianic Banquet. After situating this in its rich Jewish context he affirms that this Jewish Messianic Banquet is connected to the Eucharist. He then discusses in detail how Jesus’ teaching and the Eucharist are a prophetic sign of the Messianic Banquet of the coming kingdom. His discussion of the banquet mentioned in Exodus 24, which begins with Moses inaugurating the covenant with Sacrifices and then ascends to a Heavenly Banquet on Mt Sinai, is fascinating. Pitre then connects this to the sacrificial and meal aspects of the Eucharist. While most scholars of the Eucharist noted that Jesus’ expression “blood of the covenant’ is referencing Exodus 24, Pitre states that they fail to note the full context of this phrase “is the liturgical prelude to a heavenly banquet”. While Pitre has done much wonderful work on the Jewish dimension he is limited because he does not come from a lived experience of Judaism and a deeper Jewish mystical understanding of the Biblical text which would enrich this study of the close connection between the Incarnation, the Eucharist and the Eschaton. This is the strength of Soloviev’s understanding in that he draws from this fuller Jewish understanding even though he is not a Jew himself.[35]

            Another Australian theologian who has been influenced by Anthony Kelly is Glenn Morrison a Catholic of Jewish background. He is making a unique contribution to Christian theology by his connecting the ideas of Von Balthasar with those of Emmanuel Levinas a modern Jewish philosopher. In his article “Renewing Christian Theology with Levinas” he firstly examines Von Balthasar’s “theology of the eucharist and of eschatological existence”. Morrison while appreciating the rich contribution of von Balthasar to Christian theology points out the weakness in von Balthasar’s approach which becomes a form of supercessionism and ultimately leads to a pitting of Judaism against Christianity rather than an encounter that enriches both as perceived by Levinas.[36]

            Levinas’ emphasis on ‘face to face’ encounter and altruism[37] towards the ‘Other’ is a return to a Biblical and Jewish understanding as primary and a moving away from Greek and modern philosophical thought with its primacy on an intellectual knowledge of ‘being’ and the ‘systems of being’, which can become dehumanising and impersonal. Levinas’ thought is not just Jewish in an archaeological manner but everything is perceived through the prism of the great modern Jewish experience of evil in the form of a depersonalised and totalitarian system of destruction called the Shoah (Holocaust) unleashed by Hitler and the Nazis.

            Morrison states that the thought and vocabulary of Levinas can be a ‘valuable resource’ for revitalising Christian theology. Morrison then uses the thought of Levinas as a resource for his understanding of a ‘Trinitarian praxis’ of ethical transcendence, eschatology and eucharistic life.[38] Levinas and Morrison are an antidote to the self centred philosophy of Objectivism proposed by Ayn Rand (1905-1982) (a fellow Jew but from a secular background) which has and is infecting many Catholics in the USA and elsewhere disguised under the name of libertarianism.

             The idea of ethical transcendence in the thought of Levinas and Morrison have its source in the opening chapter of Genesis (Bereshit) in which the concept of ‘face to face’ encounter is first alluded to and linked to “it was very good”. This primordial and immemorial encounter of the face upon the deep (the Messiah in Eternity) encountering the face upon the waters (the celestial Mother) is revealed as a conceptual light (“and there was light”) coming from its source in the Infinite light.  For Christian theology this is the mystery of the Incarnation in Eternity. This was also understood by Soloviev and some of the Franciscan scholars who drew on the Biblical and Jewish sources. Morrison unknowingly mirrors the Trinitarian understandings of the Eastern philosopher Soloviev while  himself drawing from Western and Jewish philosophy and theology for his understanding of ‘Trinitarian praxis’.

            An examination of eschatology and its connection with the Eucharistic Mystery using the Jewish roots to understand the development of these ideas in both the Eastern and Western Churches leads one to the Mystery of the Incarnation in Eternity. A further examination of these resources will open an exciting era in theological and philosophical reflection and ‘Eucharistic imaginings’. Rather than pitting one theologian against the other, or indeed Judaism and Christianity against one another, in a combatant manner, we can encounter each theologian and faith tradition and ‘behold’ the good (hinei mah tov) of each one in the ever upward journey to the Kingdom as brothers and sisters metaphorically embracing one another in the messianic (eschatological), mystical (incarnational) and Eucharistic (face to face encounter in the present or now) unity.  In one sense, this ‘Trinitarian praxis’ is also ‘Trinitarian gift’ to ‘Others’. The messianic and eschatological is the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son for others, the mystical and incarnational is the gift of the Father of his Son in the Holy Spirit for others, and the Eucharist is the gift of the Son of himself through the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of the Father for others. These ‘Others’ in the fullness of time will be divinised (become God or Other like) as a part of the fullness of God’s kingdom of love.



[1] Flannery, Austin (ed) Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents Philippines: Daughters of St Paul, 1984.
[2] The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Fiji: CEPAC,1994.
[3] Judith Deutsch Kornblatt, Doubly Chosen: Jewish Identity, the Soviet Intelligentsia and the Russian Orthodox Church USA: Uni.of Wiscousin,2004.
[4]  Lev Gillet, Communion in the Messiah: Studies in the Relationship between Judaism and Christianity (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1942),107.
[5] ibid, 115.
[6] ibid, 117.
[7] John Panteleimon Manoussakis, “The Anarchic Principle of Christian Eschatology in the Eucharistic Tradition of the Eastern Church” in Harvard Theological Review Volume 100 , Issue 1 (January 2007), 29.
[8] ibid, 33.
[9] ibid, 33-34
[10] Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, The Bahir (Boston:Weiser Books, 1979), 40.
[11] John Panteleimon Manoussakis, “The Anarchic Principle of Christian Eschatology in the Eucharistic Tradition of the Eastern Church”, 35.
[12] Hebrews 1:2.
[13] John Panteleimon Manoussakis, “The Anarchic Principle of Christian Eschatology in the Eucharistic Tradition of the Eastern Church”, 34.
[14] On the Jewish Sabbath the Shekhinah as Sabbath Bride and Queen arrives from Eternity to give every Jew a taste of that eschatological world that is coming.
[15] John Panteleimon Manoussakis, “The Anarchic Principle of Christian Eschatology in the Eucharistic Tradition of the Eastern Church”, 34.
[16] Apocalypse 1:17-18.
[17] Apocalypse 1: 4.
[18] Nosson Sherman (ed). The Complete Artscroll Siddur  New York: Mesorah Publications, 1985.
[19] Kornblatt, Judith Deutsch.  Divine Sophia: The Wisdom writings of Vladimir Solovyov  (New York; Cornell University Press, 2009) 204.
[20] ibid, 209.
[21] Cardinal Raymond Burke, Divine Love Made Flesh: The Holy Eucharist as the Sacrament of Charity (Catholic Action for Faith and Family, San Diego, 2012),105.

[22] Sacramentum Caritatis quote in Cardinal Raymond Burke, Divine Love Made Flesh, 105.
[23] Cardinal Raymond Burke, Divine Love Made Flesh: The Holy Eucharist as the Sacrament of Charity, 106.
[24] ibid, 107.
[25] ibid.
[26] ibid.
[27] Dermot A Lane, “The Eucharist as Sacrament of the Eschaton” The Furrow Vol. 47, No. 9 (September 1996), 467.
[28] ibid, 467.
[29] ibid, 468.
[30] Anthony Kelly, Eschatology and Hope (Orbis Books ; Maryknoll, New York, 2006), 182.
[31] ibid, 187.
[32] Ibid, 189.
[33] Brant Pitre, Jesus and Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper USA: Doubleday, 2011.
[34] Brant Pitre, “Jesus, the Messianic Banquet and the Kingdom of God” in Letters and Spirit  Volume 5 (2009), 143.

[35] However it is possible that his maternal Ukrainian-Polish ancestors were Frankist Jews (Jews who had become Catholics).
[36] Glenn Morrison, “Renewing Christian Theology with Levinas” Editor Roger Burggraeve The Awakening to the Other: A Provactive Dialogue with Emmanuel Levinas (MA: Peeters-Leuven- Dudley, 2008), 141-2.
[37] Called ‘Alterity’ by Levinas and Morrison
[38] Glenn Morrison, “Renewing Christian Theology with Levinas” Editor Roger Burggraeve The Awakening to the Other: A Provactive Dialogue with Emmanuel Levinas, 143.

Bibliography
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Flannery, Austin (ed) Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents Philippines: Daughters of St Paul,1984.
Gillet, Lev. Communion in the Messiah: Studies in the Relationship between Judaism and Christianity Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1942.
Kaplan, Aryeh (Rabbi) The Bahir  Boston:Weiser Books, 1979.
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Sherman, Nosson (ed). The Complete Artscroll Siddur  New York: Mesorah Publications, 1985.