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.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Two Dullesian Models of the Church: A Hebrew Catholic Opinion




Cardinal Avery Dulles in his writings proposed six models of the Church which ecclesiologists such as McBrien have also discussed in their writings especially in the light of the theological and pastoral developments in and after Vatican II.[1] The two models of Dulles I have chosen to discuss are the Church as Mystery or Sacrament and the Church as Echastological Community.


Vatican II taught that the Church is the Universal Sacrament of Salvation because she is the Mystical Body of the Messiah.[2] Lumen Gentium taught that the Church is "a sacrament or instrumental sign of intimate union with God, and of unity of the whole human race".[3] McBrien perceives that this new way of looking at the Church as a Sacrament is in opposition to the older pre-Vatican II focus on the institutional and structural aspects of the Church.[4] John Thornhill also writes of the importance of understanding the intrinsic link between the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ as the Universal Sacrament of Salvation rather than a judicial and administrative organisation.[5] Joseph A. Komonchak understands these models as an important aspect of the Catholicity of the Church connected with the terms “diversity in unity” and “fullness of unity”.[6]


Thornhill refers to Christ as the Primordial Sacrament.[7] In a sense the Church is the primordial Sacrament or Mystery which is beyond time as a sign and primordial concept. In the Eastern Church the term sacrament is mysterion (mystery) which broadens our understanding of the more judicial understanding of the term sacrament in the Western Church. However it is important we don’t confuse our terminology as the Church as sacrament is a sign with symbolic significances or iconic images and not a symbol that is a sign as proposed by some.[8] This is of course rooted in the Jewish understanding of the primordial concept of the Messiah and Israel as the Kneset Yisrael (Gathering or community of Israel) being before the foundation of the world in the mind of God and hidden in the Jewish mystical interpretation of Genesis 1.


At the other end of history is the Eschatological coming of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. Thus the Church seen as an eschatological community is one that is focused at the kingdom that is coming.[9]  Manoussakis states that the Eschaton is the Incarnation and that the Eschaton as Incarnation is present in the Eucharistic Mystery as taught by Hans Urs Von Balthasar who taught that “... The Incarnation is the eschaton and as such, is unsurpassable.”[10] Manoussakis while presenting some interesting insights has a limited understanding of the Mystery of the Incarnation which is not only the event in time but its concept and reality in Eternity. According to him Christian eschatology is found between two nodes- one the ‘already’ of the Incarnation and the ‘not-yet’ of the Parousia.[11] However the Eschaton is only present in the Eucharist and the Incarnation as promise and sign not completion or reality. An over emphasis on eschatology can miss the importance of the primordial. The Messiah is not just the the last or final Word of God but also the first word.[12] It is a Trinitarian nodal solution that is needed of - who was, who is and who will be. [13]


The model of the Church as Mystery or Sacrament may tend towards an almost Gnostic mysticism cut off from the roots of the earthly and practical if not balanced by the model of the Church as an Eschatological Community that is focused on working towards the Kingdom of God. However an overemphasis on a eschatological focus could lead to an almost Pellagian concept of achieving the kingdom purely through man’s own work rather than it being a divine endeavour of grace and faith manifesting in works that leads us to the Kingdom.


However limiting our concept of the Church to only one model or even two does not express fully what the Church’s identity and mission involves. Even using the six models proposed by Dulles does not give a full idea of the Church. I think an understanding of the Church is more effectively envisioned by a more Biblical, Jewish and iconic approach to understanding the Church. Rather than speaking of a model of the Church as Sacrament or Mystery or Eschaton etc we would speak of the Biblical verbal or literary icons that reveal the Church as mystery or sacrament or Eschaton etc.[14] [15] However these icons are only one face of the multi-faceted and multi-dimensional diamond or crystal palace that is the Church.[16]


Bibliography
Dulles, Avery. Models of Church, Expanded ed. New York: Image Books, 1974/ 1987.

Komkov, Oleg. "The Vertical Form: Iconological Dimension in 20th Century Russian Religious Aesthetics and Literary Criticism." Literature and Theology 20.1 (2006): 7-19.

Komonchak, Joseph A “Many Models, One Church”, Church Spring 1993.


Lepakhin, Valerii. "Basic Types of Correlation between Text and Icon, between Verbal and Visual Icons." Literature and Theology 20.1 (2006): 20-30.

Manoussakis, John Panteleimon. "The Anarchic Principle of Christian Eschatology in the Eucharistic Tradition of the Eastern Church." Harvard Theological Review 100.1 (2007): 29-46.

McBrien, Richard P. The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism. New York: HarperCollins, 2008.

Thornhill, John.  Sign and Promise: A Theology of the Church for a Changing World Australia: Harpers Collins, 1988).

Vatican II Council. Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution of the Church. Accessed from, http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

Worgul, George W. From Magic to Metaphor: A Validation of Christian Sacraments USA, Paulist Press, 1980.




[1] Avery Dulles, Models of Church, Expanded ed. (New York: Image Books, 1974/ 1987), 197-210.
[2] Lumen Gentium 48
[3] Lumen Gentium 1
[4] Richard P McBrien, The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism. (New York: HarperCollins, 2008) 165.
[5] John Thornhill,  Sign and Promise: A Theology of the Church for a Changing World (Australia: Harpers Collins, 1988) 67-68.
[6] Joseph A Komonchak, “Many Models, One Church”, Church (Spring 1993), 201-204.
[7] Thornhill,  Sign and Promise: A Theology of the Church for a Changing World, 67-68.
[8] George A Worgul, From Magic to Metaphor: A Validation of Christian Sacraments (USA, Paulist Press, 1980), 123.
[9] McBrien, The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism, 180-181.
[10] John Panteleimon Manoussakis, “The Anarchic Principle of Christian Eschatology in the Eucharistic Tradition of the Eastern Church” (Harvard Theological Review 100.1 [2007]), 35.
[11] Manoussakis, “The Anarchic Principle of Christian Eschatology in the Eucharistic Tradition of the Eastern Church”, 34.
[12] Hebrews 1:2-3
[13] Apocalypse 1:4
[14] Valerii Lepakhin, "Basic Types of Correlation between Text and Icon, between Verbal and Visual Icons." Literature and Theology 20, no. 1 (2006): 20.
[15] Oleg Komkov, "The Vertical Form: Iconological Dimension in 20th Century Russian Religious Aesthetics and Literary Criticism." Literature and Theology 20, no. 1 (2006), 8-9.
[16] This idea I got from the Jewish understanding of the seventy faces of Torah as a mystical diamond or crystal and St Teresa’s concept of the spiritual life as Interior Castle and mystical diamond or crystal as well as from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s tale of the Crystal castle or palace on the mountain of gold where the lost princess is kept.

No comments: