God's Gracious and Scandalous Gift of Desire
Traditionally, Church teaching has examined the Eucharist in metaphysical terms (‘what is it?’: substance, presence, and causality) and its liturgical celebration as a sacrifice (a re-presentation of Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross). Prompted by Vatican II’s exhortation to the faithful for ‘full, conscious, active participation’ in the liturgy (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 14, 27, 30), this dissertation re-interprets the Eucharistic liturgy and participants’ role in it through the root metaphor of gift: a gift of desire, which impacts participants’ desires, relationships, and selfhood. It proposes a ‘relational approach’ to the Eucharist by asking: What is going on ‘relationally’ in the Eucharistic celebration? How might the Eucharist impact our desire, relations, identity? How does or ought the liturgy of the Eucharist concern relationships between the participants and others? What specifically does the Church celebrate in its liturgy of the Eucharist? Louis-Marie Chauvet’s ‘symbolic exchange’ model of the Eucharistic Prayer, when put in conversation with both Jean-Luc Marion’s phenomenology of gift and René Girard’s mimetic theory, yields an understanding of the Eucharist as God’s gracious and scandalous gift of divine desire. The gift is gracious as an embodied expression of divine love, and also scandalous as it challenges recipients’ autonomy with a radical call to charity demanding an existential response. This dissertation upholds Christ’s self-gift as the ultimate decision to love in a perfect reversal of sacrificial violence, which Christians are called to imitate. It emphasizes the liturgy’s structure as a dynamic event of being encountered by God’s gift of himself and reception of this gift through particular responses. This understanding aims to re-appropriate traditional Catholic teaching on the Eucharist in more contemporary terms. It aims to explain how ‘fully conscious and active participation’ in the sacred mysteries occurs, that liturgy and life may be more richly interrelated.