Playing in Ten Thousand Places
The central proposal of this dissertation is that recovering the sacramentalprinciple and sacramentality—as a deep structure to all of life—is essential to Christian life, and thus to Catholic education for faith. The sacramental worldview takes seriously the material and historical reality of finite creaturely existence as the place of encounter with Holy Mystery. The seeds of an approach to cultivating this worldview lie in the ancient church practice of mystagogy. Chapter One surveys the epistemological and anthropological facets of the modern and postmodern contexts which posit a desacramentalized cosmos. Many find themselves confined to the limit and flatness of an instrumental, rationalistic, and data driven day to day existence within a commodity culture. This engenders a resistance to the depth of a sacramental cosmos undergirded by the love of the Creator. Furthermore, sacramental ritual and communal worship are no longer a primary place of formation or celebration for fewer and fewer people. Chapter Two traces the historical contours of the sacramental principle as a deep structure to Catholic Christian faith in particular, and indeed, to all of reality. This is placed in conversation with Charles Taylor’s philosophical diagnosis of the secular age and the sacramental theology of Louis-Marie Chauvet. It is into a “world already spoken” by the Logos that the symbolic order acts as a set of building blocks to construct our reality and is therefore the way in which we experience God’s self-communication in God’s transcendence. Chapter Three explores the anthropology and epistemological category of experience in the work of Karl Rahner. Rahner helps us to understand that experience is a necessary epistemological category—constitutive of human knowing. Second, experience is existentiell, meaning that all experience is active and lived, grounded in freedom. Chapter Four maintains that mystagogy was an essential interpretive frame of reference for discerning Christian mystery in the ancient church. The exploration of origins leads to a four-movement model—recollection, recognition, reorientation, and relation—that emerges as a constitutive pattern in early mystagogy. Chapter Five is constructive employing the work of John Dewey, Maxine Greene, Paulo Freire, bell hooks, and Thomas Groome who emphasize the importance the epistemological category of experience in education. Moreover, the four-movement pattern mentioned above is discernible in the spectacular resurrection narrative of the Road to Emmaus and a model for education in faith, prefigured by Jesus’ earthly pedagogy. Consequently, I propose a more extended, broader sense of a mystagogical approach for contemporary praxis to enable the reclamation of an essential sacramental imagination for our time. The telos of these four movements of mystagogy is to enable an anagnorisis—a re-cognition and response to the presence of Holy Mystery within everyday experience. Finally, Chapter Six engages the implications of the foregoing. Mystagogy is an indexical praxis which invites us to be life-long apprentices to becoming alert to God’s hidden presence in our lived experience. It is the rehearsal of a disposition that understands reality as saturated by grace, and learning to accept it as both gift and obligation.