Reflections on the Anomaly of Christ: Maundy Thursday

In God without Being, Jean-Luc Marion attempts to rescue the discussion on God from the onto-theo-logical criticism introduced by Martin Heidegger. His claim was that starting from Aquinas to the moderns “God” (with quotation marks) has been understood solely within the confines of metaphysics either as a concrete object for it (as in Suarez) or a logical necessity for the existence of things or the end of all things, ensuring that all things as such are the best in all possible world (as in Descrates and Leibniz). With the diagnosis of Nietzsche, we are led to the end of the line i.e. the exhaustion of onto-theo-logy; its explanatory powers reaching its apex and slow and inevitable disintegration. Marion in crossing out God (God) aimed to bridge all the current theorizations and conceptualizations by placing God outside the operations of metaphysics; God is essentially outside being and even if he enters within the horizon of being, he enters it in anomaly, transgressing out ontological order. To Marion, this is God after metaphysics, a rebellion towards the institutionalized metaphysics and whose entrance within our space is itself an act of transgression against us. In this way, our understanding of God within the confines of out symbolic interface (to use Lacan’s terms) possesses the characteristic of a traumatic experience. Post-metaphysics, God is understood as a sudden jolt in our present state of affairs; when Job’s life was disturbed, it was a play between a devil—acting as a jokester—and God, expressing his indifference to Job’s faithfulness. His refusal to offer a proper hermeneutics of suffering disturbs and transgresses the rational order of things i.e. the normal assignment of signifiers to signified objects. God is the pure signifier par excellence since in the establishment of his indifference to being is also his indifference to the signification processes, going beyond our experiences and transgressing our desire. The attempt at putting God within the confines of metaphysics corresponds to the innate desire to onto-theo-logize our desire so that we can normalize and ascribe a metaphysical value to objects. Was Marx already arriving at this point when he described values of commodity i.e. they are not as such but are imbued with value in relation to something that which is not in the object but beyond it? In this case, is not onto-theo-logy viewed from outside metaphysics a form of commoditisation? If there is such a thing post-theology, how would it be constituted and how does it affect our present predicament? The refusal to enter into a theologizing is the characteristic of non-denominational religions (Christians who claim Christianity without religion) and as an alternative turn Christianity (and all of its rites) into a form of “metaphysics” (in quotation marks to distinguish it from a philosophical understanding of metaphysics, understood here as the current trend in life-coaching in which “metaphysics” is understood along with astrology and palmistry, in a nutshell it is a “new age” “metaphysics”), a form of therapy like Western Buddhism. The rise of people like Joel Osteen, the smiling pastor and the figure of a “Happy Meal Christianity” is part of a process in which upon the denial to theologize (i.e. to confront us with the real of religious experience) removes us from the very experience of Christianity itself. By turning Christ into the primeval life-coach, we lose the very essence of Christ in its proper transgressive nature. Along with Arianism (a rational denial of transgression and a philosophical commoditisation of Christianity), non-denominationalism are two forms of commoditised religions to fit the symbolic interface of our experience. It snugly fits into a comfortable space in which I can tolerate it, a pseudo-event for those who ecstatically accepted their being “born again.” From its transgressive nature, the experience of the Eucharist occupies a previlaged spot in our reflection. The philosophical (and theological) explanations offered by the standard Catholic and Protestant theologian attempts to create a rational explanation while at the same time maintain its being transgressive. However, the denial to accept transubstantiation for an easily comprehensible theology of symbolism of the species, fails to capture the anomalous character of the Eucharist. It expresses the desire to conceptualize and reduce the encounter with the real in the Eucharist that can be accepted easily by believers without a corresponding duty attached to it. The assassination of Bishop Oscar Romero during the Eucharistic celebration demonstrates the two-pronged paths upon which we are in the face of the real of the Eucharist. One, the blood of the saintly bishop, shed on the fateful day of 24th of March 1980, transports us back to the moment of Christ’s ministry of confrontation and indifference to social divisions of his time. The mandatum of Christ during the last supper expresses the universality that Paul describes in the letter to the Galatians. The struggle of the El Salvadoreans and all struggles for that matter are included into that one universal struggle. The call to break bread and wash the feet of others is the universal gesture of transgression upon which the dialectic of master and slave is reversed. The master serves his slave (the bishop dying for the people) inducts us to the Eucharist’s demand. Second, given that the Eucharist has a demand, its acceptance is not a mere personal acceptance of Jesus as “my personal Lord and saviour,” it is solidarity with those who struggle and calls those who accept to work towards the criticism of the system that makes poverty and exploitation possible that affect both our spiritual and material state. The Eucharist is the transgression of a spirituality and materialism. It pushes the limits of Aristotelian categories just to maintain comprehensibility. Its mystery is its anomaly, it materialism expanded into the universal acceptance of the species and the corresponding solidarity with those who accept it. The Eucharist as food necessarily diminishes and is transformed to an expression of duty as manifested in the character of Christ. In this context, upon the acceptance of the species everyone becomes an alter Christi. I think this is genuine fundamentalism, when the boundaries of being and rationality are violated and become the necessary foundation of a universal expression of struggle. This social dimension upon which we accept the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday is an expression of the emancipatory political expression against institutionalized systems of exploitation.

Reflections on the Anomaly of Christ: Maundy Thursday

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