Eucharist Deconstruction and Reconstruction
The major task for philosophy and theology in the Postmodern period is the deconstruction of Christian sacramental theology and liturgical language and practice. Catholic sacramental theology is based on a Traditional Western Metaphysics that no longer is acceptable in a Postmodern world that has rejected this Greek metaphysics. It presents a need for Episcopalians to deconstruct a Eucharistic theology and liturgical practice based on a Catholic metaphysics.
Fundamentally, the issue is that Traditional Western Metaphysics is based on the foundation of Greek philosophy i.e. Plato and Aristotle. This foundation that no longer stands after the deconstruction of Western metaphysics since the introduction of Husserl and Heidegger's phenomenology.
The historian and philosopher Jan Potacka in Body, Language, World describes the issue in the age when Western metaphysics has been replaced by philosophical and theological phenomenology,"Aristotle's philosophy is a philosophy of the third person, that is, though the personal is not wholly absent, is not thematized, it remains concealed. The third person belongs in principle together with the second person, that is, a philosophy starting out with the world in the third person...Aristotle describes the world as a living being in the third person." Plato and Aristotle are Greek philosophers who are interested in a world of substance. From this foundation of a third person and substance view of the world, even when they arrive at the nature of existence it is as "nous." Man is fundamentally nous (spirit). They never truly consider the bodily "I" in its human situation.
We now come to know existence in terms of phenomenology of Dasein which is defined as that being which has itself as an issue. Dasein is what we arrive at when we ask the question: what is it that we most truly are? What are we? We are most authentically a being asking who we are as we relate to the world as a whole.
It is Catholic sacramental theology, since the Council of Trent that has grounded its sacramental life on the Aristotlean-Thomistic Greek concept of substance. In the past, it has been a theological position that Anglicans were cautious about, as we read in article XXVIII. Of the Lord,s Supper, " Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ." Unfortunately, Anglicans did not really escape the hold of Substance, as it developed a theology of consubstantiation.
Reformed theology is much better on this issue because it has avoided substance theology with its teaching of the Lord's Supper. It is also avoided in early Celtic worship. The presence of Christ is in the entire celebration of the Lord's Supper. It is not the saying of certain words at a key point in the service where the congregation is given the objective substance of Jesus Christ. The presence of Christ happens as the Spirit vibrates through out the service.
This Episcopal identity, lately taken, of Catholic lite should be re-examined. I am not an academic scholar. I am a Pastor who struggles with the survival of a small and aging parish. As I engage my parish in a gentle process of deconstruction, I hear my parishioners and most Episcopal clergy make statements like, "We have 'the Eucharist.' We have a true objective presence. We are founded on sacramental substance. We are not entertaining. Yes, our liturgy is static, overly wordy, hard to grasp, but it is a wonderful pageant of substance. Its is boring, but it is the real presence."
What happens if we decide to deconstruct our Eucharistic sacramental theology and are liturgical substance based liturgy? I suggest that we begin to reconstruct our theology in terms of the Lord's Supper. We reconstruct presence based on worship as a place of feeling the Spirit and coming to a deeper sense of Christ presence as personal discovery of self and others in the Lord's Supper.
Here is an interesting final note. I am meeting younger neo evangelical Pastors who are becoming more and more liturgical. It is not a Eucharistic experience; it is a dynamic reconstruction of the Lord's Supper. Well, I suggest that I am hitting the elephant in the room. Episcopalians have fallen into the trap of Traditional Western Metaphysics i.e. our theology and liturgy is all about third person objective substance. How about more Postmodern Reformed Spirit based becoming worship.