Nearly thirty years since its original publication in France (June 1987) and twenty years after its English translation (December 1994), Louis-Marie Chauvet’s Symbole et Sacrement has just been released in German (Symbol und Sakrament, Pustet-Verlag, January 2015). That such a new translation would appear after so many years seems notable and, one would surmise, a testament to the originality of the work. Indeed, Cardinal Karl Lehman, at a launch of the book this weekend sponsored by the Chair of Liturgical Studies at the University of Wuerzburg, extolled the originality of the now retired French theologian’s integration of philosophical and social-scientific theories in situating the sacraments within the entire scope of theology and grounding their place and practice in people’s entire lives, body and soul.
Chauvet’s magnum opus has no doubt exercised a singular and immense influence on sacramental-liturgical theology while, nonetheless, drawing a range of criticisms, adjustments, counter-proposals, and suggestions for furthering the hermeneutical approach he so thoroughly argued (see, for example, the essays by several of the European authors in the Festschrift I co-edited with Philippe Bordeyne in 2008). Myself, I am gratefully indebted to Chauvet for his sacramental-theological system, both for my own writing but also in my instructional work with divinity and grad students. Especially helpful, I’ve found, is his method (drawing on Heidegger’s anthropology) for establishing and exploring the interrelationship of word, sacrament, and ethics in the life of the church and in its members. The anti-clerical undertone and implications throughout his work is, in my opinion, another laudable dimension.
Would others like to comment on their own use and/or estimation of Chauvet’s “Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence”?