This week’s installment of the “Take and Read” blog series over at the National Catholic Reporter is an essay I produced in response to the editors’ kind invitation to give an account of one book that “changed my life.”
For me, J. B. Metz’s Faith in History and Society provided the key conceptualization for why the Christian religion struggles in late-modern North Atlantic societies, as well as how in this context to think afresh the relationship between liturgy and ethics, “mysticism and politics.” My account of how I came to study that book, followed by a summary of Metz’s arguments, reaches the following conclusion:
The pattern of Jesus’ life and death, one of service to the oppressed, constitutes the pattern of life that can be salvific for Christians now, a pattern that promises an authentic subjectivity and freedom. Metz thereby recovers the tradition of the imitatio Christi — an imitation dangerous both in the conversion it requires of its practitioners, away from a privatized view of salvation, and in the threat it poses to the conventional (evolutionary) wisdom of society.
This praxis of mysticism and politics, liturgy and ethics, likewise becomes the means for believers to know, in an experiential or practical way, deep joy and hopeful consolation, freedom lived in the presence of God, the God of Israel and Jesus, the God of the living and the dead.
Such is a brief rehearsal of Metz’s fundamental theological project. In his comprehensive book, as well as subsequent essays, he cites the Eucharist as the mystical source of the “remembrance-structure” for a social ethics true to biblical faith and tradition. With the details of the history, theology, and practice of liturgical tradition having remained beyond his purview, Metz has placed me in his debt, orienting the work of my doctoral dissertation and now two decades of sacramental-liturgical scholarship as an ongoing dialogue between political and liturgical theology.
For the full article, see Take and Read: Faith in History and Society.