Eucharist as the Gift of Political Language
Smith, Jason Michael
This dissertation examines the divergent theological visions of the Eucharist found in the works of Louis-Marie Chauvet and John Milbank. In particular, this dissertation examines the ways in which both thinkers utilize the ontological scandal of the Eucharist—whether understood as “transubstantiation” or otherwise—in order to explicate the political scandal of the Eucharist as that which provides the ultimate ethical norm for the Church’s public life. Both Chauvet and Milbank, despite their differences, adumbrate the ontological and political scandal of the Eucharist through strong engagement with postmodern theories of gift and language. Yet, both thinkers eschew the concepts of negative theology or Christian apophaticism. I argue that this aversion to the apophatic weakens their theologies of the Eucharist and their subsequent political theologies. I conclude by arguing for a conception of the Eucharist as the gift of political language. This constructive contribution charts a middle way between the opposing views of Chauvet and Milbank by insisting that apophasis must explicitly shape fundamental theologies of sacramentality. Understanding the Eucharist as the gift of political language, I argue, leads to a new way of understanding the ontological and political scandal of the Eucharist.