The Sacraments The Word Of God Theology Religion

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Edward Schillebeeckx and Louis-Marie Chauvet both provide penetration and theological discourse on the sacraments. However, their attack and nucleus divinity is rather different. Edward Schillebeeckx ‘s Jesus: the Sacrament of the Encounter of God provides a strong personalist apprehension of the sacraments. Louis-Marie Chauvet, on the other manus, dressed ores on the symbolic order of the sacraments working through theoretical accounts. He calls these theoretical accounts objectivist, subjectivist and the Vatican II theoretical account in his book The Sacraments: The Word of God at the Mercy of the Body. This paper compares their diverse attacks to the sacraments ; foregrounding the specific countries of concentration: establishment, grace, service ( diakonia ) , enigma, Trinity, and usage of the Emmaus narrative, as found in their two books.

Biographical Summary

The Belgian-born theologist, Fr. Edward Cornelis Florentius Alfonsus Schillebeeckx, O.P. ( 1914 – 2009 ) focused on dogmatic divinity, although his doctorial thesis was on the delivering economic system of the sacraments. The original version of his text, Jesus: The Sacrament of the Encounter with God, appeared in 1960 during the early and preparative stages of Vatican II.

Fr. Louis-Marie Chauvet was born in the Vendee part in west cardinal France on January 26, 1942. Ordained in 1966, he is a Gallic Roman Catholic Priest and a professor of sacramental divinity at l’Institut Catholique in Paris, France. His earlier work, Symbol and Sacrament, was published in 1995 and The Sacraments: The Word of God at the Mercy of the Body was published two old ages subsequently, in 1997.

Contrast in Overview

Schillebeeckx ‘s publication that appeared during the early preparatory stages of Vatican II was underscored by his personalist apprehension of the sacraments. His preliminary releases and conceptual theological analyses were really influential in the composing Lumen Gentium. Much of his work topographic points important accent on the people of God. For Schillebeeckx, the sacraments are an intersection of religion and life. He operates out of an apprehension that the human individual is alone and of irreducible value and self-respect. The sacraments fulfill the demand to make and separate the remarkable human gift of brush. In Christ, God became human. We are hence compelled to acknowledge that there is a distinguishable Godhead character about being human. For Schillebeeckx, human existences are basically particular because they are made in the image of God.

In contrast, Chauvet ‘s positions include an accent on causality and symbolic order. Although he expresses his position that grace is received in the sacraments he is careful to avoid a committedness that it is the sacraments that are the cause of grace.

Chauvet does non see human existences apart from linguistic communication nor see them as contriving linguistic communication. He states, “ aˆ¦ one can non be a human being without linguistic communication. ” He equates linguistic communication to a female parent ‘s uterus stating, “ aˆ¦ in relation to the topic, linguistic communication is no longer regarded as an instrument but as a uterus: the topic arises and is maintained within it. ”

For Chauvet there is an order of linguistic communication, which creates the possibility of duologue refering the sacraments. This points to a symbolic order that allows Christians to achieve their individuality. As he states, “ This symbolic uterus, within which each individual is born as Christian through induction, is alone. One becomes a Christian merely by following the ‘mother lingua ‘ of the church. Sacraments are an of import component of this lingua. ” For Chauvet, the sacramental rites are non the direct causality of grace. They are modules that allow entree to God through an act of ritual, which allows the brush. Human existences brush God through the symbolic rites of the Church ( i.e. , the Body of Christ ) through linguistic communication, Bible, rite, and symbolic exchange. As Chauvet provinces,

If symbolic exchange is portion of what allows the immature homo to go and perdure as a topic, it is constituent of the fact of being human ; it is irreducible to a simple ‘experience ‘ from which, by analogy one could near the enigma of communicating between God and humanity. This means that the relation of trusters with God is non merely as in symbolic exchange but is inscribed in this type of exchange that structures the topic. Again the theological takes ‘place ‘ in the anthropological.

In contrast Schillebeeckx positions sacramental symbols rather otherwise. He sees sacramental symbolic action as ecclesial worship. This construct is summarized,

The ecclesial Acts of the Apostless, in which Christ, through his everlastingly existent redemptive act, makes himself here present, are in their human spiritual signifier, exactly this sort of act of ritual symbolism performed by the spiritual community which is the Church. Because they are the Church ‘s activity in worship through symbols, St. Thomas calls the sacraments the insigne ‘s of the Church.

Sacraments are ecclesial symbolic actions ; the Church herself having a seeable bestowment of grace from God. The Church is the organic structure of Christ, giving human love for God through worship, and besides having the organic structure of Christ through the Eucharist. The Church ‘s grace adds nil, but alternatively portions in the comprehensiveness of the grace of Christ. Schillebeeckx identifies the symbolic action of the sacraments as, “ aˆ¦ Acts of the Apostless of Christ in and through his Church. ”

For Schillebeeckx, the substance of a sacrament is in portion an epiclesis, “ aˆ¦ in the signifier of a petition ( in forma deprecativa ) that is to state, a supplication in which we plead with the Father by the power of the Spirit and together with Christ. ” Chauvet agrees. He discourses on the inseparability of Jesus with His church in his peculiar position of the Eucharist. For Chauvet, “ aˆ¦ the Church can non offer Christ-in-sacrament without being itself offered through and in him. ” This impression of the subjective medical history from Chauvet runs parallel to the impression of Christ as the sacrament of brush purported by Schillebeeckx. Schillebeeckx besides views a double component and the 2nd portion is, “ aˆ¦ a unequivocal bestowment ( in forma indicativa ) . ” In comparing, Chauvet ‘s “ 2nd sense ” speaks of, “ Christ-in-sacrament by the church. ”


Schillebeeckx views the sacraments as an office and charism of the Church. He defines them as an “ aˆ¦ functionary act of the Church as redemptional establishment. ” The Church is the venue where grace and salvation become seeable. It is besides the seeable salvaging activity of God in Christ, which allows the Church to be a redemptive establishment. This venue becomes seeable in two ways ; institutionally and through charism in an ; “ aˆ¦ outward manifestation of inward Communion in grace with God. ”

On the other manus, Chauvet does non encompass the hierarchal impression of the establishment of the sacraments. It is for this ground that he rejects the thought of a sacrament as an instrument, a channel or a source. This rejection hinges on the impression that the sacraments appear as representations of the efficaciousness ex opre operate as equated with and as “ a corollary of the ‘power ‘ of the priest. ”

Chauvet does encompass the establishment of the Church as the curate in the name of Christ, when it comes to the disposal of the sacraments. As he writes, “ Christian individuality is non self-administered ; to obtain it, one must have baptism and one does non baptise oneself ; one is baptized by another individual moving as the curate of the church in the name of Christ. ”


From Chauvet ‘s position, grace is freely given. Like the manna in the desert, it is underserved, free of charge, and unable to be quantified or calculated. Grace is non merely the gift given freely by God, but it is besides the return-gift given by the 1 who receives the underserved grace. There must be some degree of gratitude from the receiver. By manner of illustration, Chauvet states, “ aˆ¦ this does non intend that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist depends on the topic ‘s temperament, since it is God who through the Holy Spirit realizes it. ”

What the human topic would return to God is faith and love. However, if one was non disposed to make so, God ‘s gift of grace would disintegrate like the manna in the desert. Chauvet accepts Karl Barth ‘s rejection of “ antique opre operato ” ( i.e. , from the work accomplished ) as a right response. This is an appropriate response by Chauvet merely if Barth ‘s frights are valid and the subjectivist theoretical account, which purports that the sacrament is an instrument for the production and transmittal of grace, effects the negation of the freedom of God in redemption. Barth respects the freedom of God ‘s word in redemption and Chauvet concurs, but asserts that the sacraments are still instruments. A sacrament is either an nonsubjective instrument for the production of grace, or an instrument for the transmittal of grace.

Grace is of import, cardinal, and permeates most of the text throughout Schillebeeckx ‘s discourse. This is demonstrated by the fact that the word grace, appears more than 500 times throughout his book. Schillebeeckx understands grace as an unfailing gift based on the foundation of Christ ‘s love for the Father. He describes how grace works in the sacraments utilizing words such as infallible, ecclesial visibleness, and the brush with God. He states, “ aˆ¦ merely in grace does God ‘s presence in adult male flower Forth into an confidant and life Communion. ”

Grace comes from one go-between, who is Christ! Jesus Himself is the Church and hence Jesus is the seeable realisation of godly grace. Jesus is grace. Because of this, godly grace is tied to the human salvaging Acts of the Apostless of Jesus. Still, “ aˆ¦ the Church is the seeable look of Christ ‘s grace and salvation realized in the signifier of a society, which is a mark ( societas signum ) . ” Schillebeeckx calls sacramental grace, “ aˆ¦ a ‘curative ‘ grace-one which restores us to health-and as such has the extra consequence of really counterbalancing for any deficiency or powerlessness on our portion, so long as our temperament remains unfeignedly spiritual. ” Grace is like a seed. When we submit to the grace of God, this seed can take root. In so making, Christ Himself corrects what is at mistake with us, hence leting us to exceed our ain failing.

Service ( Diakonia )

The impression of service for Schillebeeckx is rooted in Christ ‘s service as the Son of God. This is true, non merely from the point of view of Jesus ‘ life, but besides by His sanctifying forfeit for the redemption of humanity. Human service is restricted to Acts of the Apostless in congratulations of God, through “ aˆ¦ ritual worship of the community. ” This is supported by Avery Cardinal Dulles, who, mentioning to observations by Richard McBrien, agrees “ aˆ¦ that in some of the early presentations, such as Schillebeeckx ‘s Christ the Sacrament of Encounter with God, there is a narrow sacramentalism that agreements deficient topographic point for diakonia ( service ) in the Church ‘s mission to the universe. ”

Service is mentioned 32 times by Schillebeeckx in his book, but non in relation to human diakonia. For Schillebeeckx, service is what the Church does as manifest in the servant theoretical account or change-agent theoretical account of the Church, seen “ aˆ¦ chiefly as an instrument of societal alteration whose undertaking is the wise and brave allotment of its ain moral and material resources for the interest of the Kingdom of God among world ”

Chauvet embraces St. John ‘s theological theoretical account of the moralss of service to others. He specifically mentions how the,

aˆ¦ 4th Gospel deliberately substitutes the lavation of the pess for the establishment of the Eucharist ; it replaces the bid refering the ritual commemoration of the Lord Jesus ( ‘do this in memory of me ‘ ) with a bid refering his memory translated into Acts of the Apostless: ‘I have set you an illustration that you besides should besides make this as [ kathA?s ] I have done to you ( John 13:15 ) . ‘

The impression of diaconal service as a response to the primary gift, which is God ‘s love, is of import to Chauvet. He states, “ In the step in which the ethical life of service to others is lived as a response to this primary gift [ God ‘s love ] , and hence takes its beginning in the sacraments, in that same step it finds its Christian individuality. [ aˆ¦ ] This is why it would be absurd to believe or state that one could be a Christian without the ethical concern for othersaˆ¦ ”


Chauvet believes, “ aˆ¦ the Bible is full with enigmas or sacraments in conformance with the usage of ‘mystery ‘ in the Judaic Hagiographas of the revelatory current replete with indicative marks of God ‘s secret design for the universe. ” On the other manus, he does non claim that he can explicate the enigma of God ‘s communicating with world. He believes that in divinity, “ aˆ¦ no inquiry should be silenced by the alibi of ‘mystery. ‘ ” He turns to the paradigm of Bibles, so to theological discourse and eventually the sacraments. Chauvet provinces, “ Under the paradigm ‘Scriptures ‘ we can sort everything that pertains to the cognition of God ‘s enigma revealed in Jesus Christ. ” Chauvet does acknowledge that enigma is valid in both the incarnate Word, who is Jesus, and through the hypostatic brotherhood. Mystery for Chauvet is chiefly Christological, both in the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery. He purports that it is besides Trinitarian. In add-on he believes that enigma is neither to be used as an alibi to waive theological discourse and probe nor evoked as alibi to stop the quest for understanding the Bibles.

Schillebeeckx surely accepts the Christological centered enigmas every bit good as the Trinitarian enigma. He besides views the seven sacraments as a celebration-in-mystery of the life of Christ. Jesus is both human and Godhead. His human Acts of the Apostless of salvation have temporal significance. Avoiding any docetic inclinations, Schillebeeckx asserts, “ His homo being itself is entirely and wholly a presence of God among us. ” He clearly ties the enigma of the life of Christ to the enigma of the Church in the sacraments. As he states, “ Merely as Christ through his risen organic structure acts invisibly in the universe, he acts visibly in and through his earthly organic structure, the Church, in such a manner that the sacraments are the personal economy Acts of the Apostless of Christ realized as institutional Acts of the Apostless in the Church. ”

Schillebeeckx and Pope Pius XII coincide, as he points out in his contemplation on the encyclical Mystici Corporis. Schillebeeckx besides touts the virtues of Dom Casel ‘s work in this respect. For Casel, Christ is personally present in the sacraments. In the Eucharist, Christ Himself is present through transubstantiation. In the other sacraments nevertheless, His presence is by virtuousness of His act of salvation. For Schillebeeckx, the presence in enigma of the sacraments rests on the personal Acts of the Apostless of Christ.


Schillebeeckx refers to the Trinity a figure of times throughout his book. The Trinity dominates many countries of his sacramentology and is reflected in many of his theological preponderances. As an illustration, there are statements such as, “ aˆ¦ that absolute generousness which the Trinity merely is remains the universally dominant background of the enigma of salvaging worship in Christ. ” It is the antique opre operato where the “ aˆ¦ sacramental world of the enigma of the delivering Trinity in Christ ” is manifest in Passover and Pentecost.

He believes it is impossible to understand and hold on the “ kernel of salvation ” without understanding that salvation is the “ historical disclosure of the enigma of the Trinity. ” For Schillebeeckx, both baptism and verification are necessary in order for induction to be “ aˆ¦ to the full achieved by incorporation into Christ both as Son of the Father and as co-principle of the Spirit. ”

Chauvet, on the other manus, confines his discourse on the Trinity chiefly within one subdivision of his book. He continually separates the sacramental enigma from the Trinitarian enigma. He links Christ and God the Father, through the Paschal Mystery and the Parousia of the Ascension. Chauvet besides creates a clear diagram for the Paschal Mystery of Christ, but he focuses on the sacramental grace within the power of the risen Christ through the Spirit.

In Chauvet ‘s words, “ aˆ¦ we must believe of God as someway human in God ‘s deity, [ which ] leads us back to the cross of Jesus ( relation Father/Son ) and to the Spirit ( without which the relation Father/Son is theologically unthinkable ) ” . Chauvet understands the relationship of Father and Son within the context of anthropology, while the Holy Spirit is drawn from a cosmogonic context as pneuma. In this context, the Spirit transcends all boundaries ( “ blows where it chooses ” ) . Chauvet maintains a polarized position of the sacraments: One is a “ Christological pole [ aˆ¦ ] and the other is a pneumatological pole ” . For Chauvet, it is in the Christological pole that one beholds the “ pole of humanity ” . It is in the pneumatological pole where one discovers the “ aˆ¦interaction of the pole of God. ”

Use of Emmaus

Both Chauvet and Schillebeeckx refer to the route to Emmaus in their texts. For Chauvet, the Emmaus brush, which we find in the Gospel of Luke, provides three degrees of model: the geological, the theological, and the symbolic. It is within the context of the symbolic that the two adherents encounter their transition. It is a “ unit of ammunition trip ” that leads them through their experience of deriving religion and a new vision, which opens their eyes to the risen Christ. It was imperative for them to abandon their ain “ grave of decease ” and understand the primacy of Jesus as the Messiah and non merely a prophesier. Chauvet understands that the eyes of these adherents were non opened at the Eucharistic tabular array during the Last Supper. For these two adherents, it was when they, were able to “ accede to the mediation of the Church ” on the route to Emmaus that their eyes were opened.

Chauvet besides creates a diagram demonstrating that it is inside the circle of the mediation of the Church that redemption can take topographic point. This diagrammatic representation in his book depicts the Church encircling faith, as gained from Bibles and moralss in the human map. In his diagram, Jesus Christ is positioned above the Church to authorise religion by grace through the sacraments. The circle of the Church is non closed ; it is a flecked line, since the universe is wider than the Church.

Schillebeeckx refers to Emmaus as, “ aˆ¦ our concealed route [ aˆ¦ ] on which we are accompanied by our Lord. ” He aligns his thought with St. Ambrose who understood the sacraments as the topographic point where Jesus encounters us face to face. As Schillebeeckx reflects, “ It is the enigma of Christ ‘s sanctification in and through His Church, and is expressed in God ‘s agape, His condescending and generous love in Jesus Christ, in the love of His Church as the bride of Christ, and in adult male who as a truster emerges from himself and transcends his ain restrictions. ”

Schillebeeckx is clear,

With respect to substance, a sacramentally structured evangelization or catechesis nowadayss a Jesus Christ who is non merely an ‘example ‘ but the echt ‘sacrament ‘ of God. To show a Jesus who would be foremost of all an illustration to copy is to swerve toward a way of moralism, a discouraging, even a deceitful way since the illustration to copy is inimitable. Christ must be announced chiefly as the sacrament of God ( and as a effect he is to be “ imitated ” in a manner wholly different from that promoted above ) . As a sacrament, that is to state, as the gratuitous gift of God and, more exactly, as Savior. He is our ferryman to God ‘s shore. We do non hold to urgently run after him to fall in him: he himself comes toward us, as at Emmaus, and takes us in his boat to transport us to the other shore. It is, before all else, this truth that the sacraments are witnessing to us ; a pure gift from God deposited in our custodies ( the organic structure of Christ-Amen ) .


Chauvet believes that the sacraments are ritual symbols. This begins with the apprehension that adult male is a lingual animal. Humanity does non be except in communicating and this communicating is permeated by mark and symbol. Human existences are non organisms from the start, but single individuals, and hence ontogenetically the human being is compelled to be a being in relationship. This personal relationship unfolds from linguistic communication and hence Chauvet posits that sacraments are the linguistic communication and the communicating of God with humanity. Chauvet reaches the operational degree of the sacraments by first understanding the function of linguistic communication as mediation and uterus and this so brings him to the symbolic order. It is merely within the Church that humanity can meet Bibles, sacraments, and moralss. This is done through take parting in sacramental and liturgical rites. The Word of God is genuinely at the clemency of the Body of Christ, who is the Church.

It is logical and natural that Chauvet would reason his book on the sacraments with a discourse for pastoral curates. His challenge is to accept the pastoral undertaking for readying of those seeking baptisms and nuptialss, accept the undertaking of facing those received into the Church with the Gospel and the profession of religion, and avoid falling into rigorism by staying pastorally prudent.

Schillebeeckx candidly admits that all of his attempts to specify the sacraments provide merely a pale lineation. It is in the forfeit of the Mass and in the sacraments where we run into our Lord in His hidden presence making a, “ aˆ¦ hankering that we must turn at one time into Christian action. ”

Reflecting on Schillebeeckx ‘s divinity of the sacraments, Richard McBrien, writer of Catholicism provides a clear sum-up when he states,

Apart from the sacramental rule, there is no footing for contact ( brush ) between God and the human community. God is wholly religious, and we are bodily animals. Therefore, it is merely in so far as God adapts to our material status that God can make us and we can make God. The incarnation of the religious in the stuff and the communicating of the religious through the stuff is the sacramental rule. [ aˆ¦ ] The kernel of the Church, hence, ‘consists in this, that the concluding end of grace achieved by Christ becomes visibly present in the whole Church as a seeable society ‘ . The Church is non merely a agency of redemption ; it is the chief mark, or sacrament, of redemption. It is non merely an establishment but a community. Indeed, it is an institutionalised community. The of import missional deduction is non whether the whole universe enters the Church but whether the Church itself gives believable informant to the presence of Christ and of God within the community.

For Schillebeeckx the sacraments of the Church are how the Church provides the world of Christ to humanity. God unites Himself to humanity in Christ, who is world ‘s undeserved gift and greatest sacrament. Through this integrity we are given the gift of individuality every bit good as the gift of communicating by which God can turn to us. The Church so, as the organic structure of Christ, is and remains as sacrament for humanity. In our corporeal being, we are hence given entree to the institutional sacraments, which are both important, seeable and accessible events every bit good as a agency to our redemption.


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