The Christian faith stands at an intersection of ritual, belief, history, and reality. In this tension theologians like Metz ask the uncomfortable questions those outside the faith readily ask and those within the faith would rather avoid. In an age of instrumental reason does the mysticism of Christian ritual and prayer have a place? Is the Christian faith more than assent to a list of dogmas? What is the Christian response to the history of human suffering and the present suffering peoples of the world?
Metz and other political theologians answer these questions with a strong critique of the middle class culture coopted by the church and a call to return to the apocalyptic-eschatological viewpoint of Israel and the early Church. Instead of ignoring or comforting away the dirtiness of human suffering and a God who at times seems to be so far away, political theologians call Christians to embrace the question of how long we must wait for God to make all things new. It is within this hope, within this remembering of what has been promised, that Christians can engage with the suffering world. Not only that, but the mystical of liturgy and prayer should not be a tool to ease middle class uncomfortableness, but a catalyst to imitate Christ. The ritual of the Church, when properly formed, moves Christians to kenotic actions of solidarity with and relief to suffering.
Though I agree with the sentiments of Metz et al, I am unclear on exactly how this dialog can be moved from theory to praxis. What steps can we – as practitioners of the liturgy – take to move our middle class parishioners to kenotic action outside of the comfortableness of private spirituality?
Bordeyne, Philippe, and Bruce T. Morrill, eds. Sacraments: Revelation of the Humanity of God: Engaging the Fundamental Theology of Louis-Marie Chauvet. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 2008.
Metz, Johannes Baptist, and James Matthew Ashley. A Passion for God: The Mystical-Political Dimension of Christianity. New York: Paulist Press, 1998.
Morrill, Bruce T. Anamnesis as Dangerous Memory: Political and Liturgical Theology in Dialogue. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 2000.