A way forward: the convergence of Tradition, sensus fidelium, and relevant translation

In previous posts we have examined several iterations of the Eucharistic performance within the framework of a postmodern understanding of the inherent instability of the text.  Now we turn to a final criticism often raised in opposition to innovations within the spiritual life of the church.

Conservatives often claim that if we open the door to women or laity to perform roles traditionally reserved for the male clergy, we risk descent down the proverbial slippery slope.  What would prevent the institution from degrading into a situation where anything goes?

As we've seen from the Orthodox argument for tradition, the primary task of the faithful is to discern what is essential and what may change.[1] The sensus fidelium of the Catholic faith also moves in this direction.  Finally, Derrida himself echoes these sentiments, suggesting that a translation is not rendered for one's personal use, but to be legitimated through use by a mass audience.[2] But how do we reconcile this with Marion's argument?

In his formulation of the Eucharistic site of theology, Marion suggests that the community

"interprets the [biblical] text in view of its referent [the death and resurrection of Christ] only to the strict degree that it lets itself be called together and assimilated, hence converted and interpreted by the Word, sacramentally and therefore actually acting in the community."[3]

The key to the Eucharistic hermeneutic then is not the bishop or any other mediator, but rather the measure by which the community is transformed to bear the image of Christ.  Such transformation occurs by allowing ourselves to be reshaped by the living Word that meets us in the Eucharistic hermeneutic.

By traversing the gap between the text (signs) to the referent, "the unspeakable Word saturates each of the signs of its text with the absolute: the absolute of the referent reflects, so to speak, on the most trivial of signs—each of which takes on a spiritual meaning."[4]

Marion explains that as a saturated phenomenon, the Eucharist allows biblical texts to escape authorial intention, imbuing them with new meanings that our overwhelmed perception may not immediately grasp.  Such a vision harmonizes with Derrida's concept of alterity in iterability, opening space for the Word to speak through Eucharistic performances in ways unheard of in the Roman Catholic context.

Indeed, without explicitly mentioning a context outside of Catholicism, Marion lays out a vision of the consequences of the inbreaking of the living Word:

In order to give an (infinite) hermeneutic of the (finite) text in view of the (infinite) Word, an infinity of situations are mobilized from the point of view of the Word, hence an infinity of Eucharists, celebrated by an infinity of different communities, each of which leads a fragment of the words back to the Word, to the exact degree that each one repeats and welcomes eucharistically the Word in person.[5]

Surely within the infinity of Eucharists celebrated by an infinity of communities there is room for the Word to speak not only the male bishop, but also any other believer who presents him- or herself to be spoken by the divine Logos.

In these infinite iterations that destabilize the most hardened of human traditions we find echoes of Derrida's "Yes!  Yes!" spoken in the unfolding of what is to come, and a "Viens!" that closely matches the early church's cry, "Maranatha!  Even so, Lord Jesus, come!"[6]


[1] Examples of change within the Eastern church of acceptable changes include the withdraw of endorsement (either openly or tacitly) for serfdom, the divine right of kings, and anti-Semitism.

[2] Derrida, "What Is a 'Relevant' Translation?," 183.

[3] Marion, God Without Being: 152.

[4] Ibid., 156.

[5] Ibid., 157.

[6] 1 Corinthians 16.22, Revelation 22.20

1 comment for “A way forward: the convergence of Tradition, sensus fidelium, and relevant translation

  1. Joel Watson
    July 7, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Thank you. I am presently reading for the fourth first-time Marion's "God Without Being." Your essays have been quite interesting and helpful. You are so far the first person I have come in contact with who has read the book. Thank you. Joel Watson

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