Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Remembering the Future

Not much was said about it during the discussion of Rik's paper this morning, but I thought it worth underlining the fact that most Christians commemorate a future event, namely the parousia. In the anaphora or eucharistic prayer of the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, the priest prays, "Remembering, therefore, this saving commandment, and all that was done for us: the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting at the right hand, and the second and glorious coming."

This eschatological feature of Orthodox theology that we saw in Schmemann is the subject of a forthcoming book by Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, Remembering the Future: An Eschatological Ontology. I thought you might find the following quote on ecclesiology suggestive, taken from Metropolitan John's Lectures in Christian Dogmatics.

"Saint Maximus the Confessor .... [integrates] the cosmological approach, which refers creation to its origins, into the eschatological approach, which looks forward to the future kingdom of God. Maximus took the cosmology of Origen and made it eschatological, transferring its reference from the beginning to the end, so dethroning Plato. He turns us around from the past to the future so that the eschatological community became the centre of ecclesiology again. When cosmology is reconciled with eschatology, we get the eschatological community in the divine Eucharist and the body of the Church. This single eschatological community incorporates the logos of beings, the world, as realities that come to us from the future. The events of he end which the Church portrays are not about this people only, but about creation as a whole. Just as each Christian represents in his own body the gathering and redemption of material creation, so the whole Church is the assembling of all creation in Christ, who is himself the final truth of all things. This ecclesiology gives us an account of mankind in which the new Adam recapitualtes all things, and so it overcomes the dichotomy of individual and eucharistic ecclesiologies" [p. 131].

1 comment:

  1. This seems right but I think it means that we have to be careful how we understand remembering. Taking this literally, we can't understand it as "event memory," where the blank in "x remembers____" is followed by a noun phrase designating an event. Remembering in this sense entails I think (1) x's being present for the event and in some way "witnessing" it and (2) x's witnessing of the event causing x's having the memory.

    So if it's event memory, we can't remember the second coming because it can't be a cause of any current event but we can't remember the crucifixion either because we weren't back there then. So remembering in the requisite sense must be propositional memory, were "x remembers____" is followed by a that clause. We remember that Jesus was crucified. Presumably we can also remember that future events will occur: I remember that my flight will leave on July 10, that Fall convocation will be September 4, that Christ will come again.

    Is this good enough? It seems not to capture the idea that there are "realities that come to us from the future" which, if taken literally, does seem to suggest some sort of backwards causation.