Time to breathe life into a semi-regular feature of this blog. It really depends on what I’m reading in any given week and whether I remember that it’s Friday.
John Milbank is a contemporary British theologian, sometimes associated with a school of thought known as Radical Orthodoxy. He’s a difficult thinker to engage, since his project is a prolonged engagement with modernity and philosophy that demands a lot of the reader. However, in this paragraph, from the Preface to the Second Edition of his book Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (Blackwell Publishing, 1990, 2006) he offers a helpful comment on how the church, understood broadly, and its worship and liturgy can only be understood in terms of the economy of the Trinity.
“So in the Incarnation, God as God was able perfectly to fulfil the worship of God which is nevertheless, as worship, only possible for the creature. This descent is repeated and perpetuated in the eucharist which gives rise to the ecclesia, that always ‘other-governed’ rather than autonomous human community, which yet is the beginning of universal community as such, since it is nothing other than the lived project of universal reconciliation. Not reducible to its institutional failures and yet not to be seen as a utopia either, since the reality of reconciliation, of restored unity-in-disparity, must presuppose itself if it is to be realizable (always in some very small degree) in time and so must be always already begun. The Incarnation was the ‘impossible’ arrival of that always-already and for that reason involved the coincidence of a finite personality with an infinite hypostasis. The concrete social realization of the always-already must run, as Rowan Williams frequently emphasizes, only through and despite the mess of constant institutional wranglings and renegotiations, as well as inter-personal tribulations (since we must not forget that ‘Church’ may most be there when two or three idly or perplexedly wander beside a river). Although ontologically non-reactive, it is always temporally present despite temporal false deprivations.”