Sunday, 6 January 2008

'Figuring' oneself into the History of Mankind

Christopher Seitz is interested in how the Church can recover the instincts of figural reading in our own day. He says,
"The loss of figural reading is not the loss of an exegetical technique. It is the loss of location in time under God."
His prayer is that
"Christ's body will be 'figured in' to his glorious body and that the scriptures would illumine him in his threefold mystery and give the church a place in time again."
(2001:viii, italics my own).

A beautiful glimpse of what this could look like is provided by the eucharistic president's speech on behalf of the entire human race in the Alexandrian anaphora of St. Gregory Nazianzen:

"As the lover of man, thou didst create me as a man. Thou hadst no need of my service, though I had need of thy lordship. Of thy mercy thou didst bring me into existence, thou didst establish the heavens above me as a roof, thou didst make the earth firm for me to walk upon: for my sake though didst confine the sea: for my sake thou didst give life to animals in their kinds: thou didst put all things under my feet, not didst thou permit me to lack any of the things of thy love. It is thou who didst fashion me and lay thy hand upon me, thou didst inscribe in me the image of thy power, thou didst endue me with the gift of logos, thou didst open paradise for my delight, thou didst bestow on me the instruction of the knowledge of thyself, thou didst reveal to me the tree of life, didst make known to me the thorn of death. From one tree thou didst debar me that I might not eat of it: I ate it, I rejected thy law, I neglected thy commandment, I brought on myself the sentence of death. Thou, Lord, didst convert my punishment (into salvation) ... Thou who didst ever exist, camest on earth for us who were ignorant, didst enter the Virgin's womb, albeit God who cannot be contained. Thou didst not think it robbery to be equal with God, but thou didst empty thyself and take on thee the form of a servant, didst bless my nature in thyself, didst fulfil thy law for me ... Thou didst go forth like a sheep to the slaughter, didst manifest thy solicitude for me on the cross, didst slay my sin in thy sepulchre, didst take my first fruits up into heaven, didst reveal to me thy second advent wherein thou shalt come to judge the quick and the dead and give to everyone according to his deeds. I offer to Thee, Lord, the symbols of this my free service: my actions are a copy of thy word. It is thou who hast given me this mystic share in thy flesh in the bread and the wine. For in the night in which thou didst give thyself up ... "

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