Typology, Toleration, and the Metaphysics of Hospitality

Typology, Toleration, and the Metaphysics of Hospitality February 23, 2017

In an article on “Liturgy, Art and Politics,” Catherine Pickstock argues that the liturgy holds together universal and particular in a unique way. It does this in part because it “extends the liturgical tension between the ideal and the real to an extreme, and yet still holds the polarities together. Thus, it links the most remote unknowable and unpredictable transcendence with the most immediate and particular sacramental presentation. But it is just this combination which allows the universal and the particular to be brought together, for where the universal is not an immanent and fully grasped principle, but rather the remote and dimly intimated, it becomes possible to allow an unlimited variety in space and time of different intimations of the transcendent truth, even though these intimations are not discontinuous with one another, and must concomitantly be woven together to form a complex tradition.”

For this reason, “Catholicism is at least potentially and ideally tolerant in a much more concrete way than liberalism.” Liturgy facilitates a figural or typological imagination, and thus can be tolerant “because it is more than tolerated, since each difference is a figural repetition of the other differences. Thus we see that Catholicism has characteristically allowed many local rites and variations, and also has sheltered much traditional folk narrative and practice. It has been readily able to reconstrue pre-Christian myths and rituals as figurative anticipations of Christian truth. This may seem like an imperialist gesture, but this figurative reading works also to enrich the sense of Catholicism itself.”

Tales of the “Celtic ideas of cauldrons of inspiration” like the grail “are read eucharistically.” This not only brings Celtic lore within the scope of the church’s worship but also enriches the Christian liturgy itself by disclosing “new dimensions in eucharistic understanding.”

Detached from liturgy, both universalism and localism risk becoming defensive and violent, precisely because there is no transcendent source for either the universal or the particular: “without the priority of transcendent gift over both time and space, both universal difference and local totality, tend also to be absolutised: either the indifferent liberal flux of perpetual change and meaningless novelty, or else the fetishised and idolised locality. Yet either alternative clings to an immanent and unchanging norm, and either alternative implies insurmountable conflict: for a finite norm or site will always be threatened and always require defence, like any possession.”

For liturgical understanding, both are from God. Thus, “the gift from above does not have to be defended, and only this gift gives the community as peace: the integration of time and space, individual with collective, universal with locality.”

This is the liturgico-metaphysical ground for hospitality, for the welcome of strangers. Because the “transcendent is only imperfectly grasped, this arrival cannot occur once and for all, but must be continuously renewed.” Openness to fresh arrivals are “at the heart of the community.” This “openness to the stranger” is “not an uncritical openness, nor a readiness to receive just anyone on the grounds of formalistic rights, but nonetheless an openness.” The temporal mediation of God’s presence means that “the newly arriving individual, or stranger or alien culture, represents the essential mediation of transcendence through time.”

(Pickstock, “Liturgy, Art, and Politics,” Modern Theology 16:2 [2000]: 159-80).

Browse Our Archives

Close Ad