Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Semiotics and Daniel Hardy's Eucharistic Theology

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Semiotics and Daniel Hardy's Eucharistic Theology

Article excerpt

The eucharist, without doubt, was important in Daniel Hardys ecclesiology. In Wording a Radiance he describes the eucharist as "the defining measure of the church." According to Hardy, the eucharist is the "practical activity which founds church society" and the means through which "Christians share in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ." This sacrament is, therefore, the reenactment and recalling of the "pure primal event by which righteousness was constituted in Jesus' time."* 1

Hardy contends that by attending to the strictly local context of the performance of the eucharist one can discern the manner in which it contributes to the formation and renewal of any given community, by presenting them "with themes and counter-themes of human existence, and stimulat[ingl them to a new course of social life-a new enactment of meaning that approximates to goodness in their place."2 This is because in the eucharist many different people come together, called together by the goodness of God's revelation, seeking to discern the manner in which their life together can be renewed and shaped by God's purposes-that is, the "the extensity of participants' life in the world and its time . . . are stimulated to courses of action that more closely approximate to the intensity of goodness."3 This movement of the community in relation to its discernment of goodness contributes to the formation of the social fife of the community: it enables "sociopoiesis," or "the generation and shaping of relations," and therefore facilitates the ongoing formation of the community.4 Consequently, for Hardy, the eucharist, as the reenactment of the primal event of Jesus' life that constitutes the church and as the activity that enables the ongoing growth and movement of the social life of the church, "measures the Church by measuring the progress of each member's pilgrimage to God within the sociopoiesis of a given church and in the sociopoiesis that gathers all churches and all creatures in God's creation."5

Hardy's suggestion that the eucharist is a "measure" of the church is part of his attempt to overcome the seeming divide between the natural sciences and the humanities and theology. In the face of the sciences being often thought of as "measuring" the outside world and society by seemingly fixed and objective means, the humanities and theology seem to Hardy to have turned inward in an attempt not to lose their identity.6 This, he believes, need not be the case. Hardy posits that increasingly the humanities and the sciences recognize the relational character of much of what we know. In this context, all creatures of God come to the fullness of their being through their interrelatedness to one another as the result of the primordial event of creation itself. Given the interrelatedness of all that has been created, the eucharist is indeed a measure of the church, not in terms of providing some fixed, absolute form of measurement, but rather as a way through which the variable and interrelated life of the church in the world can be understood in relation to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ at the heart of the church's identity. In other words, the eucharist as "measure" enables the social relations that form the communal life of the church to be seen within the context of-that is, in relation to-the "primal event" of the church, the life of Christ. By thus bringing the life of the church in relation to the revelation of Christ and facilitating the ongoing formation of the social life of the church, raising people to "flourishing as a society,"7 the eucharist can be understood as a "measure" of the church.

Hardy suggests that "abductive" reasoning lies at the heart of the capacity of the eucharist to be a measure of the church. Hardy is influenced by Coleridge's understanding of "abduction" as a mode of reasoning that "generates probabilistic claims about the world," noting that for Coleridge "every knowing and all love involve abduction, from chaotic spontaneity . …

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