The Catholic Way of Death: Contemporary Reflections on Thanatology and Theology
Wardley, Kenneth Jason
How can we adequately acknowledge the stranger in modern theology? Drawing on the work of post-Heideggerian theorist of language and death, Jacques Derrida, and his own creative re-reading of Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel Levinas, the Catholic theologian and phenomenologist Jean-Luc Marion has attempted to reconstruct what he regards as a genuine Husserlian phenomenology; in doing so he has mapped out a phenomenology of love and a phenomenology of the (divine) gift of that love as 'being given as givenness', or a condition of life itself. In this attempt at a first philosophy he has in fact produced a work that lies on the boundary between theology and thanatology, the philosophy of our encounter with that most radical of strangers, death. In these reflections upon 'saturated phenomena' he exposes the interplay between the more traditional Christian topics of hope and death and more contemporary arguments on meaning, symbol and ritual. The Christian hope has always resided in a remembrance of death and Marion argues that the Eucharist is the site of human hope in its recollection of the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; for him, only this crucial eucharistic move upwards and outwards can overcome the burden of Western metaphysics. This present essay will outline Marion's project and consider its value in informing our language in talking about and recognising the other.
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