Last week I offered some reflection by John P. Manoussakis on Eschatology—the future creating the present, effect preceding cause.
This idea is also explored by Bonhoeffer’s description of the penultimate. The penultimate is the stage just preceding the last or final. It is a preparation and exists on behalf of the ultimate. The sufferings we face, the ordeal, the cross, sin itself belongs to the chronology of linear time and is in preparation for fulfillment. The eschaton, the Kingdom, is not shackled to time but rather breaks into and reveals itself in time.
This breaking into time is what we are yielding to in holy, and in the sacraments. Manoussakis shares the Eucharistic prayers of St. Basil the Great and St. John the Chrysostom which proclaim: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit,“ a Kingdom that is a reality, not an expectation. Further, in the anaphora (consecration) we pray, “Remembering thus this salvific command and everything that was done for us, namely, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection after the third day, the ascension to heaven, the sitting at the right hand of the Father, the second and glorious coming.” Remember a glorious second coming, a future event? Manoussakis points out that the Eucharist is more of a prolepsis than an anamnesis, “since the events we recall lie from the historical perspective, in the future—a future made present in the Eucharist and by the Eucharist.”
Christian eschatology is a tension between the already of the incarnation and the not yet of the parousia. Manoussakis points to the Gospel of John: “the hour is coming and is now here” (Jn 4:23, 5:25), “…now is the judgement” (Jn 12:31), or “already” (Jn 3:18), the resurrection of the dead is happening in the present (John 5:25). Penultimate “breaks ever more powerfully into earthly life and creates space for itself within it.” Thus eschatology “has become real in the cross” and in the resurrection of Christ, but also in the liturgy, since “liturgy implicates the eschatological in the historical.”
Manoussakis suggests: “the light of the Eschaton—the consummation that has already begun—keeps reaching us at the present; the daybreak of that eight day, still to dawn, sheds its light on the now, on the momentary and the fleeting, on the ephemeral and the arbitrary, and makes each and every thing visible—while itself remaining invisible.” (Manoussakis, 67)
As the Church was shaken this past week by the outcome of the Primate’s meeting in Canterbury—an Eschatological vision may remind us that the Church has not yet arrived. We are still bound by sin, by our brokenness that awaits the fullness of restoration. A restoration where there will be “no more temple” (Rev 21:22), “God will be all and in all” (1 Cor 15:28). We are still yeasted, still rising, but not yet cooked! Can we sense the yeast still working in the Primates’ desire to remain in communion, the intention to walk together, to work for justice for all people – even in this still-baking loaf? On Sunday we will hear Jesus proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favour”, that Christ is realized “in your hearing” (Luke 4:21): The not yet is right now in Jesus. So we journey onward, and gather at his table to yield to the in-breaking Kingdom, the timeless grace where we bring our broken body, and He gives us His.