Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Liturgical Nature of Christ's Death


My favorite Christology text to date is titled The Mystery of Jesus Christ by Ocariz, Seca, and Riestra. I think they've taken a very smart route in writing the book by employing three authors with different disciplines (one has a degree in Biblical Studies, another in Historical Theology, another in Systematic Theology). I read something last semester, however, with which I don't entirely agree. They write:



Some authors have raised the objection (against the sacrificial character of Christ's death) that that death did not have a cult-like character (or, to put it more accurately, lacked the external rite of an act of cult); others (defending the idea that Christ's death was a sacrifice) have sought that ritual character in the interior offering Christ made of himself on the cross...Therefore, it can be stated that Christ's death is cult-like without being liturgical; it is also the origin, the source and the centre of all liturgy. (Emphasis theirs)



I agree that Christ's death is cultic in nature. However, I think there is a liturgy involved - a very ironic liturgy. The irony is found throughout the passion - for instance, Jesus has already prophesied about his own death and resurrection, but the people yell out to him "Prophesy!" (Mt 26:68//Mk 14:65).
So how is the death of Christ liturgical? Jesus is wearing a purple garment (a high-priestly color - Ex 28:6) and a crown of thorns (Mk 15:17, Ex 28:4 and also see Zech 6:11-12). The cross is a mock altar upon which the sacrifice is given, even though it is "outside the camp" (Heb 13:13). Instead of the ritual washing the High Priest was to do before entering the Holy of Holies, Jesus is washed in his own blood after the scourging (Mk 15:15). There is the recitation of Scripture (Mt 27:46 reciting the opening lines of Ps 22). There are even "conversions" (Lk 23:42). There's probably a myriad of other things that I've thought about and since forgotten that seem to parallel the liturgy of the Temple, but certainly in an ironic way.

2 comments:

Polycarp said...

Very interesting take.

Danny Garland Jr. said...

There is a book I used for a paper two years ago on the Passion narrative, called "Irony in the Gospel of John." You would probably like it. Unfortunately, I forget who it is by.