Transcorporality

The Godhead, who makes us in his image, circumscribes all human creativity, human poiesis. This creativity receives its transcendental meaning (truth, beauty, goodness) only in its relation to him. We are makers because we are made 'in the image of', and our making (insofar as it configures God's own making) is redemptive. To be redemptive, to participate in the economy of redemption opened and perfected by Christ the form of God's glory, our making cannot be in our name. Our making cannot, like the builders of the Tower of Babel, make a name for ourselves. Our making cannot reify our own autonomy. Such making is only death and idolatry. Our making must be in and through an abandonment to an operation that will instigate the crisis of our representations. Our making has to experience its Passion, its descent into the silent hiatus. 'God "judges" all human thoughts that strive upwards of themselves to attain the utmost, and requires of them something that they can accomplish only in self-denial.'112 This crisis and Passion is, in fact, the condition of all human making — Derrida's 'Kenosis of discourse' — but we can only understand this crisis and Passion aright if they are read in terms of a theology of kenosis. The endless differing and deferral of meaning read philosophically will only return us to the tragic vision of Hegel's Unhappy Consciousness.113 To be redeemed, the chaotic and febrile semiosis has to be bounded by the Trinitarian operation as we saw in chapter one. To this extent, kenosis in Levinas, Derrida, Irigaray, Cixous and Kristeva requires the theological framework they allude to and employ metaphorically in order for the 'resurrection', the 'eschatology', the 'utopia' of which they speak to be possible. Balthasar's work explicitly announces this — metaphysics is only possible on theological conditions. The trinodal economies found in Kris-teva (and Levinas and Derrida114) require a theological reading, require the

112 Balthasar, Herrlichkeit, Bd. III. I/2 Teil, p. 13; Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics. V: The Realm of Metaphysics in the Modern Age, pp. 15—16.

113 I will develop this idea in the final essay, 'Suffering and Incarnation'.

114 For a discussion of these trinodal economies in Levinas and Derrida see my Barth, Derrida and the Language of Theology (Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 164—70, 247—8.

difference they speak of to be a theological difference. Without this reading, post-structural economies of the sign simply point towards the aporia of alterity without end. With this reading, then, all accounts of meaning and sign-giving, accounts of the economy of response, are coherent in terms of the incarnation. The incarnation of the Word reveals the ineradicable theological nature of all our wording. The intratextuality of human existence is grounded in the groundlessness of the divine. As such all discourse is theological discourse. The subject of theology, on the basis of the relationship between kenotic Christology and mimesis, is the economy of the gift, or, more accurately, the economy of giving, receiving and responding. This economy of the gift, which is inseparable from the exchange and economy of the signs, is the very crux of the incarnational problematic, the crux of the question concerning mediation. Read theologically, discourse is always a meditation upon, as it is also an operation within, the divine—human exchange. Derrida has observed that a gift is never pure.115 There is no pure giving of the gift, its recognition and reception as gift involve it within an exchange and economy. Nevertheless, there is what he calls 'continuity with respect to [the] difference'116 between giver—gift and receiver.117

What is Christian theology about for Balthasar? It is about the play, the irresolvable dialectical play, between presentation and representation, between divine disclosure and reception. It is about the economy of grace; an economy inseparable from our own attempts to grapple with and grasp the meaning of that grace. It is not only a meditation upon grace (then it would place itself above grace); rather, it is also a meditation from grace and within grace. As such, discourse read theologically is a means of grace; of incorporation into that which is given. If Derrida is correct and the gift cannot be given without obligation, then our human condition before the Godhead (as conscious recipients of grace, made conscious, that is, by faith) is one of being under obligation (there are echoes here of Lévinas's exploration of ethics and Derrida's exploration of negotiation as it issues in and through intratextuality118) and God's grace cannot operate without prior

115 Given Time: I Counterfeit Money, tr. Peggy Kamuf (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), chapter 2.

117 See Jean-Luc Marion 'In the Name: How to Avoid Speaking of Negative Theology' in J. Caputo and M. Scanlon eds.,God, the Gift, and Postmodernism, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), for a debate between Marion and Derrida on the gift. See also, in the same volume, 'On the Gift', pp. 54-78.

118 For Lévinas's understanding of the ethic of being under obligation, Otherwise than Being, pp. 9-11. For negotiation in Derrida see his essay 'En ce moment même dans cet ouvrage me voici' in Psyche (Paris: Galilée, 1987), pp. 159-202.

and eternal covenant. The question then emerges as to who or what maintains the continuity in difference, the sine qua non of any exchange, in a theological investigation of the divine and human kenosis. If the incarnation provides the primary example, then God becoming form in Christ provides the ontological possibility for such a continuity. The continuing noetic possibility is the work of the Spirit of Christ through the Church's eucharistia. The Trinity is the condition for a transcorporality that is the hallmark of not only Jesus Christ's historical existence but also human existence tout court.

Kristeva provides Balthasar with an anthropological account of trans-corporality; Balthasar provides Kristeva with the Catholic theology that operates in the silent white margins of her own texts. The human eros is made part of a wider economy of desire — the desires of other people propelling my desire and the divine eros drawing me out in love, worship and obedience, pouring me into a Trinitarian kenosis. Kristeva demonstrates how language is motivated by and abides within desire. Discourse, then, is always an amatory discourse proceeding through a never-to-be-entangled interplay of human and divine desire. It is a desire which both affirms and requires representation and yet denies and puts representation into crisis. Its enfleshment, its incarnation, is both its sanctioned limitations and its possibility of freedom. To employ one of Kristeva's definitions of psychoanalytic discourse, theology is a 'discourse[s] of love directed to an impossible other'.119 It is both a meditation and a mediation; a coming to understanding and a participation; knowledge as love. We gain access to God and God to us through a transferential discourse. It has been recognised by many theologians (George Lindbeck and Nicholas Lash most recently) that theology is a second-order reflection and redescription upon the faithful practice of the Church. Hans Frei sums up this observation: theology 'is an enquiry into the logic of the Christian community's language — the rules, largely implicit rather than explicit, that are exhibited in its use of worship and Christian life, as well as in the confessions of Christian beliefs'.120 These rules constitute the cultural linguistics of the Christian religion. What this essay outlines is an expansion of, by detailing the economy of, that 'logic of the Christian community's language', placing it within what Balthasar would call the theo-logic of Trinitarian love. As such, Christian theology is not secondary but participatory, a sacramental operation. It is a body of work at play within the language of the Christian community. Our physical bodies are mediated to us through our relation to other physical bodies and the mediation of those relationships through the body of the signs. Thus we

119 In the Beginning, p. 7.

120 Types of Christian Theology (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992), p. 20.

are mapped onto a social and political body. The meaning of these signs is mediated to us through the body of Christ, eucharistic and ecclesial, so that we are incorporated into that spiritual body. Transcorporality is the hallmark of a theological anthropology.

We noted, when discussing Paul's carmen Christi, that we can either view the images, forms and deferrals of meanings, the textuality of this world, as caught between two aporias — incarnation and death — or we can view the textuality of this world as a hiatus within the economy of love within the Trinity. The textuality of this world is a product of the diastasis stamped upon the human creativity because we are made 'in the image of'. As the creature is made so the creature makes. Discourse issues from this diastasis, this space created by the love that gives and the love that responds; where giving and responding are two sides of the same act of abandonment. The space emerges in our abandonment to another; a womb from which the Word of God and the word of being human both are birthed; a name in which I too am named. Discourse, read theologically, is constitutive of per-sonhood en to onomati Christo. Here the I am is named; and the I am is God in me, and me (I in the accusative) in God. Practising theology, engaging in theological discourse as writer and reader (and any reader re-writes just as any writer reads), becomes an act of faith (and faithfulness). It is an ongoing liturgical act, a sacramental and soteriological process in which knowledge of God is inhabited rather than possessed. Put briefly, what is suggested by transcorporality is that en Christo it is by our sign-giving and receiving, by our wording and reading, that we are redeemed. Every particular body participates in the universal form because it participates in the eschatological reordering of creation through Christ. As Christians, then, we are caught up not in a knowledge but a knowing of God, a revelation of God about God, that issues from the movement of his intra-Trinitarian love. Epistemology and ontology as conceived in modernity by Kant and Hegel fall as metaphysical idols before the economy of God's love. We are not brought to know without also being brought to understand that we are known. We do not grasp the truth without being grasped by what is true. Our knowledge of God is, then, both active and passive, a knowing as a being known; a form of incorporation coupled with the realisation we are incorporated. The kenotic economy is the narrative of transcorporality. It narrates a story of coming to know through coming to love — love given, love endured. Creation is an allegoria amoris in which we not only participate, we perform.

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