A Liturgy of Return: Symbol as Life-Giving in Literature and Theology

Philosophy and Theology 19 (1/2):331-345 (2007)
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Abstract

Given the cultural dominance of the empirical sciences, it is perhaps inevitable that theology should seek a self-understanding that emulates them. Yet post-modern thinkers concur in rejecting Enlightenment canons of knowledge as too restrictive for any discipline seeking to fathom our own humanity, a pursuit that theology shares with literature. In both fields, language, as an engagement with symbols, is not the pursuit of an object of knowledge so much as an act ofself expression and an opening to communion. This is illustrated by an examination of the life and work of Virginia Woolf, as she is revivified in Michael Cunningham’s novel, The Hours. Its explication is drawn from the writing of the German Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner, who insisted that St. Thomas Aquinas viewed all of reality as essentially self expressive, and the human person as that spot in creation, ordered toward all that is and achieving self-constitutionthrough symbolic intercourse with others

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