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The Works of Mercy: Towards a Liturgical Ethic of the Everyday

KAUTZER, BENJAMIN,ALLEN (2015) The Works of Mercy: Towards a Liturgical Ethic of the Everyday. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis explores the possibility of an ‘everyday theology’ of those ordinary gifts of food and drink, prayer and compassion, shelter and hospitality traditionally named the ‘works of mercy.’ Drawing principally upon Roman Catholic liturgical theology, it proposes a sacramental reinterpretation of the theological deep-structure which underlies and informs their practice. At their core the works of mercy represent a liturgically shaped ethic of the everyday – ecclesial practices capable of challenging the bureaucratic institutionalisation (and elimination) of human compassion.

Part One lays the groundwork for this renewed theology of the works of mercy by surveying the relationship between liturgy and ethics in twentieth-century Catholic thought. Part Two addresses the wider theological structures which afford this sacramental ethic its theological coherence. Specifically, I take the work of Louis-Marie Chauvet as my point of departure for re-conceptualising the works of mercy from a symbolic interpretation of ethical sacramentality and a biblical theology of worship. Part Three moves beyond Chauvet’s broad ‘liturgy of the neighbour,’ offering a more constructive proposal for the works of mercy as concrete sites of sacramental intensity. Following Chauvet’s architectonic structure of Christian identity, and drawing on a diverse range of theological voices, the final chapters approach this question from the perspective of Scripture, Sacrament and Ethics.

The works of mercy are always there, lived within communities of faith as marks of Christian discipleship. In this sense, proposing an ethical ‘sacrament of mercy’ is not an attempt to tell the church something it does not already know or intimately understand. Indeed, Christianity is inconceivable without them. The theological task undertaken in this work seeks, instead, to recover a deeper awareness of this mystery – that Christ draws near in the unnoticed and the unlooked for, in the trivial and the mundane, in cups of cold water and pieces of bread.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Mercy; Compassion; Ethics; Liturgy; Sacramentality; Twentieth-Century Roman Catholic Sacramental Theology; Louis-Marie Chauvet; R. A. Lambourne; Oliver Davies
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 May 2015 10:23

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