Eucharistic Identity

In my book The Slavery of Death I discuss, borrowing from Arthur McGill and David Kelsey, how an eccentric identity can emancipate us from our slavery to the fear of death, a fear which functions as the power of the devil in our lives (Hebrews 2.14-15).

The key idea behind an eccentric identity is coming to receive your life (and the things in your life) as gift. The experience of gift, cultivated through the practices of doxological gratitude, reduces both our basic and neurotic experiences of anxiety and scarcity, our worries about having enough (basic anxiety) and being enough (neurotic anxiety).

So gratitude sits at the heart of the eccentric identity.

And as I've pondered the central role of gratitude in our Christian identity I've wondered, post-publication, if I shouldn't have chosen another word to describe this sort of identity.

Specifically, while I really like the label "eccentric identity" I'm more and more taken with describing all this as being a "Eucharistic identity."

Eucharist, we know, comes from the Greek word εὐχαριστία (eucharistia) which means "thanksgiving."

Which, it seems to me, makes Eucharistic a wonderful word to describe an identity that is to be founded upon gratitude and gift.

As Christians we are to cultivate a Eucharistic identity.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

7 thoughts on “Eucharistic Identity ”

  1. And, of course, "eucharist" contains the Greek word charis (grace) and suggests the Greek word chara (joy), the whence and whither of Christian existence. But I still prefer "eccentric identity", because it is less highhanded, including not only Christians, like Quakers, who don't celebrate the sacrament, but also non-Christians who, more than being so-called "anonymous Christians" (Rahner), actually encounter us as "anonymous Christs" ("I was hungry, migrant, naked, sick, imprisoned, and you ...").

  2. I do like your term "eccentric identity". But I must admit that a few years ago it would have turned me off. While growing up in the Church of Christ I heard 1 Peter 2:9, "You....are a peculiar people.." quoted often as a pat on our own back for our doctrinal perfection, for being the true church. The old country song, "The Great Speckled Bird" was even claimed as its anthem by some.

    However, a truly eccentric people, a grateful people, finds gratitude, not in looking in the mirror to put on our "Christian make-up" and appreciating what we see, but in our being a part of the human family and being able to share ourselves. I have come to reject the idea of mission as "being Christian simply to make more Christians". The impression it leaves is that wholeness can only be shared with others who become like us; that they have no right to claim it, and should not be left with the idea that they can obtain it, until they agree with us. This creates a bitterness that sees no reason for gratitude.

    The poet, Adrienne Rich, said her goal is to "...create a society without domination". Her poetry speaks much of the pain of being a woman and an open lesbian being crushed by power. But she did not cry simply for self; she passionately embraced the pain of all who had been pushed aside and abused. Many Christians would mock and ridicule the pain and the goal that was hers; and many of the rest of us need to ask forgiveness for being so oblivious to it for so long. Yet, when we look past "Christianity" into the life of Jesus we see the one who imparted wholeness and created gratitude by tearing down all grades and levels of person hood; an eccentric and peculiar way in every society and age.

  3. As someone who is wholeheartedly for the Christian ideal and project, but not at all into Greek and religious terminology, eucharist means only bread and wine -it has only a hint of thanksgiving. A better phrase is needed!

  4. I should have added that another thing I like about the term "eccentric" is the OED's definition (1) of the word: "unconventional and slightly strange". That's Christian existence all over. So "eccentric" packs a nice double-meaning.

Leave a Reply