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Ampersand faith: re-integrating liturgy & life through a reappropriation of mystical theology and praxis.

It was a conversation not meant for me to hear. Having recently received the final evaluation of their "Service Learning Projects," two of my freshman students could be heard offering the following reflection:

"At least they have us doing something useful."

"Yeah, not like making us go to church or something."

Among the requirements of the introductory theology course at the Roman Catholic university at which I teach is a project emphasizing service learning. It is a theology "lab" designed to provide students with an intentional integration of theological theory and praxis. Both the lab and the evocative reflection of two unsuspecting students reflect something that is not particularly new news within the church-that within the ecclesial context, something of a disconnect exists. It is a disintegration, moreover, not only among the traditionally. suspect cohort of young adults but even among my older, life-wise hospice patients who, when asked to identify their religious preference, are more likely than not to reflect a similar lack of integration: "Oh, Chaplain, I'm not really religious, but I am spiritual," or "We don't go to church, but we do live a 'good' life."

These are the stated claims of ecclesial disintegration. They are reflective of the existing and known struggle within the church for spiritual normativity wherein "who we are" and "how we are to live," as a people of faith are often times dichotomous. It is, in effect, a disintegration between ecclesial identity-particularly that which is engaged when the church liturgically enacts itself in word and sacrament-and ecclesial impact-the socially relevant and lived experience of service.

Christianity is most faithful when it is both-the intentional ecclesial integration of identity and relevancy, religion and spirituality, liturgy and life. While these dichotomies themselves are not recent revelations within the church, it is my intention, in this article, to consider a ressourcement of that which is perhaps an historically more integrated ecclesial reality and proclamation. It will be my contention that a reappropriation of the church's tradition of mystical theology and praxis may serve as a point of re-integration for numerous dichotomies which, when considered as a connected "both/and" serve to compel our mission and ministry as those who gather around word and sacrament, as the identity of faith, for the purpose of being sent in service, as the impact of relevancy.

This is the nature of what I have labeled our "Ampersand Faith." It is a characrerization that I hope engenders an image of all those matters of theology and praxis that the church necessarily holds in tension as "both/and." Linguistically and typographically, the ampersand sign is a "ligature," a joining together of two first century Roman letters "e" and "t," which, when either written out or bound together as a ligature, signified "and."

Toward this end, this article will focus on three elements which contribute to a faith that binds together identity and impact: an understanding of justification as both forensic and mystical; the impact of mystical tradition on the Theologia Cruris of Martin Luther, particularly as it relates to the simul Justus et peccator claim of his theological anthropology; and the specific reintegration of liturgy and life by means of epicletic eschatology.

Two little words: Re-integrating justification

Two little words. It would seem that much of the history of Christian spiritual thought can be comprehended in two little words-"up" and "in." Historically, comprehending the Sacred has often been expressed in theological conversation as movement that is either upwardly or inwardly oriented. In effect, it is a question of how we approach God. Depending on the historical era, movements within history, social and cultural context, and a host of other factors, the faithful have tended to "locate" God either upward-in affirmations of God's apathetic transcendence-or inward-in often highly emotive and deeply personal experiences of God's immanence. Indeed, "the truth is," according to Phyllis Tickle, "that in actual practice most of us see the sacred as both 'in' and 'up' anyway (although not simultaneously), and we move freely back and forth between the two conceptualizations at will and with no apparent sense of contradiction." (1) I would agree with Tickle, but only to a point. Perhaps this "back and forth" movement is the ideal. Integration, however, is key. Theological and spiritual conceptions of God as either transcendent or immanent fall far short of normative Christian claims, and this is notwithstanding the virtual absence of asserting God incarnate!

While not explicit in its terminology, creedal confession of God has always implicitly apprehended the Divine as panentheistic. The trinitarian nature of God necessitates an orientation of God to the world as transcendent, immanent, and incarnate. While this has historically been the creedal claim by which God is professed, it has not always been the experience among the faithful. The historical development of "spirituality" is often reflective of this reality. Historically, spiritual experience has engaged God on something of a continuum-God as either upwardly transcendent, inwardly immanent, or somewhere in between. Typically, theological expression has followed spiritual experience. Theological language and theory associated, for instance, with atonement is marked by the differing experiences of God's distance or intimacy. The model of atonement as "forensic" tends toward an image of God as the distantly all-powerful Divine who forgives the impudence of sinners counting the cost of our disobedience against the Son. According to Wolfhart Pannenberg, "In theological terminology this was called imputation of the justice of Christ or forensic justification, because it consisted of an act of divine judgment" (2) This model of atonement reflects the historically conditioned spiritual experience particularly within the medieval church, which was predominantly concerned with the question of human guilt. Given that the medieval spiritual experience focused "increasingly on the awareness of sin and guilt as a condition for genuine faith, [one] could be certain of salvation precisely to the extent that one identified oneself as a sinner completely dependent of the grace of God. ..."(3) Thus, forensically oriented justification reflects the spiritual experience of the medieval as guilt-ridden sinner, utterly dependent on salvation extra nos.

Mystical theology

Along the continuum of spiritual experience, however, there exists another experiential and theological reality-one that, when considered alongside the forensic, allows for a greater integrated ecclesial reality of spiritual experience and theological expression. Rooted in the experience of the early church is the mystical tradition of Christianity. Describing the experience of God among early Christians, Elizabeth Johnson claims, "For them, God was utterly transcendent, but also present enfleshed in history, while also immanent in their community experience. In shorthand, we might say that they experienced the saving God in a threefold way, as beyond them, with them, and within them." (4) Given this experiential reality, while not exclusive to the apostolic, post-apostolic or patristic eras, the encounter of God among the earliest Christians was an integrated experience. In the early church "the spiritual is connected with the active presence of God and not primarily with extraordinary inner experiences, though God's presence may certainly arouse such feelings"; spirituality is, therefore, "not something the believer has but is a new pattern of personal growth taking place in the community of those who have been sought out, converted and cherished by the risen Christ." (5) The communal context of the spiritual experience is what provides for the integral and integrated experience of God as panentheistic.

Moreover, it is this community, which assembles for worship, that provides the foundation for a spirituality that is theologically, religiously, and spiritually oriented around the liturgy. According to James Dallen, "During Christianity's first centuries the community assembled for worship, particularly for Eucharist, and this was the basic 'school' for Christian spirituality." (6) Unlike a spiritual experience associated with a predominantly forensic soteriological orientation, an experience that is oriented toward an integration of both the forensic and the mystical provides a communal context for spiritual experience, which reflects an ecclesial integration between identity and relevancy, religion and spirituality, and liturgy and life. Contrary, however, to contemporary presumptions, Christian "mysticism" is not characterized by an exclusively inward orientation. Indeed, "Christian mystics have always seen themselves as practitioners of Christianity, shaped in all their experiences, perceptions and insights by Christian scripture, worship and teaching." (7) This is how scholar in the area of mystical theology, Mark McIntosh, characterizes the Christian mystic. McIntosh, moreover, characterizes mysticism less as a singular, intense experience and more as an awareness, wherein "while it is true that there comes to be a most intense moment of encounter with God, which we might be tempted to think of (not quite correctly) as mysticism proper, this moment is really part of a life-long spiritual journey ..." (8) It is this journey that characterizes mysticism. McIntosh, therefore, upholds the definition of mysticism as offered by Bernard McGinn, "the mystical element in Christianity is that part of its belief and practices that concerns the preparation for, the consciousness of, and the reaction to what can be described as the immediate or direct presence of God." (9) The "mystical" practices that generate "mystical" beliefs are precisely those around which the early church was oriented-proclamation of word, celebration of sacrament, and participation in service. (10) The model of spiritual experience thus expressed among the earliest Christians upholds the sacramental liturgy as that which provides for the communal expression of the word and grounds the communal experience of service.

Following the presumption that theological expression follows spiritual experience, the theological language and theory of atonement within the church's mystical tradition is marked by experiences of God's present nearness. Atonement as "mystical" tends, therefore, toward an image of God who, by love, calls us into knowledge of and relationship with Godself.

In describing the spiritual experience and theological expression of mystics as varied by time and place as Evagrius (4th century, Egyptian), Eckhart (13th century, German), and John of the Cross (16th century, Spanish), Louis Bouyer addresses mystical justification in his now classic Introduction to Spirituality. According to Bouyer,
  What they wanted to say, it would seem, is that since mystical
  knowledge and union lead us to know and love God in Christ as
  He knows and loves Himself, so far as this is possible to man,
  they lead us to transcend all purely human modes of knowing. The
  mystical life is simply the development of life in Jesus Christ,
  the Son of God made man, dead and risen. In consequence, the
  mystic ceases to consider Christ as if from without, to reach His
  divinity only beyond His humanity and, as it were, behind it. The
  man who can say of himself, "It is no longer I who live, it is
  Christ who lives in me" has not thereby ceased to know that Christ
  is God made man. Quite the contrary, he enters into this mystery
  better than anyone else, as he begins to some extent to
  participate in the viewpoint that Christ Himself has of it." (11)


Bouyer's description begins to apprehend a mystical dimension of justification in adopting language associated with participation. Indeed, in referencing the Pauline image of justification from Galatians, Bouyer actually holds, with Paul, to an integrated understanding of justification, wherein both the forensic and the mystical are appropriated. Paul instructs the church at Galatia that:
  we know that person is justified not by the works of the law
  but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe
  in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ,
  and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be
  justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be
  justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners,
  is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if 1 build up
  again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate
  that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law,
  so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ;
  and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.
  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son
  of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:16-20).


Pauline theology of justification is complex. Depending on the ecclesial correspondence, Pauline soteriology can be interpreted along the lines of numerous models. The church has, throughout history, appropriated Paul and developed soteriological hermeneutics along three distinct images of atonement: victory, divinization, and sacrifice. It is the latter two in particular that serve the predominant theological claims of the two historical expressions of the Christian church. The Greek church upholds a theology of divinization. As such, it is the Pauline image of participation that serves this soteriology. "Christ in me" communicates the principal metaphor of mystical theology-the Athanasian claim that "God became man so that man might become God" (cf. De Incarnatione).

While no soteriology is absolutely definitive of any one particular historical era, there are models of atonement which typify the spiritual experience and theological expression encountered within the historical situatedness of the church. In contrast to the Greek model of atonement, the Latin church maintains a primary theology of sacrifice and expiation. The Pauline image of justification in Christ who "gave himself for me" serves this soteriology. Within the western understanding of salvation, it is the image of Christ's cross that communicates the principal metaphor of forensic theology. This will become particularly evident in the theology that develops within the Scholastic and Reform movements of the church, vis-a-vis Anselm (particularly as interpreted by Aquinas) and Luther respectively. Within a forensically oriented theology it is the imputation of God's grace extra nos that effects the exchange of divine righteousness and human sinfulness. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). This Pauline statement to the Corinthian church is often upheld as demonstrative of the theological assertion upon which forensic justification is founded. Luther calls it the "happy exchange." In his death, Christ Jesus takes on the sin of the world, effectively becoming maximus peccator. In exchange, humanity necessarily receives the very righteousness that is held by the divine Son of God.

It is, however, a western irony that the above Pauline statement on "exchange" is set within the context of his comments on reconciliation. In addition to the implied "exchange" resident in Athanasius' mystical claim cited above, implicit within the language of "reconciliation" in Paul is a justificatory orientation that includes both the forensic and the mystical, understood as: restoration, communion, and even union.

Even Augustine, the father of western theology, considers salvation from an integrated perspective. According to Augustine, the goal of salvation is the restorarion of the image in which we were created. As the imago Dei, humanity is, therefore and according to Augustine, "to be restored to its archetype, the triune God" (12) within which humanity lives in radical relationality with the Divine.

Relational ontology

God created humanity in God's own image. Throughout its history the church has struggled with this notion not so much because it has struggled with anthropology but because of its struggle with theology. To comprehend who we are and how ware to live as creature necessitates understanding who God is and how God lives. Despite evidence for integration in the writings of Augustine, the primary comprehension of God within Augustinian neoplatonism is God in se. As such, and through the more characteristic substance ontology of scholasticism, the western church in particular has relied upon an expression of God that effectively separates God from God's creation. That is, "while it is the distinction of substances or essences that clearly differentiates God from the cosmos, this distinction also implies the impossibility of the union of God and the cosmos since ontologically distinct substances are not interpenetrable." (13), As such, in order to apprehend God as being involved with God's own creation, a paradigm shift is needed-a shift from understanding God to encountering God. This is realized in the shift from a predominantly substance ontology to a greater emphasis on relational ontology-that understanding of God which claims the primacy of relationship within the Being of God and the impact of Divine Community on the nature of God.

According to Jurgen Moltmann, the classic text affirming the trinitarian experience of relationship and community is the Johannine "high priestly prayer" of Jesus, in which Jesus prays that "they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:21). The Johannine image of Divine Community reflects the understanding of God as being-in-relationship, which reflects not merely substance ontology but relational ontology. This is reflected in the attempt of contemporary theology to re-appropriate the paradigmatic experience of God within the early and Patristic church. As described by Catherine LaCugna:
  A relational ontology understands both God and the creature to
  exist and meet as persons in communion ... The meaning of to-be is
  to-be-a-person-in-communion ... God's To-Be is To-Be-in-relationship,
  and God's being-in-relationship-to-us is what God is. A relational
  ontology focuses on personhood, relationship, and communion as the
  modality of all existence. (14)


Thus, "God does not exist except as Father, Son, Spirit," LaCugna professes, "[a]part from the divine persons there is no God." (15) As first and foremost "being-in-relation," the Trinity exists as "the mutual indwelling of the equal divine persons: Father, Son, and Spirit.""' This is how Moltmann defines perichoresis, a theological concept that was first used in Cappadocian theology by Gregory of Nanzianus. In addition to its appropriation in the theology of God, it is absolutely essential in apprehending the theological anthropology of the imago Dei as that which integrates identity with impact-who we are with how we are to live. That is, in perichoretic relationship with the One who is Relationship we live within the intimacy of relationship with God via the Son and the Spirit who serve the divine economy of salvation.

According to LaCugna, that "form of language that best serves and illuminates God's economy is theology in the mode of doxology" (17) wherein the making present of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit, mysteriously draws us into radical relationship with the One in whom we participate. This is the anamnetic reality of sacrament, wherein, "the once-for-all crucifixion of Jesus and the sacrament are not two separate events or occasions but one." (18) While not magic, it is mystery. Paschal mystery. Our apprehension of which is not as we come to understand it, but as we come to experience it.

"Mystical" Luther?

The Lutheran church is in an unexpected position to contribute to this recommended re-orientation toward integration. I say "unexpected" because of the perception that the Lutheran church has a history of upholding an almost exclusively forensic claim on justification. Yet, I would venture that this claim is only partial. Engaging the theological writings of Luther himself will reveal that a mystical orientation is not as foreign as one might think, either in the Reformer or within the Reformation tradition. A more mystical Luther creates the possibility of a theological and spiritual reality within the church that is grounded in the very real encounter with God that is relational, participatory, and unitive.

Luther's spirituality-grounded in experience

Luther is, at his core, a practical theologian, albeit without knowing it. Whether considering his theological writings, pastoral guides, devotional tracts, sermons, hymnody or even his personal correspondence, all point to the experiential nature of his theology. Even as an impressionable youth, Luther's experiences served to form the foundation of his contextually medieval theology. "The young Luther was sent to school in Magdeburg operated by the Brethren of the Common Life whose 'devotio moderna ... advocated an eminently interior piety based on self-analysis achieved through meditation and the use of the confessional.'" (19) This stern upbringing may have contributed to Luther's choice to enter an Augustinian monastery after a perceived brush with death during a thunderstorm. Among the "strictest religious houses" Augustinians practiced great austerity and asceticism, both of which were "unquestionably a significant aspect of his striving to answer the question, 'What must I do to be saved?'" (20) In asking this question, Luther was no different than any other medieval. The question of medieval guilt worked on Luther in greater and greater proportion even as Luther worked on resolving it. According to Finnish Luther scholar Kirsi Stjerna, "His passion was to find a merciful God and sense of forgiveness, and the vita spirituals that had been practiced by the monastics for centuries seemed the most assured path to spiritual perfection. He tried, overachieved, and failed." (21) The result was a spiritually bereft Luther, fearful of God's impending judgment and increasingly ineffectual in avoiding God's wrath that would surely come.

This was the nature of Luther's well-known anfechtungen. For Luther, all his actions served only to heighten the futility of realizing that "it seemed all too possible that one's best efforts in cooperation with grace would prove inadequate ... No one could love God as required when one knew that God stood ready to condemn and destroy." (22) Luther's realization tormented him. Until, that is, his scholarly work as a biblical theologian intervened.

The doctrine by which the church stands or falls

It was Luther's apprehension of Pauline theology that led to his critical "discovery" of the hallmark Lutheran doctrine of "justification by grace through faith." According to Luther's own reflection on his understanding of divine "justice" in Paul (cf. Romans):
  I meditated night and day on those words until at last, by the
  mercy of God, I paid attention to their context: "The justice
  of God is revealed in it, as it is written: 'The just person lives
  by faith.'" I began to understand that in this verse the justice of
  God is that by which the just person lives by a gift of God, that
  is by faith. I began to understand that this verse means that the
  justice of God is revealed through the Gospel, but it is a passive
  justice, i.e. that by which the merciful God justifies us by faith,
  as it is written: "The just person lives by faith." All at once I
  felt that I had been born again and entered into paradise itself
  through open gates. (23)


In this justificatory recognition, Luther engaged a spiritual awakening that continues to have profound impact for the way in which theology is proclaimed and religion is practiced. Luther, it would seem, realized that:
  he was engaged in more than a reclaiming of Pauline theology
  alongside the removal of a few religious abuses. Indeed, within
  four years, Luther had issued radical condemnations of the kind
  of Christianity practiced by most people around him as well as
  the kind of Christianity he had tried to practice himself. At the
  same time, Luther set about to install a new piety, that is, a
  new way of living and practicing the Christian religion. (24)


Luther's awakening to justification by grace through faith called into question the principal hermeneutic by which the medieval church (including Luther) functioned. Scholastic justification was oriented around ex opera operato. Luther's justification by grace through faith reorients the medieval hermeneutic away from an objectivizing of justification-that medieval understanding that "the gospel and the sacraments are taken to confer justification by their sheer ritual performance, magically altering the condition of the sinner without any involvement on the sinners part."(25) In contrast, Luther's soteriological orientation becomes one inclusive of a lived faith. Luther employs the hermeneutic Opus Operantis, which claims that:
  The promise of the gospel aims to accomplish something between
  the Triune God (the real promise-maker) and the hearer of the
  promise, and this aim is reached if, and only if, the hearer
  of the promise embraces it in j faith. The preaching of the
  word and the celebration of the sacraments do not justify merely
  by their sheer ritual performance. They justify and confer
  salvation insofar as they evoke the faith which relies on what
  they promise. (26)


In this description of the Reformation, hermeneutic, David Yeago addresses the Reformation twist on justification. It is all an act of God-grace and faith. The Reformation hermeneutic asserts that justification is offered via God's grace, and received in faith as the Spirit enables reception. In this integrated hermeneutic, justification and sanctification are each a part of the one paschal promise, necessarily present in both forensic and mystical, justification.

Luther's Theologia Cruris
  Be sure of this: there is no creature ever made by God who can
  set you free or help you; only God can do it. Run about as you
  will, search high and low the whole world over, you will never
  find the help you need anywhere except in God. If the Lord chooses
  to use an instrument, man or angel, to achieve this, He can; but
  He must do it and no one else.

  Seek this help inside yourself, the depths of your soul; stop
  running around, stop searching up and down the countryside; be
  still, be calm, stay where you are, in Egypt, in darkness, until
  the angel comes to call you. Joseph was asleep when the angel
  called him (Johannes Tauler, German Mystic). (27)


For Luther, one need only search as far as the cross. Having identified the action of God in his recognition of justification by grace through faith, Luther takes up a task that he would carry on throughout his entire life-proclaiming the means by which God acts. For Luther, there is perhaps no more central proclamation than that of the cross. So central is the cross to Christian faith and life that Luther allows it to "speak" for itself. It is said that in guiding young preachers, Luther advised them to place a cross next to the pulpit. In this way, should their preaching stray from the gospel the faithful might simply look upon the cross of Christ to have the gospel proclaimed.

Luther's theology of the cross is first and foremost an expression of Luther's claim that by the cross, we come to know God. According to Frank Senn, the theology of the cross developed as a response to Luther's desire for "knowledge of the God who is both hidden and revealed (Deus absconditus et revelatus) in the suffering and death of Christ. (28) The impact of mystical theology, particularly that of the Rhineland Mystics, perhaps generated this desire in Luther. The writings of Johannes Tauler, Meister Eckhart, and the anonymous Theobgia Deutsche in particular guided ' Luther through his spiritual search. Ascetic 1 and pietistic practices being ineffective in guiding Luther toward knowledge of: God, it was only in his recognition of the Reformation "justification" dictum that Luther came to a full awareness of both; who God is and, by virtue of this, who he himself was. For Luther, both the grace and faith of justification are the claim of the: cross. By this realization, Luther affirmed the assertion of Tauler and other mystics, that "only God can do it." Only God saves. 'Only God reveals God.

This realization has a dramatic impact on Luther's theological anthropology. In 1518 Luther published a text of which he claimed, "Next to the Bible and Saint Augustine no other book has come to my attention from which I have learned-and desire to learn-more concerning God, Christ, man, and what all things are." (29) The published book to which Luther was referring was the anonymous Theologia Deutsche. The impact of this mystical text on Luther is apparent in the Reformer's well-known anthropology. In defining sin, Theologia Deutsche expresses the theological anthropology that Luther would adopt:
  The Scriptures, the Truth, and Faith proclaim that sin is nothing
  but a turning away on the part of the creature ... This is to say
  that the creature turns from the Perfect to the imperfect, to
  separateness, to the partial, and preeminently to itself
  (Chapter 2). (30)


The mystical text takes into account the sin of self-orientation in addressing the action of God as a restoration to right relationship, which "does not mean an obliteration of self but rather a reduction to nothingness of'I-dom' and'self-dom,' the self-centered ego of our temporal existence, the 'lower self.'''(31) God's action in restoring humanity to right relationship (cf. Paul's image of reconciliation) directs us to consider a secondary expression of the theology of the cross-declaring how God acts.

Over the past thirty years, a group of scholars in the Finnish Lutheran Church have endeavored to re-read Luther in light of their work engaging the mystical theology of the Orthodox church. While American theologians read this "new Luther theology" with an appropriate level of caution, it does provide new mystical insights into a theology that has for almost 500 years presumed to be primarily forensic in orientation.

Among the most noteworthy contributions of the Finnish theologians has been their interpretation of Luther's theology of the cross as an expression not only of the means of God's justifying action but the method as well. (32) In considering how God acts in the death and resurrection of Christ to justify humanity, three elements in particular are highlighted: God's nihilizing work, the happy exchange, and God's grace & gift.

God's nihilizing work

It is the claim among the Finnish theologians that:
  Before God gives himself to a person in his Word (which is God
  himself), he performs his "nihilizing work"- he makes the person
  "empty" and "nothing." This reduction in nihilum, of course, does
  not imply a total annihilation of the person. It refers only to the
  destruction of the individual's constant effort to make himself god
  and to justify himself. (33)


While language associated with God's nihilizing action may sound somewhat foreign to western ears, it is principally based on two more common theological precepts: Luther's concept of nothingness and kenosis.

Sounding increasingly mystical, Luther's understanding of "nothingness" is based upon his theological anthropology of the righteous versus the unrighteous person. Eberhard Jungel takes up Luther's argument in claiming that for Luther:
  the unrighteous person is ... a sinner who, lacking the free will
  which belongs to God alone, cannot make him or herself righteous
  thru any human act. As a sinner, this already unrighteous person
  is one whose being is the radical negation of the being of the
  righteous person, not simply logically but ontologically. This
  means, however, that there is the most radical antithesis between
  the unrighteous and the righteous person, which can only be
  adequately stated as that nothingness which we have to consider
  as the antithesis of creation. Indeed, the homo peccator has to
  be lost in this nothingness, if and when God declares a person
  to be righteous. Formulated anthropologically, this means in
  Pauline terms that the old (outer) person perishes, whereas the
  justified (inner) person is daily renewed (2 Cor 4:16; cf. 5:17).
  Luther considered this state of affairs to be the work of God
  grounding in the essence of God, in saying that 'it is the nature
  of God first to destroy and tear down whatever is in us before he
  gives us his good things.' For, 'God destroys all things and makes
  us out of nothing and then justifies us. ' (34)


It seems that present in the writing of Luther is some understanding that the self-orientation of the human is that mark of sin that characterizes the unrighteous. In order to affect the "happy exchange" that God initiates, whereby the unrighteous becomes righteous, all that which is the antithesis of God is purged from the unrighteous person. In comprehending the "nothingness" of the unrighteous, as the nihilization of self-orientation, Luther, with the mystical tradition of the church, recognizes the purgation that is necessary in order to shape spiritual growth.

Having emptied us, God then fills us. This is the kenotic effect of both incarnation and justification. Luther's soteriology recognizes that in taking on the sins of humanity, Christ becomes maximus peccator. In this way Christ exists as a kind of "collective person" {maximus persona). This perception of Christ is:
  of central importance for [Luther's] theology of incarnation and
  his doctrine of atonement ... After the Logos has become flesh and
  immersed in all sins, all sins are immersed in him, and there is
  no sin anywhere else that is not in his person. This idea is the
  beginning point for Luther's doctrine of the atonement. (35)


By the incarnation of the Son, God empties Godself in putting on humanity. In taking on our sin, Christ empties us of our unrighteousness, making room for that with which we are subsequently filled.

The happy exchange and God's grace and gift

What a joyous Christmas decree it was in 1514. It was on this particular celebration of the birth of Christ that Luther proclaimed, "The Logos puts on our form and pattern, our image and likeness, so that it may clothe us with its image, its patterns, and its likeness," and "he takes what is ours to himself in order to impart what is his to us," and "God becomes man so that man may become God" (Luther's Christmas Sermon, 1514).(36) On this occasion, Luther preached what his theology had expressed that "grace and gift are in Christ and they become ours when Christ is 'poured' into us."(37) In the death and resurrection of Christ, we are "filled" by God in a two-fold manner. Luther asserts in Sermo dedupliciiustitiae (1518) that "the righteousness of Christ becomes our righteousness through faith in Christ and everything that is his, even he himself, becomes ours ... and he who believes in Christ clings to Christ and is one with Christ and has the same righteousness with him." (38) In this brief and relatively unfamiliar reference, Luther lays out the method of God's justifying action as expressed in his theology of the cross.

The cross, Luther claims, is that means by which God, in Christ, pours out to us God's grace. The method by which this takes place is Luther's "happy exchange."
  In becoming maximus peccator Christ takes on our unrighteousness
  and imputes to us his righteousness. God's grace, as imputed
  righteousness, is the very declaration of our justification before
  God. It is, in effect, that forensic event by which (Scholastic
  theology would claim) God's wrath is satisfied and we are declared
  forgiven. Thus, Luther's theology of the cross comprehends the
  sacrifice of Christ as an imputation of God's grace within which
  occurs the happy exchange of our unrighteousness with Christ's
  righteousness. (39)


In this theological expression Luther appropriately reflects the forensic effect of God's justification of the sinner, as divine grace imparts forgiveness vis-a-vis the work of Christ's death and resurrection.

And yet, Luther is clearly also influenced by the church's mystical tradition, as is evidenced by his claim that, "everything that is his, even he himself, becomes ours."

Here, Luther speaks remarkably about becoming one with Christ.
  Like the grace that is poured out upon us in Christ's death and
  resurrection, so too is God's gift. The difference, however, is
  that where grace is the work of Christ that is imputed, gift is
  the person of Christ in whom there is participation! This is the
  mystical (sometimes called "effective" among Lutherans) nature
  of justification. For Luther, both forensic and mystical
  justification exist simultaneously in his theology of the cross. (40)


For Luther, it is the cross that stands at the unifying center of faith. In the cross, both forensic and mystical justification are bound together. To the cross, our own human reality, as simultaneously sinful and forgiven, is tied. And by the cross, we are united in relationship with God and each other by means of our Lord's ongoing presence through his Holy Spirit-through whom we have faith to receive divine grace.

Liturgical integration

Sometimes the arena of theological expression forgets the message of liturgical experience. In the church's liturgical celebrations, Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Easter. The two events are not separate, distinct or isolated. Indeed, the paschal mystery includes both the Christ- and the Spirit-event. The death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring by Christ of the Holy Spirit draw us into encounter with God. Such encounter, grounded as it is pro me in word and sacrament, impels the entire community of faith to service, thereby and effectively reintegrating liturgy and a living faith.

Liturgy and life

It has been my contention that the sacramental understanding of the church follows that the self-revelation of God-as Father, Son, and Spirit-in whose image we live, is most complete in the economy of God's salvation, as engaged by the person and actions of Christ Jesus. The church, as mediating the ongoing presence of Christ, actualizes the self-revelation of God, through Christ, in the particularity of word and sacrament, whereby the Holy Spirit enables the faith by which God's people both apprehend God and themselves re-present the Divine in their historical and eschatological service to others. In this re-presenting of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit the community of faith reorients itself, vis-a-vis the church's sacramental participation, around the "Reformation hermeneutic"-Opus Operantis. This is the particular contribution of Lutheran theology to the mission and ministry of the church, whereby the proclaimed justificatory paradigm includes both the forensic and the mystical. That is, the Reformation dictum of justification by grace through faith reorients the church's operative hermeneutic away from the objectivizing of justification characteristic in the fundamental scholastic understanding of atonement as the "work worked" (Opus Operatum). By contrast the orientation of theology and praxis among the Reformers, particularly Luther, is a soteriology grounded in both grace and faith-salvation by means of grace offered by God in Jesus the Christ and received through faith as enabled God's Holy Spirit.

In this integrated hermeneutic, the one Paschal promise is paradigmatically present in both the forensic and the mystical, in both justification and sanctification, in both the imposition of God's unmerited grace and forgiveness and the very gift of God's own relational Self. As such, paschal living is wholly integrated within word, sacrament, and service.

Through the sacramental and anamnetic participation of the faithful in the paschal mystery, in the divine economy of salvation, the community is drawn, as the imago Dei, into perichoretic relationship with God and with one another. Such participation suggests that it is the sacramental encounter of the faithful with God, in Christ, through the Spirit, that the divine love which originates within the Trinity is so great as to explode outward beyond itself to others. It is, as such, in the imago Dei that Christian identity and the impact of ecclesial relevancy meet up.

Epicletic eschatology

While it is the cross that is central to Luther's, and all subsequent Lutheran, theology, it is perhaps most accurate to understand Luther's soteriology as grounded in a pneumatological Christology. Without the effect of the Spirit, Jesus remains dead, and so do we. There is, however, a tendency among Lutherans to disintegrate the unitive reality of the one event of salvation. Because Lutherans have historically tended toward a characterization of justification as forensic-that once-for-all imputation of God's grace and mercy vis-a-vis the singular event of Jesus' cross-there is a correlative propensity to regard sanctification-the transformative effect of the Holy Spirit on life lived-as something separate from or even in addition to the death of Jesus. Such interpretation truncates the Paschal Mystery. Among the implications of an understanding of justification as both forensic and mystical is the confessional, theological, and pastoral claim offered at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that it is "at the foot of the cross, where God is faithful, where Christ is present with us, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ." (41) While perhaps offered prayerfully, there is in this affirmation a proclamatory certainty based upon the transformative effect of the Holy Spirit, through whom God has acted in Christ Jesus.

By the power of the Holy Spirit God remains a faithful presence in our lives. Sacramental transformation effects our Lord's re-presenting in not only bread and wine but within the community of faith as well. As such, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the faithful community becomes one body in Christ-whose own re-presenting gathers us and binds us together.

This is both the epicletic prayer and proclamation of sacrament that, "with your Word and Holy Spirit," God might:
  bless us, your servants, and these your gifts of bread and wine,
  so that we and all who share in the body and blood of Christ may
  be filled with heavenly blessing and grace, and, receiving the
  forgiveness of sin, may be formed to live as your holy people
  (Eucharistic Prayer I.) (42)


Within the anaphora is reflected both the forensic and the mystical, both God's grace and God's gift, both proleptic eschatological anticipation and present reality. By the power of the Holy Spirit the people of faith, having been mystically drawn into the divine relationship of love, are dramatically sent forth to re-present that love in lives formed and transformed into the image of God that is even now relational, participatory, and unitive within the present reign of God.

A (re)-appropriation of mystical theology and praxis engages an eschatology that is participatory in the sense that by the Holy Spirit, the community of faith engages the reign of God in its own perichoretic relationship with the community of the divine Trinity. Such perichoretic participation draws the faithful into the one salvific event that consists of both justification and sanctification. The sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit (i.e., "effective justification") draws the fullness of God's reign ever nearer as our own lived experience of divine love-realized in the gift of Jesus' indwelling presence-engages creation in the process of God's reign moving toward greater perfection. For Luther, this is effectively the making holy of the people of faith. "The Holy Spirit," writes Luther, "sanctifies them daily, not only through the forgiveness of sin acquired for them by Christ.. .but also through the abolition ... of sins, on the basis of which they are called a holy people." (43) For Luther, "holy people" refers specifically to those faithful who serve within the reign of God:
  to the end of the world, so that there is always a holy Christian
  people on earth, in whom Christ lives, works, rules,
  perredemptionem, through grace and the remission of sin, and the
  Holy Spirit, per vivificationem et sanctificationem, 'through the
  daily purging of sin and renewal of life,' so that we do not
  emain in sin but are enabled and obliged to lead a new life,
  abounding in all kinds of good works ..." (44)


The Spirit thus enables Christ in us. Transformed into the body of Christ, those in whom the Spirit dwells re-present Christ-mediated within the particularity of word and sacrament and communicated in eschatological service to others. In so doing, epicletic eschatology becomes the ampersand of both theory and praxis, binding together:

Jesus & his Spirit

Easter & Pentecost

justification & sanctification

forensic & mystical

grace & faith

liturgy & life

now & not yet

religion & spirituality

identity & impact

God & us

you & me

Works Cited

Bouyer, Louis. Introduction to Spirituality. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1961.

Coelho, Mary, and Jerome Neufelder, eds. Writings on Spiritual Direction by Great Christian Masters. New York: Harper and Row, 1982.

Dallen, James. "Liturgical Spirituality: Living What We Sing About." Liturgical Ministry 4 (1995): 49-59.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006.

Geweke, Deborah L. "Easter 'Event': Paschal Proclamation-Paschal Participation." Liturgical Ministry 18, no. Summer 2009 (2009): 107-116.

Hanson, Mark S. "Remarks to the Eleventh Church wide Assembly." In God's Work. Our Hands, 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Minneapolis, Minn., 2009.

Hendrix, Scott. "Martin Luther's Reformation of Spirituality." Lutheran Quarterly 13 (1999): 249-270.

Hillis, Bryan. "Spirituality and Practice: Luther and Canadian Lutheran Spirituality." Consensus 19, no. 1 (1993): 53-76.

(44.) Ibid., 144.

Hoffman, Bengt Runo. The Theologia Germanica of Martin Luther. New York: Paulist Press, 1980.

Johnson, Elizabeth. "Trinity: To Let the Symbol Sing Again." Theology Today 34, no. 3 (1997): 299-311.

Jungel, Eberhard. Theological Essays, 1. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1989.

Krey, Philip D., and Peter D. S. Krey. Luther's Spirituality The Classics of Western Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press, 2007.

LaCugna, Catherine Mowry. God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life. 1st HarperCollins ed. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993.

----. "The Practical Trinity." The Christian Century 108 (1992): 678-682.

Louth, Andrew. "Augustine." In The Study of Spiritulaity, ed. Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright and Edward Yarnold. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Luther, Martin. "On the Councils and the Church, 1539." In Luther's Works: Church and Ministry III, ed. Helmut Lehmann, 41. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966.

----. Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther's Latin Works (1545) Luther's Werke, ed. Otto Clemen; trans. Bro. Andrew Thornton. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1967. http://www. fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1519luther-tower. html [accessed December 15, 2007].

Mannermaa, Tuomo. "Justification and Theosis in Lutheran-Orthodox Perspective." In Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.

----. "Why Is Luther So Fascinating? Modern Finnish Luther Research." In Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.

Mannermaa, Tuomo, and Kirsi Irmeli Stjerna. Christ Present in Faith: Luther's View of Justification. 1st Fortress Press ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005.

McIntosh, Mark Allen. Mystical Theology: The Integrity of Spirituality and Theology. Maiden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1998.

Moltmann, Jurgen. "Perichoresis: An Old Majic Word for a New Trinitarian Theology." In Trinity, Community, and Power: Mapping Trajectories in Wesley an Theology, ed. Douglass Meeks. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000.

Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Christian Spirituality. 1st ed. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983.

Peura, Simo. "Christ as Favor and Gift (Donum): The Challenge of Luther's Understanding of Justification." In Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.

Schaab, Gloria. "The Divine Welling up and Showing Through: Teilhard's Evolutionary Theology in a Trinitarian Panentheistic-Procreative Paradigm." Teilhard Studies 55 (2007).

Senn, Frank C. "Lutheran Spirituality." In Protestant Spiritual Traditions, ed. Frank C. Senn. New York: Paulist Press, 1986. Stjerna, Kirsi. "Rethinking Lutheran Spirituality." Sewanee Theological Review AG, no. 1 (2002): 29-47.

Tickle, Phyllis. Re-Discovering the Sacred: Spirituality in America. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1995.

Volz, Carl. "Holy Communion in the Lutheran Confessions." Word & World 17, no. 1 (1997): 10-20.

Yeago, David. "The Promise of God and the Desires of Our Hearts: Prolegomena to a Lutheran Retrieval of Classic Spiritual Theology." Lutheran Forum 30, no. 2 (1996): 21-30.

(1.) Phyllis Tickle, Re-Discovering the Sacred: Spirituality in America (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1995), 66.

(2.) Wolfhart Pannenberg, Christian Spirituality, 1st ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983), 21.

(3.) Ibid., 17-18.

(4.) Elizabeth Johnson, "Trinity: To Let the Symbol Sing Again," Theology Today 34, no. 3 (1997): 303.

(5.) Mark Allen Mcintosh, Mystical Theology: The Integrity of Spirituality and Theology (Maiden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1998), 6.

(6.) James Dallen, "Liturgical Spirituality: Living What We Sing About," Liturgical Ministry 4 (1995): 49.

(7.) Mcintosh, 31.

(8.) Ibid., citing Bernard McGinn.

(9.) Ibid., 30.

(10.) Cf. Acts 2:42, 44-45 which illustrates the integration of word, sacrament and service, at least as this particular community participated in "teaching," "the breaking of bread and the prayers," and "distribut[ion of] proceeds" from the collection and sale of "common" goods.

(11.) Louis Bouyer, Introduction to Spirituality (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1961), 305.

(12.) Andrew Louth, "Augustine," in Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Edward Yarnold, eds., The Study of Spirituality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 143.

(13.) Gloria Schaab, "The Divine Welling up and Showing Through: Teilhard's Evolutionary Theology in a Trinitarian Panentheistic-Procreative Paradigm," Teilhard Studies 55 (2007): 5-6.

(14.) Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life, 1st HarperCollins ed. (New York: HarperSan-Francisco, 1993), 250.

(15.) Catherine Mowry LaCugna, "The Practical Trinity," The Christian Century 108 (1992): 681.

(16.) Jurgen Moltmann, "Perichoresis: An Old Magic Word for a New Trinitarian Theology," in Douglass Meeks, ed., Trinity,Community, and Power: Mapping Trajectories in Wesleyan Theology (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000), 114.

(17.) LaCugna, God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life, 320.

(18.) Carl Volz, "Holy Communion in the Lutheran Confessions," Word & World 17, no. 1 (1997): 11.

(19.) Citing Frank Senn in Bryan Hillis, "Spirituality and Practice: Luther and Canadian Lutheran Spirituality," Consensus 19, no. 1 (1993): 56.

(20.) Ibid.

(21.) Kirsi Stjerna, "Rethinking Lutheran Spirituality," Sewanee Theological Review 46, no. 1 (2002): 31.

(22.) Philip D. Krey and Peter D. S. Krey, Luther's Spirituality, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 2007), xxi.

(23.) Martin Luther, "Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther's Latin Works (1545)," in Otto Clemen, ed., Bro. Andrew Thornton, trans. Luther's Werke (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1967). http://www.fordham.edu/ halsall/mod/1519luther-tower.html [accessed December 15, 2007].

(24.) Scott Hendrix, "Martin Luther's Reformation of Spirituality," Lutheran Quarterly 13 (1999): 252.

(25.) David Yeago, "The Promise of God and the Desires of Our Hearts: Prolegomena to a Lutheran Retrieval of Classic Spiritual Theology," Lutheran forum 30, no.2(1996):22.

(26.) Ibid., 23.

(27.) Mary Coelho and Jerome Neufelder, cds., Writings on Spiritual Direction by Great Christian Masters (New York: Harper and Row, 1982).

(28.) Frank C. Senn, "Lutheran Spiritually," in Frank C. Senn, ed., Protestant Spiritual Traditions (New York: Paulist Press, 1986),18,

(29.) Bengt Runo Hoffman, The Theology Germanica of Martin Luther (New York:Paulist Press, 1980), 54. From Luther's Perface

(30.) Ibid., 61.

(31.) Ibid., xii.

(32.) The "means" and "method" of God's justifying action are my characterizations.

(33.) Tuomo Manncrmaa, "Why Is Luther So Fascinating? Modern Finnish Luther Research," in Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, eds., Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 10.

(34.) Eberhard Jungel, Theological Essay, 1 (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1989), 106-107. Quotations are respectively from Luther's Lectures on Romans' and "Die zweite Disputation gegen die Aninomer."

(35.) Tuomo Mannermaa, "Justification and Theosis in Lutheran-Orthodox Perspective," in Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, eds., Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther (Grand Rapids: Eerdmnas, 1998),30-31

(36.) Mannermaa, "Why Is Luther So Fascinating? Modern Finnish Luther Research," 11.

(37.) Simo Peura, "Christ as Favor and Gift (Donum): The Challenge of Luther's Understanding of Justification," Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, eds., in Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 43.

(38.) Tuomo Mannermma and Kissi Irmeli Stjerna, Christ Present in Faith: Luther's View of Justification, 1st Fortress Press ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005) xiii

(39.) Deborah L. Geweke, "Easter 'Event': Paschal Proclamation-Paschal Participation," Liturgical Ministry 18, no. Summer 2009 (2009): 110.

(40.) Ibid.

(41.) Mark S. Hanson, "Remarks to the Eleventh Churchwide Assembly," in God's Work. Our Hands, 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Minneapolis, Minn: 2009).

(42.) Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 109.

43. Martin Luther, "On the Councils and rich the rich, 1539," in Helmut Lehmann,ed., Luther's Works: Church and Ministry III, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 143-144

Deborah L. Geweke

Chaplain, Hospice of Palm Beach County, Florida Adjunct Professor, Department of Theology, Barry University, Miami Shores
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