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SACRAMENTAL THEOLOGY: A METHODOLOGICAL PROPOSAL KEVIN w. IRWIN The Catholic University of America Washington, D.O. HE PAST DEOADE has witnessed the publication of number of English language works on sacraments ealing with general theories of sacramental theology as well as specialized studies of individual sacraments. In the postoonciliar church there is not yet a uniform or universally agreed upon method for the study of sacraments. Still most vecerrt 'Wo11ks indicate significant shifts in method from the post-Tr:identine !legacy o:f treating sacraments priimarily in dogmatic tracts and canon law studies.1 At the s1ame time there has been an increased interest by liturgists and theologians alike in liturgical theology. This includes not only the theologicrul dimensions of what occurs in the liturgy hut 1also (more recently) how the liturgy can serve as a source for theology in geneml as well 1as for the theology of the sacraments.2 Despite this recent writing and evolving thought on the rela1 See, Kevin W. Irwin, "Recent Sacramental Theology: A Review Discus· sion," The Thomist 47 (1983) : 592-608; "Recent Sacramental Theology [Review Discussion II]" The Thomist 52 (1988) : 124-147; "Recent Sacramental Theology III," The Thomist 53 (1989) : 281-313. 2 Among the English language works that have sparked interest in liturgical theology and have shaped part of the contemporary deb-ate about what it includes are those of Aidan Kavanagh, On Liturgical Theology (New York: Pueblo, 1984) and Geoffrey Wainwright, Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine and Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980). For an assessment of these works and other recent writing on liturgical theology see Teresa Berger, "'Doxology,' 'Jubilate,' 'Liturgical Theology ': Zurn Verhaltnis von Liturgie und Theologie: Publikationen aus dem englischsprachen Raum,'' Arohiv fur Liturgiewissensohaft 28 (1986) : 247-255. 311 KEVIN W. IRWIN tionship of liturgy and sacramental theology, what is still lacking is some method for developing a contemporary theology of the sacraments with the liturgy as its foundation. There are many reasons for this lack: shifts in contemporary theological method in general, the nature of the reformed liturgy which invites flexibility and option, and :finally questions of wha;t ought to be factol'ed into a systemat1c study of the sacramental theology and of sacramental life in the postconciliar church. It is the purpose of this article to propose 1a, method for sacramental theology which uses liturgy as its essentia1l foundation and which delineates aspects of sacriamental theology 1that can be based on the liturgy. The article will be divided into ctwo unequal parts, with the :first laying the foundation for the second. The first deals with the general notion of a liturgical theology of the sacraments, with particular 1attention to the postconciliar context for this discussion.3 This foundation leads to the seoond pa:rt which proposes aspects of sacramental theology that are first drnwn from the liturgy and then can he used to understand 1both individual sacraments and sacraments in general hy continual reference to the liturgy. In delineating these aspects of a liturgically grounded sacramental theology, the categories of classical sacramental theology will be respected , in the sense that, despite their deficiencies, systematic treatises on 'Sacraments from the medieval and post-Tr,identine s This is not to suggest that the seminal works of such authors as Cipriano Vagaggini, Theological Dimensions of the Liturgy, trans. Leonard J. Doyle and W. A. Jurgens from the fourth Italian edition (Collegeville: The Litur· gical Press, 1976) and Alexander Schmemann, Introduction to Liturgical Theology, trans. Ashleigh Moorhouse (London: The F'aith Press, 1966), will be ignored. It is to suggest, however, that the recent work on liturgical theology has had to consider the flexibility of postconciliar liturgy as opposed to the fixity of the preconciliar rites. On this as an important factor in the method of doing liturgical theology see P. DeC!erck, "Lex orandi, lex oredendi, sens original et avatars historiq'ues d'un adage equivoque," Questions Liturgiques 59 (1978) : 193-212, and Gerarcl Lukken, "La liturgic comme lieu theologique irremplacable," Questions Liturgiques 56 (1975) : 104-109. SACRAM:ENTAL THEOLOGY 313 periods have left a v:aluable legacy of sacramental theory and prractice.4 The following six aspects of the liturgical experience...


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