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  • Work of Love: A Theological Reconstruction of the Communion of Saints by Leonard J. DeLorenzo
  • Paul O'Callaghan
Work of Love: A Theological Reconstruction of the Communion of Saints. By Leonard J. DeLorenzo. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2017. Pp. xiii + 346. $55.00(cloth). ISBN: 978-0-268-10093-3.

DeLorenzo's new book covers a surprisingly wide range of topics, both philosophical and theological, and of authors, old and new. Among the topics dealt with are baptism, beatific life, charity, Christology, creation, death, desire, ecclesiology, eschatology, Eucharist, freedom, holiness, the Holy Spirit, Mariology, memory, original sin, purgatory, personhood, the resurrection of the dead, the saints, salvation, and sin. Among the authors, some of whom are considered in great detail, are Augustine, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Dante Alighieri, Henri de Lubac, Jacques Derrida, Dorothy Day, Romano Guardini, Martin Heidegger, Immanuel Kant, Jean-Luc Marion, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Rahner, Joseph Ratzinger, Rainer M. Rilke, Teresa of Avila, and Thérèse of Lisieux.

Surprisingly, the core notion that keeps all these topics and authors together might well be considered as secondary in theology, occupying as it does a relatively minor place in the Apostles' Creed: the communio sanctorum, a term that is usually translated as "the communion of saints" but also as "the communion of holy things." The author holds that the communio sanctorum is at the very heart of the Christian economy. He does not consider it a static reality that may be described in a simple, abstract way. Rather, "the communion of saints" is a living reality that is in the process of being gradually developed, purified, repaired, and constituted. The process is based on God's work of creation; it must take into account the fall of humanity (original sin), which has had the effect of breaking up the original harmony and communion present in creation; it requires the intervention of divine power through Christ, the sacraments, and the exercise of Christian charity; and it is destined to beatific, eschatological fullness.

The work deserves a careful read and provides fascinating insights into very topical and challenging issues. In addition, the author provides a wide-ranging bibliography and excellent indices.

I believe the key issue dealt with is the memory at the heart of the communio sanctorum. In effect, DeLorenzo asks: "If the memory of Christ is the central mystery of the Church in which the communio sanctorum is formed, then whose memory is this? Who remembers Christ and his saints?" (183). In other [End Page 473] words, who is the subjectum of the communio sanctorum ? Toward the beginning of the book, the author argues that "death is creation's absolute zero as self-contradictory nonexistence. It is the collapse into nothing of that which was created out of nothing; this is the full meaning of death with which Christianity reckons" (ibid.). Death after all is the correlate of sin. He goes on to explain "that the gift of life that overcomes this unmitigated catastrophe [of death] is given in history but does not come from history—this gift is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In him, the Word of God that entered into the solitary silence of being dead speaks a new creation in the risen One, who embodies mercy as the truth of creation and the gift of new life in the Holy Spirit" (ibid.). But where does this new reality reside? What memory does liturgical celebration refer to and live off?

After all, when people die, they do so "as whole persons—no powers or potentialities remained in them, for them, or to them. If we can speak now of their memory, then we must acknowledge that their memory is dependent on that which does not, first of all, come from them" (183-84). Likewise, "if the power of memory is attributed primarily to the community that gathers in the liturgy, so too is this community made up of members who will, in time, die. … The memory that any creature maintains is limited, faulty, and, in the end, bound for erasure in death" (184).

The conclusion DeLorenzo takes from this reflection is as follows: "when the...


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