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Book Reviews Robert J. Daly, S.J. Sacrifice Unveiled: The True Meaning of Christian Sacrifice London: T&T Clark, 2009 xv + 260 pages. $39.95 The Jesuit Robert Daly, professor emeritus at Boston College, has devoted much of his scholarly life to the question of sacrifice. His 1972 dissertation under Johannes Betz at Wurzburg, Christian Sacrifice : The Judaeo-Christian Background before Origen, was subsequently published in the distinguished series edited by Quasten (Catholic University of America Studies in Christian Antiquity). He later edited the posthumously published work of his confrere, Edward Kilmartin, The Eucharist in the West (1998) as well as translating and annotating the Toura papyrus containing Origen’s Dialogue with Heraclides and his treatise On the Pasch (1992). His many articles and essays over the past three decades reveal an ongoing reflection on the nature of Christian sacrifice; indeed, as he himself notes, the present book “has really been the result of a lifetime of work, a veritable voyage of theological, spiritual and pastoral discovery” (223), and he ends the book with something of an autobiographical coda. This new work is carefully organized but dense. The book has three parts, each of which is subdivided into sections which Daly entitles “Bridges,” and within each section as well is included a number of excurses on particular points of interest. Largely historical in his presentation, Part 1 is entitled “To Unveil Sacrifice,” by which he basically means to understand it apart from later accretions which, he argues in Part 2 (“Atonement and Sacrifice: The Distorting Veils”), have been layered upon sacrifice largely as a result of the Reformation debates about the Mass as sacrifice and how precisely this was understood and articulated. The “Aftermath” of these polemics is then treated, with a historical narrative taking the reader up to the reform of the liturgy at the Second Vatican Council. Part 2 concludes with a lengthy discussion of the value of the philosopher and social scientist René Girard’s “Mimetic Theory” (characterized by Daly as a “theological phenomenology”) in perhaps offering a corrective to the various distortions Daly has delineated in the tradition. Central to his argument is the distinction between atonement as something not fundamentally effected by human effort or desire, but as properly a divine gift, and propitiation, which is a human-driven effort to appease or assuage the Divine. Daly argues that in the long Antiphon 13.3 (2009) 289 Book Reviews historical course of the Hebrew Scriptures, the language and centrality of propitiation lessens; he sees this early and later recurring emphasis on propitiation as distorting. Another principal theme of his work is that sacrifice is only properly understood in Trinitarian terms; he characterizes the economy of the Incarnation as the self-communicating love of the Father in the mission of the Son, which is met with the Son’s self-giving (and kenotic) love in return; the Spirit of Jesus who animates believers takes them up into this mutual, divine self-giving love. However, precisely because he is convinced that the language of sacrifice has such negative connotations to most modern ears, he also argues the case that, especially in pastoral settings, this Trinitarian understanding of sacrifice is best communicated and understood by beginning with reference to human experience (this is where the phenomenology of Girard is so important to him), in particular the experience of true love; only then can the actual language of sacrifice effectively be introduced. This phenomenological approach, he contends , provides the experiential portal through which almost anyone (including those who are not explicitly Christian or whose Christian profession is not Trinitarian) can see and grasp the true meaning of sacrifice. He correctly notes that it was not the suffering itself of Christ, but the love in the face of such suffering, that is truly salvific; but he also suggests that, strictly speaking, such an “end” to the story was not inevitable or perhaps even necessary – he curiously does not go on, however, to offer even an aesthetic argument or an argument from fittingness for the Paschal Mystery. This is an important and in some ways provocative book, one which will no doubt prompt much reflection and response. Some will likely quibble with aspects...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-9933
Print ISSN
1543-9925
Pages
pp. 288-289
Launched on MUSE
2020-03-24
Open Access
No
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