Violence, Grace, and Solidarity: Reading Flannery O’Connor on Good Friday

Jonathan Dyck

In order to arrive at the joy and affirmation of Easter Sunday, we encounter the suffering and despair of Good Friday. It’s not a pleasant thing to acknowledge, but grace and violence appear bound together at Easter.

Few writers are as astute at recognizing this relationship as Flannery O’Connor. Rather than a world of neutral surfaces, O’Connor’s fiction presents us with a world that is irreducibly “grotesque.” For her, the history of the South has made for an environment that is “hardly Christ-centered, [but] is most certainly Christ-haunted” (M&M 44). Her characters may not act like Christians, but theirs is a world which is divinely given, a world in which grace regularly emerges and disrupts. For this reason, O’Connor’s fiction adopts what she has called, “prophetic vision,” a way of seeing that paradoxically understands near things at a distance and far things up close. As she puts it, “The prophet is a realist of distances, and it is this kind of realism that you find in the best modern instances of the grotesque.”  This has everything to do with her view that art is incarnational. It is, in other words, ultimately about embodiment rather than abstraction, and its particular kind of embodiment is a deeply mysterious and troubling one. Continue reading

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You Always Have the Poor with You

A Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

Jeffrey Metcalfe

John 12:1-8

The words echoed through the ancient hall as the cardinal read out the result of the final vote:

“Habemus Papam.” In English, “we have a Pope.”

Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been elected as the new bishop of Rome.

We might expect that the other cardinals sitting next to Bergoglio would take this opportunity to congratulate him, to hide their own disappointment behind their smiles, perhaps even to put in a good word in for themselves before the white smoke signaled the bedlam of the crowds waiting below.

However, instead of speaking words of congratulations, the Cardinal beside Bergoglio turned to him and with a seriousness a smile cannot convey, spoke only these five words,  some of the first words the new Pope would hear:  “Do not forget the poor.” Continue reading

A Liberating Liturgy

How The Eucharist is Related to Gentrification and Why Urban Housing Is Sacred – Part II

Stephen Setzer Continue reading

A Liberating Liturgy

How The Eucharist is Related to Gentrification and Why Urban Housing Is Sacred – Part I

Stephen Setzer

The words “Eucharist” and “gentrification” may seem to be quite disparate in their context and meaning. One alludes to ceremony, tradition, religion, and sacrament, while the other connotes cities, housing, displacement, and economics. They are seemingly worlds apart. However, it is my contention in this paper that these worlds are not so far apart as they may initially appear. Rather they are connected at a foundational level through their respective understandings of place. What is it? Is it special? To whom does it belong? And do any of these things matter? As Christians we are a part of a story, a story that is centered, interestingly, on a particular understanding of place. Rooted in the Old Testament narrative of Abraham and Sarah and the stories of exile, the Scriptures are intent upon forming our understanding of the inherent specialness of place. Moreover, Christian tradition speaks to that same understanding through the development and process of its liturgy. Particularly, through the Eucharistic liturgy we are told a story week after week of the specialness of sacred space and our place. So then in this paper I will begin to build a bridge from Christian liturgy to our urban neighborhoods and explore how an understanding of the Eucharistic liturgy can provide the urban church with a prophetic voice against redevelopment at the cost of displacement. Continue reading