The Anarchic Principle of Christian Eschatology: The Things-themselves and the Things-to-Come in the Eucharistic Tradition of the Eastern Church

By John Panteleimon Manoussakis (College of the Holy Cross)


Theology in the 20th century witnessed a shift in emphasis: the talk about the last things did not have to come last any more as the traditional handbooks of systematic theology would have it; eschatology was not any more one branch of theology among others but lay at the center of our understanding of the Christian faith.[2]  My purpose in this essay is to go a step further than this rearrangement in theological discourse and examine a reversal within the theological understanding of eschatology itself. In the wake of the work of Zizioulas and Pannenberg a different understanding of eschatology has come forth, one that recognizes in the Parousia not only the event that stands at the end of History (the apocalyptic closure of time with which certain Christian groups have always had a fascination), but also as that event that, grounded in the Eucharist, flows continuously from the eschata and permeates every moment in History. In the following discussion I wish to trace and spell out the implications of such a novel understanding of eschatology for our theologies today. As my guides in this exploration I take the theology of the Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas and certain insights that recent research in phenomenology has placed, as I would like to show, at theology’s service. This association might seem strange to the reader: what does the theology of the things-to-come have in common with the philosophy of the things-themselves? I would like to propose that phenomenology, especially as it has been recently formulated by a new generation of phenomenologists like Jean-Luc Marion, Jean-Yves Lacoste and Richard Kearney,[3]

can be a very helpful instrument at the hands of eucharistic eschatology in its effort to rescue eschatology from the twin risks of either immanetizing it or relegating it to an end-of-times utopia. Furthermore, the structure of an ‘inverted intentionality,’ as exemplified by certain liturgical aspects such as hymnology and iconography, will be suggested as the precise point of phenomenology’s convergence with eucharistic eschatology. I write with the conviction that eschatology is in essence a ‘liberation’ theology (freeing us from the moral and social constellations of this world) and that, as my concluding remarks try to summarize, it has real, practical, day-to-day consequences for the ways we conduct our lives and our relationships with others. 



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Nothing oppresses us more than the weight of an irrevocable past. In front of the past we are powerless: the things we have done and the things done to us assume an undeniable authority as facts, as the things-themselves that, furthermore, give shape to who we are. Nothing undermines our freedom more than a predetermined and given nature, our fixed facticity. Most of us understand ourselves as who we have been—our identity is like a record that every action, every deed and thought is written down indelibly. Think here of police records, credit records, academic transcripts, professional résumés and medical files. In all these cases—and for each institution that they represent, the police, the academy, the market, and the medical establishment—we simply are our past. This archival orientation is best illustrated by the example of the shadow—the past, like a shadow, follows us and grows on us and it is impossible to get rid of it. It is only in the Church, as I would like to argue in this essay, that we are not who we have been but who we will be. Against this archeological logic the Church retorted with a new logic—the logic of the new, the novum, the doctrine of de novissimis. In Revelation (21:5) the ‘new things’ coincide with the last things and together they form what is known as eschatology. Against the things-themselves stand the things-to-come.[4] 


The reason for our society’s obsession with the past is the fact that our epistemology is entirely protological (in giving ontological priority to what comes first). In other words, our knowledge is based by necessity on experience (one needs only to refer to the opening lines of Kant’s Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason), and experience is always experience of what has been and has come to pass, what, in other words, can be measured, observed and written down in files and records like those mentioned earlier. In everyday life we reason according to such protological paradigms—the origin holds the truth of the thing or the person in question. A careful examination of the violence directed toward the Other (in the many forms of racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc) would reveal that in the root of such violence lies the simple prejudice that gives priority to what has been, either in terms of a biological beginning (nature, essence) or in terms of one’s own history. It is the beginning, after all, that determines the end and not the other way around. And how could it be differently? The beginning functions as the cause of what has thereby its beginning—and does not the cause come always before its effects? Not for theology. The chronological and ontological primacy of the cause is challenged by a series of events, such as the Creation, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. These events do not fit in the protological paradigm of causality that we described above. What, would be, for example, the ‘cause’ of the crucifixion? Does the cross make any sense at all if seen by itself, that is, as the effect of what has preceded in the life of Jesus? We would argue that the cross becomes the cross only once it is seen from the future, that is, from the point of view of the resurrection that follows it. Theologically, then, it is the resurrection that is the ‘cause’ of the crucifixion. And the resurrection itself—would it make any sense to say that the resurrection is the ‘result’ or the ‘effect’ of Christ’s passion? ‘In Paul’s mind,’ John Zizioulas writes, ‘even the historical event of our Lord’s resurrection would make no sense if there was not to be a final resurrection of all human beings in the end: “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ was risen” (1 Cor. 15:13).’[5]

And Jean-Yves Lacoste concurs when he writes that the Hegelian understanding of History as progress and progression towards the future ‘could only be right, finally, if the resurrection of the Crucified did not have to be interpreted as a promise, and was nothing but the meaning of the last fact—of the reconciling Cross.’[6] Theologically speaking then, the cause of the things that happen and have happened lies not in their beginning but ‘in the end’—for they do come from the kingdom of God, for it is the kingdom that is, properly speaking, their origin. ‘It is not at the beginning (in the morning of consciousness and at the dawn of history) that man is truly himself.’[7]

For, as Heidegger would say, the beginning determines man and history only insofar as it ‘remains an advent.’[8]

‘Meaning’ Lacoste writes, ‘comes at the end.’[9]

In this respect, eschatology is anarchic through and through, for it alone can effect such a radical subversion of the arche: of principles and beginnings. 


Eschatology, as we shall see, reverses the naturalistic, essentialist and historistic models by making the seemingly improbable claim that I am not who I am, or even less, who I was and have been, but rather, like the theophanic Name of Exodus (3:14), I am who I will be. Eschatological theology is deep down a liberation theology. The protological example of the shadow (skia) is properly reversed as in the Letter to the Hebrews (8:5 and 10:1) and in the Colossians (2:16-17): the shadow now does not follow but rather precedes reality, so that, in Christian typology, the present condition as the things-themselves is merely an adumbration of the things-to-come.[10]

This implies, at the very least, that the validity of the things-themselves depends upon the things-to-come and, therefore, the former have no intrinsic value of their own.[11]  


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I. Christian Eschatology 


Most religions share some form of an eschatological vision: more commonly it is a vision that anticipates the end of the physical world, the coming of a better world. Such apocalyptic events are usually structured around the coming of a Messianic figure. None of these elements of eschatology, however, is particularly or properly Christian. In order to find what is proper to Christian eschatology we need to look away from the narrations of cataclysms and catastrophes.[12]

The particularity of Christian eschatology, I believe, is best summarized by three statements (although, it is in no way exhausted in them): 


a)      The eschaton is not the End of History, 


b)      The eschaton is the Incarnation, and 


c)      The eschaton is the Incarnation as unfolded in History through the celebration of the Eucharist (we will treat this last statement on the third part of this essay). 


What these three statements have in common is the desire to refuse a rather dominant tendency in Christian theology of assigning eschatology to a semi-utopian time at the End of History, that might, one day, come but, most likely, not during our lifetime. This tendency is reflected by the arrangement of the articles in the Nicene Creed—the phrase ‘I expect the resurrection of the dead and the life to come’ is, fittingly it would seem, the last one. Similarly then, the talk about the last things comes always last: eschatology has traditionally been the last chapter of any systematic exposition of theology. And it is against this tendency that I would like to argue today: by relegating eschatology to a realm beyond experience, we have come up with the perfect alibi for our getting all too comfortable with the world in its current state. We have found the ideal justification for our forgetting that this is not our home, our goal, our destination; that the categories of this world are not and should not be the paradigms and the concepts of our thought. By exiling eschatology to a time beyond time we have precluded ourselves from the wonderfully subversive effects of the future, of the reversals that the new might bring. Without an eschatological awareness in our interaction with the everyday we cannot but become immune to surprise and, therefore, to the kingdom of God which has surprise as its very mode of manifestation (Matt. 24:27, 50, Mark 13:36, Luke 12:40, 17:24). 



a). The Eschaton is not the End of History 


A common mistake that one finds even today in manuals and handbooks of Systematic Theology is the identification of the Eschaton with an End (the end of the World[13] or of History), that is, the confusion of the eschaton with the telos. Eschatology, however, is not a teleology. Such a teleological eschatology has no place in theology but only in cosmology. The eschaton can be found on either side of the End of History, or on both sides, before it and after it, but it should never be identified with that End itself. Hence the impossibility of telling when the kingdom will come. This impossibility is not based on the unknown but rather on the unknowablility of the kingdom’s coming. It is not so much that we do not know when the kingdom will come, but rather that we cannot know, because its coming is necessarily situated outside time and history, where the question of ‘when’ has no meaning. The kingdom of God does not coincide with the culmination of History, that is, with a totality, but it signals a breach in the body of history, a rupture occasioned by the encounter with the Other. By placing the coming of the kingdom either after history or within history, we avoid identifying it with History—as in the  (ontotheological) eschatologies of Hegel and Marx.[14] By doing so, we guarantee history its own freedom. History is then allowed to unfold in its own ways—without being constrained by a predetermined route, leading to a predestined outcome. History has no program, and even less a program already known and given before the ages. That idea would condemn God to boredom and humanity to a fatalistic passivity. To presume such a right for either God or for humanity is to turn the eschatological dream into the nightmare of either a theocratic or a secular totalitarianism.[15] 



b). The Eschaton is the Incarnation 


This statement distinguishes Christian eschatology from its monotheistic counterparts in the Abrahamic tradition. Whereas Judaism and Islam have one eschatological center, fixed in the future, Christian eschatology unfolds as this tension between two eschatological nodal points: between the already of the Incarnation and the not yet of the Parousia. This tension finds expression in the formula of the Fourth Gospel “the hour is coming and is now here” (John 4:23, 5:25). John’s eschatology is realized[16] in the revelation of Christ, or, better yet, inaugurated[17] by the Word’s coming to the World (the judgment takes place ‘now’: John 12:31 or ‘already’: John 3:18; the resurrection of the dead is also taking place in the ‘now’: John 5:25). In that, Lacoste is right, I think, to speak of a ‘splitting’ of the end or of the eschaton into two: the eschaton of the present (at the end of times) and the present of the eschaton (in the everyday).[18]

Inaugurated eschatology seems to be also the principle through which the author of the Letter to the Hebrews understands his own times (1:2, 9:26), while it is not unknown to Paul either (1 Cor. 10:11). Von Balthasar summarizes it in the following words: 


The Biblical experience of God in both the Old and the New Testaments is characterized as a whole by the fact that the essentially ‘invisible’ and ‘unapproachable’ God enters the sphere of creaturely visibleness, not by means of intermediary beings, but in himself. (…) This structure of Biblical revelation should neither be sold short nor overplayed. (…) It could be overplayed by the view that all that God has instituted for our salvation, culminating in his Incarnation, is in the end only something preliminary which must finally be transcended by either a mystical or an eschatologico-celestial immediacy that would surpass and make superfluous the form of salvation, or, put concretely, the humanity of Jesus Christ. This last danger is not so far removed from the Platonising currents of Christian spirituality as one would hope or want to believe: the impulsive search for an immediate vision of God that would no longer be mediated by the Son of Man, that is, by the whole of God’s form in the world is the conscious or unconscious basis for many eschatological speculations. (…) The Incarnation is the eschaton and, as such, is unsurpassable.[19] 


For if it was otherwise, if incarnation was not the unsurpassable eschaton, one would have been justified in anticipating a time where I could have a more direct, full, unmediated understanding of the Other.[20] In anticipation of such a time, however, I begin cheapening (relativizing) my encounter with this Other, my neighbor, as it is given in the here and now of everydayness. Such an eschaton beyond incarnation would offer me the metaphysical alibi to overlook the Other in front of me, to ignore, neglect or underestimate him/her in expectation of a more authentic encounter with another Other (perhaps, the wholly Other, tout autre) at the end of History, conceived as some metaphysical totality à la Hegel. 



II. Eschatology and the

Forgetfulness of the Spirit Eschatology’s reduction to the time of the Parousia, and to the apocalypse associated with it, might have been the result of disassociating eschatology from Pneumatology. Luther complained once that most of his contemporaries made ‘fine Easter preachers but very poor Pentecost preachers’ because they preached ‘solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ but not about the sanctification of the Holy Spirit,’ or, as he put it in another occasion, they had ‘devoured the Holy Spirit, feathers and all!’[21] One could say perhaps that, from Origen to Barth, theology has become almost exclusively Christocentric, and at times even Christomonistic. There is, of course, a good reason for that: almost all doctrinal controversies in Church History, from Arianism to iconoclasm, have been christological. And it is through such controversies that doctrine and dogma is clarified, defined and promulgated. Indeed, the creedal definition of Nicea-Constantinople gives only one line to the Holy Spirit, and an incomplete at that, as it focuses exclusively on the language of the Old Testament (‘And in the Holy Spirit…who spoke though the prophets’) with no reference, as one might have expected, to the role of the Spirit in the New Testament and in the life of the Church. 


This forgetfulness of the Spirit by theology and her domination by Christology (becoming thus a mere logology[22]) has had a number of theological repercussions on ecclesiology and soteriology. As far as liturgy is concerned, however, the emphasis of our worship on Jesus Christ (a historical person) and, subsequently, on a series of (historical) events related with his life on earth (crucifixion, resurrection, ascension) bound our worship to history and oriented it permanently towards the past. The original experience of doxology gave its place to the kerygma, our reading of Scripture became evidential and didactic, even Eucharist itself became strictly or overwhelmingly a memorial. What was lost in all this was the opening up of the Christian community to what lies beyond history, to the eschata


After all, pneumatology and eschatology are intimately interconnected. It is the Spirit that announces the erchomena, the things-to-come (John 16:13). In a manuscript variation of Luke’s account of the Lord’s prayer, the phrase ‘you kingdom come’ is replaced by the phrase ‘your Holy Spirit come.’[23] The ‘kingdom of God’ is theologically synonymous to ‘the Spirit of God.’ And when Paul speaks of ‘the spiritual body’ (1 Cor. 15:44) he is not using an oxymoron but simply refers to the eschatological reality of our bodies after the common resurrection. 


One could look for examples of eschatology’s interrelation with pneumatology in other fields beyond scripture—in Mahler’s 8th Symphony, for example. There the creative imagination of the composer combines two texts that might seem prima facie unrelated: the Latin hymn Veni Creator Spiritus, and the last act from Goethe’s Faust. He combines them not only in the sense that he brings them together by setting them in music within one single composition, but even more interestingly by exposing their inner relatedness. For at the very end of the Symphony, as the chorus mysticus sings in rapture the accomplishment of an eschatological vision[24] (‘Das Unzulängliche hier wird’s Ereignis, das Unbeschreibliche hier ist’s getan’), the orchestra repeats tutti the theme of the Symphony’s opening line: Veni Creator Spiritus



III. Eucharistic Eschatology 


In Eucharist, however, this link between eschatology and Pneumatology is preserved— most importantly perhaps in the epiclesis. That makes the Eucharist the most genuinely eschatological event and eschatology the most authentic interpreter of the Eucharist. It is needless, of course, to emphasize here the importance of the Eucharist—for it is in the fellowship of breaking the bread and sharing the common cup that the Church, in her catholicity, takes place. Here we should focus only on what the Eucharist has to teach us about the Church’s eschatological orientation. The question of the Eucharist’s eschatological character raises inevitably the question about the nature of the Eucharist.  The predominant interpretation of the Eucharist—already attested by the Marcian and Paulian tradition—places at its heart the anamnesis, i.e., the remembering of Christ’s sacrifice: ‘every time that you eat this bread and drink from the cup, you offer witness to the death of the Lord, until He comes’ (1 Cor. 11:26). Besides the fact that the early Christian communities did celebrate the Eucharist prior to the development of this theologia crucis, and thus the interpretation of the latter cannot limit the understanding of the former, the Q Sayings, among other sources, testify to a different tradition, more eschatological in its orientation, and quite innocent of the passion narrative.[25]

Things become even more clear when we turn to the Eucharistic tradition as recorded in the Didache, where there is no mention of the passion but, in its place, one finds an acute eschatological awareness (‘…just as this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and then was gathered together and became one, so may your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom…’ and again ‘remember you church, Lord…and gather it, from the four winds into your kingdom which you have prepared for it…’). These prayers testify to a yearning for the coming of God’s kingdom that culminates with the eschatological as well as Eucharistic exclamation ‘Maranatha!’[26] 


At the end of the day, it is the Eucharist itself that should instruct us as to its meaning and interpretation—and the Eucharistic text, once the layers of superimposed interpretation are removed, leaves no doubt about its eschatological character. At the Eucharistic gathering the faithful assemble in order to re-enact the coming of God’s kingdom—their orientation, therefore, is always towards the future and never towards the past. There is no text that speaks more eloquently of the eschatological character of the Eucharist than the prayers of the two ancient liturgies that have been handed down to us under the names of St. Basil the Great and St. John the Chrysostom (still in use today by the Orthodox Church). Both liturgies begin with a telling doxology ‘Blessed is the kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’ (as opposed to ‘blessed is our God…’ that commonly opens the services of the divine office, or the ‘in the name of the Father…’ formula that we find in the Roman Missal and the rites that are influenced by it). At the very beginning of the liturgy, then, the kingdom is proclaimed as a reality and not as an expectation. It is this bold experience of the kingdom that enables the celebrant to say during the anaphora, that is, the consecration prayer: ‘Remembering … all those things which came to pass for us: the cross, the grave, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting down at the right hand, the second and glorious coming …’ (PG 63, 916). Here logic is violated and history is left behind. How could it be that we remember the “second, glorious coming”?[27] 


The Eucharist is thus more of a prolepsis than an anamnesis, since the events that we recall lie, from the historical perspective, in the future—a future made present in the Eucharist and by the Eucharist. To remember the future, to have already experienced what is still to come, this is something that goes against our protological categories of thinking. To grasp what is at stake here we need to implement and juxtapose anamnesis as recollection (essentially a Platonic concept) with anamnesis as repetition (as Kierkegaard understood it). 


The Greeks knew of two different phenomena of temporality that have come down to us as chronos and kairos. Our difficulty in grasping what is essential in the experience of the future in the Eucharist lies precisely in lacking a distinction between these two terms. An understanding of liturgical temporality (and by implication of eschatology) that lacks the category of kairos is bound to run into all kinds of impossibilities and, therefore, to revert to a vulgar understanding of both liturgy and temporality (I mention here only the names of Albert Schweitzer and Oscar Cullman[28]). Chronos is time seen either as sequence or duration—invariably constituting a chronology: every minute passing by accumulates in those layers of dead time that compile the chronicle of our lives. This time is nothing more than an indefinite series of ‘nows’: the present is the ‘now’ that ‘is,’ the future is the ‘now’ that one day will be but is not yet, and the past is the ‘now’ that once was but is no more. But between that which ‘is not yet’ and that which ‘is no more’ there is nothing.[29]

Every present ‘now’ thus comes from nothing and rolls back to nothing.  Hence the homonymy between chronos and Kronos: the Greeks saw in this chronological experience of time the mythical figure of Kronos or Saturn, the god who devours his children. Nothing could be farther removed from the eschatological spirit than this view. 


Against this concept of time as chronos (the passing of time) stands a different understanding of temporality as kairos. If chronological time is seen in a horizontal way, that is, as sequence and duration, kairos could be represented as vertical and dis-continuous. If chronos is measured in minutes, seconds, hours and years, kairos cannot be measured at all, since it occurs only in the moment. What we call here “the moment” is nothing else but what has been known as the Augenblick[30] or the Platonic Exaiphnes. For even if it were possible to put all the kairological moments together that still would not give us any measurable sense of kairos, since each moment of kairos (contrary to different units of time) is, in a unique way, always the Same, in the sense that it recurs in repetition. This is evident in how the Church presents liturgically events of the past (such as the birth of Christ, his Crucifixion, etc) as always taking place ‘today’—a survey of the hymns of the Church will show that the Church knows of no other temporal category than this ‘today.’[31] Kierkegaard was right to see in repetition a new temporal category—that is to be juxtaposed over against Platonic recollection. Recollection, he writes, allows us to ‘enter the eternal backwards,’ while repetition is decisively futural, or better yet, adventitious, and in its advent-like character pushes us to ‘enter eternity forwards.’[32]

It is by means of such temporality that the faithful in celebrating the Eucharist enter God’s kingdom. Every time that Christians gather together around the altar the kingdom of God comes a little bit closer, the basileia becomes a little more possible. 


In the New Testament the ‘when’ of the kairos corresponds to the ‘how’ of the exaiphnes


…you do not know when the appointed time [kairos] will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he orders the man at the gate to watch with a sharp eye. Look around you! You do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether at dusk, at midnight, when the cock crows, or at early dawn. Do not let him come suddenly [exaiphnes] and catch you asleep. (Mark 13:33-36)



Allow me to dwell a bit more on the semantics of the term exaiphnes, as it is solely on this term that the connection among eschatology, incarnation and liturgy depends. The passage from the kairos to the exaiphnes marks a passage from temporality to phenomenality: exaiphnes is commonly translated as ‘suddenly’ and thus, as a term that denotes a temporal category. Its etymology, however, implies the phenomenality of appearing out of the invisible or the unapparent (ex=out of, aphanes=the invisible). The term occurs for the first time in Plato’s Parmenides (156d-e) as a third category that defies all binary oppositions according to which metaphysics operates. We also find it in Plotinus’ Enneads (e.g., V 3 17 36, VI 7 36 19-20) and in the Neoplatonic successors of Plato in the Academy (e.g., Damascius the Diadochos, in his Dubitationes et Solutiones De Primis Principiis). Fascinating as the philosophical development of this term might be, we cannot follow it further here; what interests us instead is the usage of the exaiphnes by Christianity as a technical term that punctuates three different ‘moments’: the enfleshment of the Word, the coming of the Kingdom and the celebration of the Eucharist in history (and thus we part ways with the exclusively existential understanding of Bultmann’s kairological eschatology[33]).

All three events share the same structure, so to speak, of the exaiphnes and all three are to some extent referenced in the New Testament (although these connections continue to occur in texts well beyond scripture[34]): the first is Mark 13:36, that we have already quoted, which links the exaiphnes with the eschaton; Luke 2:13 relates the exaiphnes with the moment of Jesus’ birth[35] and in particular with the so-called ‘celestial liturgy’ of the angels; the other two occurrences of the exaiphnes in the New Testament are found in the book of the Acts (9:3 and 22:6), both times describing the light that blinded Paul on his way to Damascus[36]: 


As he traveled along and was approaching Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly (exaiphnes) flashed about him…Saul got up from the ground and although his eyes were open he saw nothing…(Acts, 9:3, 8)



That light was the light of Christ, or better yet, Christ Himself—but notice how this moment of epiphany ‘out of nothing’ (i.e., exaiphnes) turns the things-themselves (the visible) into nothing—the very nothing that Paul sees. In the moment of the exaiphnes the things-themselves have to retreat, and indeed ‘disappear,’ in order to allow the unapparent and the unseen, (that is, the things-to-come), to show themselves. 


            The light of the eschaton—of the consummation that has already begun—keeps reaching us at the present; the daybreak of that eighth day, still to dawn, sheds its light on the now, on the momentary and the fleeting, on the ephemeral and the arbitrary, and makes each and every thing visible—while itself remaining invisible


I speak of light: it is of course an old metaphor but a telling one. As light that illuminates everything renders things visible while it itself remains hidden—or rather it is us who, by seeing only what thus comes to light, remain ‘blind’ to light itself, so our preoccupation with the things-themselves ‘blinds’ us as to the things-to-come, although it is in this expectancy that the things-themselves assume their proper shape and character. 


How does, then, the Eucharist defy this blindness? By effecting a reversal. In order to make visible the invisible, that is, in order to make present the futural, the Eucharist has to let the visible and the present sink into the background in order to allow what lies there, unnoticed, to become manifest. In other words, if the world in its worldliness were a photograph, the Eucharist would be its negative. It is this insight that Wolfhart Pannenberg elaborates in the following passage: 


…the eschatological truth is already a present reality even if in hidden form. Thus judgment as well as life is already present with Jesus Christ in the world (John 12:31, 47-48). Similarly the disarming of the forces of this world is already taking place. The hidden present of the eschaton is the present of salvation only for faith, but the truth of things that will be revealed in the future, their true essence that will come to light at the eschaton, generally defines already their present existence even though in one way or another this may still have a radical change ahead of it. Only within a general ontology of the present reality of beings as this is constituted by the eschatological future of its nature do the statements of theology about the eschatological present of salvation achieve full plausibility.[37]



The future is present in the present, hidden like the mustard seed in the soil (Matt. 13:31) and thus, already underway to its surprising transformation. The things-themselves, therefore, can be opened up so as to expose ‘hidden in them’ the things-to-come only by a means of radical reversal—what I have called elsewhere, following Levinas and Marion, ‘an inverted intentionality’ analogous to the inverted perspective that characterizes the Byzantine icons.[38] The invention of perspective by Late Medieval thinkers and Renaissance artists gave rise to modernity, subjectivity and the Enlightenment.[39] This is the point made by Karsten Harries in his Infinity and Perspective. And I would like to say that it is this very notion of perspective that has distorted in a decisive way our understanding of eschatology. A genuine eschatology operates by surprise, in allowing a counter-movement of history, not only toward the kingdom but also from the kingdom.[40] This structure of counter-movement in the flux of History needs to be paired on the personal level with a counter-movement of perception and understanding. The from-the-kingdom movement that runs against the forward current of pro-gress, but also propels it by exercising an irresistible attraction towards itself, has as its aim the disarmament of our predictability, that is, our prejudice. The eschaton is like the new wine that cannot be contained in the old wineskins because we all know what happens then. The old wineskins are nothing else but the concepts and categories of this World, the thinking process that we are used to and familiar with—let’s call it, our perspective. If I am Greek it is the Greek perspective from which I judge the world, and if I were a Jewish it would be the Jewish perspective that becomes the measure of my judgment—there are many such perspectives that have become canonical over others (the white over the black, the male over the female, and so on) so much so as to forget that by coming to occupy this privileged locus that our perspective affords us we take up the place reserved for the kingdom, we become our own eschata and thus, in denying the kingdom of God for the sake of the kingdom of Man, we become the anti-Christ. 


Thankfully, there are moments everyday that, in anticipation of God’s kingdom, our perspectives are confronted and reversed. When this happens—and it does happen—then we speak of a ‘transformation’ (like the one that is undergone by Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht) or of a moment of ‘epiphany’ (like the ones described by Joyce). When this happens, when my perspective is countered, inversed, returned to me, I am no longer the privileged subject that establishes and constitutes the objectivity of the world (the thinghood of the things), but merely a dative, I become this ‘to whom’ the world, as the world-to-come, is given. For only then can be there a world given, when I make myself available as a receiver, as gifted with the gift of givenness (need I remind us that the ‘energies’ of the Holy Spirit are always characterized as gifts?) Without such a change of attitude, without an inverse perspective, without an eschatology, which enables us to receive, there would be no charisma or charis, that is, grace received.  


The paradigm of inverted perspective, as exemplified by the Eucharist (where in receiving the gifts we also receive ourselves as gifted), in the hymn (that instead of being comprehended by us becomes amplified in chanting as to comprehend us) and in iconography (where we become the ‘objects’ of the icon’s gaze), in all these cases, the structure of the eschaton is outlined as the future that flows into the present, as the moment that cuts an in-cision in the flux of time and therefore, calls for a de-cision. It calls us to decide either to refuse it or to receive it, either to accept things as they are and let them be what they are (the things-themselves) or to desire things otherwise, as the things-to-come. 



IV. Conclusion 


This reversal alone is enough to justify placing eschatology—as it has happened in recent years—in the center of our theologies. In order to demonstrate how far-reaching the implications of eschatological thinking are for theology I offer a number of points by way of conclusion. 


1.      If eschatology is given the central place that I think it deserves, then ecclesial structures are open to (self-)criticism on the basis of how well they symbolize the eschata (in Orthodox terminology, we would say ‘iconize,’ that is, become icons of the things-to-come). To the extent that tradition disorients the Church from her eschatological expectancy and binds her instead to the present age (the ‘saeculum’ of secularism), tradition should never be taken as a criterion for deciding the Church’s doctrine and practice. My intention is not to promote the idea of a Church without a sense of history and tradition: the emphasis on eschatology aims at striking the right balance between historical continuity on the one hand and the openness to the reversals brought about by the eschata on the other. History and tradition do institute the Church but it is the coming of the kingdom that constitutes her truth. In this criticism of ‘tradition for the sake of tradition,’ the Orthodox Church has a special place. The Orthodox Church can be seen as a study-case of a Church that undercuts her theological future by falling victim to a narcissistic nostalgia for a glorious past. Symptoms of this pathology are to be found in the way theology is done by the majority of Orthodox theologians in the last millennium—a form of patristic Talmudism, a merely philological collection and exegesis of Patristic fragments. 


2.      Eschatology can make significant contributions to our ecumenical efforts. It is interesting to note here that most, if not all, schisms and divisions have taken place for historical reasons. This is certainly the case with the Great Schism between East and West. Where history divides, eschatology unites. Unity in the Church should be assessed on the basis of our common eschatological vision. Thus, the ecumenical process is reversed: we should not begin from the present difficulties and differences towards communion with each other, but with the reality of our common hope for a Church that will be reunited although it is presently scattered—precisely as the Eucharistic bread was united from the ‘four winds,’ as the Didache reminds us, into the kingdom of God. A Church without an ecumenical commitment is a Church with a falsified Eucharist, that is, not a Church at all. 


3.      Perhaps nowhere else are the implications of eschatological theology more clearly seen than in the field of ethics. If the truth of things lies not in their past, that is, in their origin, but in their future, (‘for it is the future—that is, their place in the Kingdom—that gives to each being its true character’[41]), then eschatology necessitates a re-examination of protology. If the kingdom holds the final word about who we are, about our identity, because it alone is the cause of every thing,[42] then sin and evil should be redefined, not as a deviation from a supposedly perfect beginning—as in the traditional language of the ‘fall’—but as a ‘failing’ to become who we are expected to be.[43] As a result of this shift in emphasis, from the past to the future, eschatology shows that there could have never been such a perfect, Paradisian state at the beginning, because that would have rendered the kingdom of God superfluous.[44] The beginning as beginning cannot claim perfection; it is only the end (the telos) that can be perfect (teleion). We are ‘fallen’ from the beginning—redeemed only at the end. The metaphor of eschatology, then, is not that of Ulysses returning to his Ithaca, but that of Abraham, leaving the land that was familiar to him for the new, the unknown and the promised. The redefinition of protology in light of eschatology liberates us from two pathologies: a) the illusion of a past perfection that we enjoined at some immemorial time but have now lost, and b) the nostalgia for a return to this perfect state that was never attained but always already lost. (Here eschatology, in dispensing with these two infantile illusions, assumes a therapeutic role similar to that of psychoanalysis). 


4.      Finally, eschatology offers an epistemological lesson in humility with regard to our theological claims about God and ourselves. ‘If what one “is” is determined not by one’s past, but by what one will be in the end, human judgment is irrelevant, since it can only be based on the past. An eschatological ontology would lead to a non-judgmental attitude towards one’s fellow men in ontological terms such as stereotypes and permanent characterizations. Every person is entitled to a new identity, to a future.’[45]



Let me close these thoughts with a beautiful image that I think summarizes quite well everything that I have been trying to say in this paper. It is from Kierkegaard’s Works of Love: 


In being king, beggar, rich man, poor man, male, female, etc., we are not like each other—therein we are indeed different. But in being the neighbor we are all unconditionally like each other. Dissimilarity is temporality’s method of confusing what marks every human being differently, but the neighbor is eternity’s mark—on every human being. Take many sheets of paper, write something different on each one; then no one will be like another. But then again take each single sheet; do not let yourself be confused by the diverse inscriptions, hold it up to the light, and you will see a common watermark on all of them. In the same way the neighbor is the common watermark, but you see it only by means of eternity’s light when it shines through the dissimilarity.[46]



What Kierkegaard calls ‘eternity’s equality’ is not any different from what I mean by eschatology—for indeed this likeness, the iconic reflection of the divine in each and all of us, shines more fully at the eschaton, but it has always begun to glimmer in the now. It is this glimmer that an eschatologically oriented theology should allow us to see. In other words, what Merold Westphal referred to in one of his essays as the ‘halo’ that we often see emanating from the faces in Van Gogh’s portraits.[47] But in order to see it, we have to hold each person up, as Kierkegaard advices us, to the light that shines from a future unknown and unseen, refusing thus to decide about the definite being and the definition of the person on the grounds of who he or she is or has been. The truth of the other is not determined by the things-themselves but by the wonderfully unpredictable and surprising things-to-come.[48] 







[1] An earlier version of this paper was delivered on February 2, 2006 at Yale Divinity School. 


[2] This change of orientation in theological thinking is usually set in the year 1900 with the second publication of J. Weiss’s Die Predigt Jesu vom Reich Gottes. It was, then, carried out by a number of German Protestant theologians (A. Schweitzer, P. Althaus, E. Troeltsch and, of course, K. Barth among others) before it spread among Roman Catholic circles both in France (H. de Lubac, J. Daniélou) and in Germany (K. Rahner). 


[3] All of the three authors engage, each at different degrees, a eucharistic eschatology in their phenomenological analysis (although sometimes it is difficult to tell whether it is not actually an eschatology engaging phenomenology that is the case). None of them, however, draws the concrete conclusions that we formulate here. Marion treats the eschatological character of the Eucharist in his God Without Being (in particular pp. 169-176) but no ecclesiological or ethical implication is drawn as a result of it. Kearney is aware of the ethical significance of such an eschatology but his understanding of the Eucharist is rather weak and therefore his analysis lacks a firm theological grounding. Lacoste (in his Experience and the Absolute) is closer to us here but his preoccupations against Heidegger and Hegel give an altogether different color to his discussion. Needless, of course, to say that their work remains crucial to this study. 


[4] The references here are, of course, to phenomenology and eschatology. ‘Back to the things themselves’ was the battle cry of the father of the phenomenological movement, Edmund Husserl, at the beginning of last century. By that he meant the return to the reality that Kant had refused to things as a result of the bifurcation of the World into phenomena and noumena. The bridge that Husserl had discovered between phenomena and noumena was consciousness itself, and specifically the intending character of consciousness, what became known in phenomenological parlance as intentionality. What could be, if any, the relation between eschatology and phenomenology, between the things-to-come and the things-themselves? At first it seems that any possible relation is exhausted in their antithesis: the two have nothing to do with each other—not only because presumably they come from two different worlds, that of faith and reason, but because of the fundamental difference in their orientation: the things-themselves are precisely not the things-to-come. In spite of this opposition, I would like to suggest that reconciliation is possible in the retrieval of the things-to-come in the things-themselves. 


[5] Metropolitan of Pergamon John D. Zizioulas ‘Towards an Eschatological Ontology,’ unpublished paper delivered at King’s College in 1999, (p. 7 in the ms). 


[6] Jean-Yves Lacoste, Experience and the Absolute: Disputed Questions on the Humanity of Man, Mark Raftery-Skehan (trans.), (New York: Fordham Univeristy Press, 2004), p.138). 


[7] Ibid., p. 137. 


[8] ‚Der Anfang bleibt als Ankunft.’ Martin Heidegger, Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry, Keith Hoeller (trans.), (New York: Humanity Books, 2000), p. 195. 


[9] Jean-Yves Lacoste, Experience and the Absolute, p. 137. 


[10] John D. Zizioulas, ‘Towards an Eschatological Ontology.’ 


[11] What is implied here is the Lutheran doctrine of the ‘orders of creation’ (Schöpfungsordung) that regarded such worldly institutions like nations and states and civil conventions like marriage as belonging intrinsically to the creation and thus ‘good.’ This doctrine gave rise to a Theologie der Ordungen that did not hesitate to support Nazi ideology (since the Third Reich could be seen as part of God’s creation). Dietrich Bonhoeffer criticized such theories by changing the terminology from ‘orders of creation’ (that would imply a permanent validity) to ‘orders of preservation’, making them, thus, part of the transient scheme of this world that has its justification only in relation to the eschaton (see, Creation and Fall, translated by Douglas Stephen Bax, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997, p. 140). The same notion is expressed by Bonhoeffer’s eschatological concept of the ‘penultimate’ (see, Ethics, translated by Reinhard Krauss, Charles C. West, and Douglas W. Stott, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005, p. 160ff). 


[12] Moltmann, after going through a list of similar apocalyptic visions and prophesies, concludes: ‘All these ideas and fantasies are certainly soundly apocalyptic, but they are not Christian. The Christian expectation for the future has nothing at all to do with final solutions of this kind, for its focus is not the end of life, or history, or the world. It is rather the beginning…’ See, ‘Is the World Coming to an End or Has Its Future already Begun?’ in The Future as God’s Gift: Explorations in Christian Eschatology, David Fergusson and Marcel Sarot (eds.), (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), p. 130 and also his Preface to The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, Margaret Kohl (trans.), (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), p. xi. 


[13] It is highly problematic, I think, to speak of the ‘end of the world’ from a Christian perspective. The Revelation, in all its apocalyptic imagery, presents us with the transformation of the world and its renewal (‘Behold, I make all things new,’ 21:5) but not with its annihilation or destruction. It is questionable if the world as God’s creation can be destroyed, especially after the event of the Incarnation, given that God has united the world with Godhead in the human nature of Christ as the doctrine of the Ascension would imply. 


[14] Wolfhart Pannenberg regards these eschatologies as fundamentally anti-Christian and thus as structures of the anti-Christ (see, Systematic Theology, vol. III, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998, p. 636). As their common characteristic, Pannenberg identifies the tendency to place value on the general, or the abstract, over and against the particular and the individual. 


[15] To remember Levinas, ‘eschatology institutes a relation with being beyond the totality or beyond history…. It is a relationship with a surplus always exterior to the totality’ of history, see Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne Press, 1969), p. 22. And as he writes later, ‘When man truly approaches the Other he is uprooted from history’ (ibid., p. 52). 


[16] See, Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel of John and Epistles of John: A Concise Commentary, (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1988), p. 19. 


[17] See, Georges Florovsky, ‘Bible, Church, Tradition’ (volume I of the Collected Works), (Vaduz: Belmont, 1987), pp. 35-6. 


[18] Jean-Yves Lacoste, Experience and the Absolute, p. 138. ‘Reconciled existence’ Lacoste writes in the next page ‘takes place therefore in an interim between the eschatological blessings already granted and the eschatological blessings that still remain within an economy of promise’ (emphasis in the original). It is this bifurcation of the eschatological that enables what Richard Kearney has described as a micro-eschatology, see, Richard Kearney, ‘Epiphanies of the Everyday: Toward a Micro-Eschatology’ in After God, John Panteleimon Manoussakis (ed.), (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006), pp. 3-20. 


[19] Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, vol. I: Seeing the Form, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (trans.), (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998, p. 301-2). 


[20] Paul’s phrase about seeing now ‘through a glass, darkly’ while then ‘face to face’ (1 Cor. 13:12) concerns only the mode of the manifestation but not its content. What I see now, sub specie tempore, i.e., the Other in the person, will also be the eschatological manifestation of the personal Other sub specie aeternitate (cf. Acts, 1:11). 


[21] Martin Luther, ‘On the Councils and the Church,’ LW 41-114 and ‘Against the Heavenly Prophets,’ LW 40:83, both passages as quoted by Jaroslav Pelican in Bach Among the Theologians, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), pp. 7-8. 


[22] Sergius Bulgakov uses the term rather contemptuously (see, The Comforter, translated by Boris Jakim, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), in a different sense is used by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his lectures on Christology (see, Christ the Center, translated by E. H. Robertson, San Franscisco: Harper, 1978). 


[23] In particular, uncial codex 162 and 700, also attested by Marcion and Gregory of Nyssa (PG 44, 1157). 


[24] It is of interest, I think, to read how Mahler himself understands those closing lines of Goethe’s Faust, in helping us to understand the eschatological character that permeates them. As Mahler writes to his wife (in June 1909): ‘All that is transitory (everything that I have presented to you here on these two evenings) is nothing but images, inadequate, of course, in their earthly manifestations; but there, liberated from earthly inadequacy, they will become reality, and then we shall need no paraphrase, no figures, no images. What we seek to describe here in vain—for it is indescribable—is accomplished there. And what is that? Again, I can only speak in images and say: the Eternal Feminine has drawn us on—we have arrived—we are at rest—we possess what we could only strive and struggle for on earth’ (quoted in Michael Steinberg’s program notes for the performance of Mahler’s 8th Symphony by the Boston Symphony Orchestra on October 23, 2004). 


[25] There might even be a connection between the Q document (as ‘reconstructed’ by modern scholarship) and the structure of the Eucharist itself. For this argument see, Petros Vasileiadis, Lex Orandi, (Athens, Indiktos, 2005). 


[26] The Apostolic Fathers J. B. Lightfoot and KJR. Harmer (trans.), (Grand Rapids: Baker Books. 1989), pp. 154-5. 


[27] This is only one of the many instances in the Eucharistic prayer that an experience, and not any more an expectation, of the kingdom is indicated: earlier we hear the celebrant saying ‘Thou didst bring us from nonexistence into being, and when we had fallen away, didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until thou hadst brought us up to heaven, and hadst bestowed upon us thy kingdom to come’ (PG 63, 915). Notice the past tense of the verbs. 


[28] For an assessment of their eschatologies see J. Moltmann, The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, Margaret Kohl (trans.), (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), pp.7-13). 


[29] See Sartre’s remark: ‘ce qui sépare l’antérieur du postérieur c’est précisément rien’ (L’Être et le Néant, p. 64). Before Sartre, Augustine had said, ‘But the two times, past and future, how can they be, since the past is no more and the future is not yet? On the other hand, if the present were always present and never flowed away into the past, it would not be time at all, but eternity. But if the present is only time, because it flows away into the past, how can we say that it is? For it is, only because it will cease to be. Thus we can affirm that time is only in that it tends towards not-being.’ (Confessions, XI, xiv, p. 219) See also, M. Heidegger, Being and Time, translated by Joan Stambaugh (New York: State University of New York, 1996), p. 391. 


[30] Here are some key references to the concept of the ‘moment’ (Augenblick) from Being and Time: ‘The Moment brings existence to the situation and discloses the authentic “There”’ (p. 319). ‘The present, as the Moment, discloses the today authentically’ (p. 362), ‘…the Moment that lies in resoluteness…’ (p. 353). Der Augenblick is Luther’s translation of Paul’s ‘twinkling of an eye’ (I Cor. 15:51) that undoubtedly belongs to an eschatological context. 


[31] “The Virgin today gives birth to the one who is beyond being” (from the kontakion of the feast of the Nativity); “today the nature of the waters is being sanctified” (second idiomelon of the feast of the Epiphany; “today is lifted on the tree He who suspended the earth among waters” (antiphonon of Good Friday’s Passion service). The examples, of course, abound. 


[32] The Concept of Anxiety, (Howard V. Hong και Edna H. Hong, trans., Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), p. 90. However, there are times in Kierkegaard’s analysis of repetition that his inability to distinguish between repetition as continuity and repetition as recurrence becomes clear. One could protest that we are splitting hairs by pursuing this kind of distinction; I believe, though, that it is essential not to confuse repetition with a crypto-metaphysical sense of eternity. Repetition is not realized by a continuous moment (in the way that eternity is “made up” by the nunc stans), but by a recurring moment. 


[33] R. Bultmann, History and Eschatology, (Edinburgh, T&T Clark, 1957). 


[34] Golitzin mentions—besides Dionysius—the Acts of Judas Thomas, Athanasius’ Life of Anthony, and Ephrem the Syrus’ Hymns on Nature and Hymns on Paradise. An examination of these texts allows Golitzin to conclude with the following words ‘thus, again, we find the term linked with the mystical vision, Christ, light, and the liturgies of both heaven and earth’; see, ‘ “Suddenly, Christ”: The Place of Negative Theology in the Mystagogy of Dionysius Aeropagites,’ in Mystics: Presence and Aporia, Michael Kessler and Christian Sheppard (eds.), (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2003), p. 24. Beyond the milieu of early Christian literature, one finds frequent references to the exaiphnes as an indicator of the divine in the work of Philo of Alexandria (especially in De Somniis, Quod Deus sit immutabulis, De sacrificiis Abelis et Caini and De mutatione nominum). For a recent treatment of the relevant passages, see Jean-Lous Chrétien, The Unforgettable and the Unhoped for, Jeffrey Bloechl (trans.), (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), pp. 99-118. 


[35] The entire Third Letter of Dionysius the Aeropagite attests to the relation of the exaiphnes with the Incarnation. Here is Dionysius’ Third Letter in its entirety: ‘ “Suddenly” [exaiphnes] means that which has come forth unexpectedly and from the hitherto invisible into manifestation. And I think that here theology is suggesting the philanthropy [i.e., the Divine Economy] of Christ. The superessential has proceeded out of hiddenness to become manifest to us by becoming a human being. Yet He is also hidden, both after the manifestation, and, to speak more divinely, even within it. For this is the hidden of Jesus, and neither by rational discourse, nor by intuition can His mystery be explained. But instead even when spoken, it remains ineffable, and when conceived, unknowable.’ 


[36] For an analysis of the exaiphnes in these texts, see Alexander Golitzin,  “Suddenly, Christ” (cited above). 


[37] Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, vol. III, p. 605, emphasis added. 


[38] See, ‘The Phenomenon of God: From Husserl to Marion’ in the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, 78:1 (2004), pp. 53-68. 


[39] Karsten Harries, Infinity and Perspective (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001). On the other hand, however, it has been argued that perspective, by introducing the false impression of a third dimension, destroys the painterly character of the painting which is essentially two-dimensional. Thus, it cancels out the liberating effect brought about by painting which, in loosing the spatiality of three-dimensionality (representative of sculpture), freed itself from the constraints of universality. For painting as a the “Christian” paradigm of art, effected by the Incarnation, see, G.W. Hegel, Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, vol. II, T.M. Knox (trans.), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975). 


[40] This is the groundbreaking insight of the eschatology of the Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas, see ‘Towards an Eschatological Ontology’ (quoted above) and his ‘Church and the Eschaton’ (in Greek) in Church and Eschatology, Pantelis Kalaitzidis (ed.), (Athens: Kastaniotis Publishers, 2001). 


[41] Metropolitan of Pergamon John (Zizioulas), ‘Eucharist and the Kingdom of God’ in Synaxis (in Greek), issue 52 (1994): 81-97, at 92. 


[42] The reference here is to the paradigm switch introduced by the Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas in his ‘Towards an Eschatological Ontology.’ For Zizioulas, following Maximus the Confessor, the cause of a thing is not determined by its beginning and its past but by its end and its future. 


[43] After John D. Zizioulas (‘Towards an Eschatological Ontology’); also see the commentary on this text provided by Douglas Knight, in his ‘Zizioulas on the Eschatology of the Person,’ The Future as God’s Gift: Explorations in Christian Eschatology, D. Fergusson and M. Sarot (eds.),  (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), in particular pp. 192-3. 


[44] For a further discussion on how one could read Genesis eschatologically, see Ilias Papagiannopoulos, Beyond Absence: An Essay on the Human Person on the Track of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Athens: Indiktos, 2005, pp. 57-90 (in Greek). 


[45] John D. Zizioulas, ‘Towards an Eschatological Ontology’ (p. 13 in the ms.). 


[46] Works of Love, p. 89. 


[47] This was the conclusion of a paper on Marion that Prof. Westphal read at The Breakthrough of Phenomenology and Theology Conference organized by Boston University’s Philosophy Department on April 27, 2001. Forthcoming in the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. 


[48] ‘The crucial point in this discussion is that we ought to deal with the other, not as he appeared yesterday or as he is today, but as who will be in the future and at the eschaton, namely, as a fellow and as a neighbor in the Kingdom. For it is the future—that is, their place in the Kingdom—that gives to each being its true character.’ Metropolitan of Pergamon John (Zizioulas), ‘Eucharist and the Kingdom of God’ in Synaxis (in Greek), issue 52 (1994): 81-97, at 92. Zizioulas’s commitment to eschatology forces him to distinguish between two ontologies, the protological ontology that is nothing else but the ‘worldly’ attitude, and the eschatological ontology. According to the first, whatever has happened cannot be eradicated or erased; our acts and decisions form our facticity which is, in this case, tantamount to our being. Thus even God is constrained by our past. On the other hand, for eschatological ontology (which for Zizioulas is reflected in the Eucharist) it is not the past but the future, unseen, unknown and surprising as it might be, that determines our being and our existence:  ‘the sinner is not ontologically determined by who he was [i.e., a sinner], but by who he will be [i.e., a saint].’ See, ‘Church and the Eschaton’ (in Greek) in Church and Eschatology, Pantelis Kalaitzidis (ed.), (Athens: Kastaniotis Publishers, 2001), p. 43.