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 no longer one branch of theology among others but lay at the center of our understanding of the Christian faith. 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 the Metropolitan of Pergamon John (Zizioulas), a different understanding of eschatology has emerged, 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 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 John Zizioulas and certain insights that recent research in phenomenology has placed at theology's service. This association might seem strange to the reader: What does the theology of things-to-come have in common with the philosophy of things-themselves? I would like to propose that phenomenology, especially as it has been recently formulated by a new generation of phenomenologists, such as Jean-Luc Marion, Jean-Yves Lacoste, and Richard Kearney, can be a very helpful instrument in the hands of eucharistic eschatology in its effort to rescue eschatology from the twin risks of either immanentizing it or relegating it to an end-of-times utopia. Furthermore, the structure of an “inverted intentionality,” as exemplified by certain liturgical forms 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 moralistic and sociological constellations of this world) and that, as my concluding remarks illustrate, it has real, practical, day-to-day consequences for the ways we conduct our lives and our relationships with others.
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