In the Swarm: The Liturgy and Liquid Identity

Zygmunt Bauman's concept of "liquid modernity" is one of my recurring topics of exploration. To put it briefly, our age prizes flexibility over stability, flow over institution, speed over space.

Bauman’s work does not (as sociological) explore the deeper history of liquid modernity. That history reveals that modernity intrinsically tends toward liquefaction, even if many modern theorists hoped to maintain solid institutions. The liquefying element is rooted in modernity’s denial of formal and final causality, two of Aristotle’s four categories. Formal causality concerns what a thing is, while final causality what a thing is ordered to. Early modern philosophers and scientists dismissed formal and final causality as unscientific and irrelevant, but in so doing, they opened the world of persons, things, and desires to be ordered to . . . anything whatsoever. This move was often made in the name of freedom, but it might be more precise to say that it actually achieves liquification. As I will explore, the greater freedom of liquid modernity is a freedom of exploding choices (a freedom of indifference, as Servais Pinckaers puts it), rather than a greater interior liberty. A merely numerical increase in options can lead to paralysis and a greater unfreedom.

Further, and leading to my next section: the question of who I am becomes especially vexed in a liquid age. In solid eras, such as pre-modern ones, people certainly asked the question, as instructed by the ancient Delphic Oracle. The concern was less individuating and more species-wide, however: who are we as human beings? The answers were generally cosmic and natural: I am part of the cosmic order arranged by the gods and transcendent forces, and I am a rational and political animal who should be concerned with pursuing justice toward the gods and my fellow men. If pressed about my individuality, I might point to my social status, my family or tribe or city or nation, and my attendant responsibilities. For example, a thousand years ago I might “identify” (not that I would have used that word back then) as a Christian, and thus a creature of the good God, a member of the family Franz, and a peasant working the lands of the lord of Heidelberg.

What happens when all these things—religion, the cosmos, status, wealth, family, and tribe—are liquified? What happens when we are able, or even instructed, to craft an identity apart from these “solids?” Then we have our world, a world in which numerous other identity-strategies are utilized. That brings me to my next section.

First, however, one last historical note: let us not forget that the great historical solvent relativizing solids and valorizing liquidity was Christianity. Against the “solid” categories of race, tribe, status, and even family, Christianity preached that, in Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ” (Gal 3:28). “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead” (Matt 8:22). Christianity first introduced an individuality normed not by these solid structures but by the liquidity of one’s individual mission in Christ—as with Paul, self-consciously knowing himself to be one “set apart” (Gal 1:15) from eternity by God, to be, as Acts puts it, God’s “chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” and to suffer (Acts 9:15–16). While Christianity clearly cannot endorse moral relativism and other related features of liquid modernity, it is not simply a “solid” institution. I will return to this point shortly. But first, more on liquid identity.

Liquid Modern Identity

One noisy aspect of contemporary liquid modernity is gender fluidity. I think, however, we can see how liquid our identities are in many aspects beyond gender, and that exercise is salutary. It shows us that those tempted by gender fluidity are simply more radical versions of those things with which we all struggle, namely, how to know and become who we are supposed to be without help from traditional solids.

I will here explore five aspects of liquid modernity identities: the hard work that goes into creating an identity; related to that, the need for identity shortcuts and, further, performative identities; the tenuous nature of liquid community and relationships; and the oscillation between security and freedom.

The Labor of Self-Creation

Self-creation was an important part of modern identity, even in solid modernity.[1] Further, with modernity comes, as Bauman puts it, the command to be an individual, to craft one’s individuality. One must be free enough to dare to make oneself. As a result, Bauman writes, “the burden of pattern-weaving and the responsibility for failure fall primarily on the individual’s shoulders.”[2] This means that one can only blame oneself if the task of identity-creation fails. The result is the uneasy and uncomfortable occupation of “living daily with the risk of self-reprobation and self-contempt” (LM, 38).

In addition, the demand to create one’s identity means surrendering, in liquid modernity,

to being in a state of permanent transformation, to redefining oneself perpetually through becoming someone other than one has been thus far; and “becoming someone else” amounts to ceasing to be what one has been, to breaking and shaking off one’s old form, as a snake does its skin or a shellfish its carapace—rejecting and hoping to wipe out, one by one, the used-up, worn-out, too-tight, or just not as satisfying personae, as they are revealed to be in comparison with new and improved opportunities and offers.[3]

Identity Shortcuts

If this sounds exhausting, it is. As a result, we are constantly on the lookout for shortcuts in the identity-creation business, premade suits off the rack, so to speak, to substitute for bespoke and hand-made models. This often means identity politics, in whatever form (whether on the right or the left). It also means the central importance of fashion. Relief from identity-curation responsibility can take the form of:

A set of straightforward must-do and mustn’t-do rules. Individual actors are pressed, nudged, and cajoled to put their confidence in authorities trusted to decide and spell out what exactly the unspoken demand commands them to do in this or that situation, and just how far (and no further) their unconditional responsibility obliges them to go under those situations (E, 52).

This is in, that is out. Simple white walls are in, ornate decoration is out (or vice versa). Market forces fuel this liquid recreation while discouraging any rest. “The major threat to a society that announces ‘customer satisfaction’ to be its motive and purpose is a satisfied consumer” (E, 148).

Performative Identity

We seek identity shortcuts, therefore, but always with an eye to how the identities appear. How do they play with the audience? Our identity is performative, in gender theorist Judith Butler’s sense—and it is no accident that her work caught on precisely in liquid modernity. We perform an identity in order to become that identity. Rather than being preceding acting, acting creates being. I am what I act, in front of an audience recognizing me.[4] I call this the doxic self.

This shift was already present in early and high modernity’s embrace of man as homo faber, “man the maker,” eventually to become “man the maker of himself.” As cultural solids melted away, we were more and more left with what, as Joseph Ratzinger put it, seems the most in our control: the truth of man is found in what he makes.[5]

This modern conviction was reinforced and expanded with the growth of a parallel online world. Bauman notes that the multiplication of publics with the internet—multiple social-media sites and other avenues to express myself (remember blogs?)—our identity challenges are both alleviated and complicated. Self-formation was always challenged by the need to be consistent, but now that need is relieved.[6] I can be one person on Twitter, maybe acerbic, and a different person on a dating app, perhaps warm and kind.

Liquid Community

All of this affects the way that. we are in community with others. Solid communities—such as the family and the Church—have been attacked. We are left with liquid communities. Bauman argues that the liquid form of community at the micro-level is the network. “The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you. You feel in control.”[7]

At the macro-level, what has replaced community is the swarm:

In a liquid-modern society, swarms tend to replace groups, with their leaders, hierarchies, and pecking orders. A swarm can do without all those paraphernalia without which a group could not exist . . . A swarm has no top, no center; it is solely the direction of its current flight that casts some of the self-propelled swarm units into the position of “leaders” to be followed for the duration of a particular flight or a part of it, though hardly longer (E, 15).

Security vs. Freedom

In liquid modernity, there is the push-and-pull between security and freedom. It is tempting to think that liquidity promises all freedom and no security, but this is false. Perhaps the perceived benefit of liquidity is its strength and flexibility to evade obstacles and destruction. Liquidity’s strength is found in its ability to negotiate easily with its context—to surrender what seemed non-negotiable just previously and to blend in with a new swarm.

This kind of security, however, requires a lot of attention and action on the part of the liquid individual, and its very mobility affects identity. If one is constantly leaving and joining new swarms, the identity based on these group memberships is “perpetually in statu nascendi, each of the forms it assumes suffering from more or less acute inner contradiction” (E, 18). Rather than being a matter of “roots” or “embeddedness,” Bauman argues, identities today are more like dropping and weighing anchor. “Unlike ‘uprooting’ and ‘disembedding,’ there is nothing irrevocable, let alone ultimate, in weighing anchor. Anchors are drawn up only to be dropped again elsewhere, and they can be dropped with similar ease at many different and distant ports of call.” Anchors are, he notes, mere tools that cannot define the ship, and, likewise, network and swarm membership is equally non-definite (E, 19).

Further, ports of call do not necessary make demands on the ships that arrive, and the ones that do not will be both more visited and more frequently left behind. Yet liquid identity thrives on the recognition of others, as Hegel recognized. Pierre Manent connects the dots for us: because of modernity’s rejection of a final good, we cannot form an identity around communal striving for a mutually recognized good. Instead, we are left with the injunction to tolerate the other person’s personally recognized good. This injunction is recognition, which has shifted from being a courtesy to being a demand.[8]

We also have experience with how badly this works. Recognition as mere toleration is not very affirming. Bauman explains the paradox:

Emancipation of the self and its effective self-assertion need strong and demanding communities . . . But confirmation capable of completing the labor of self-creation can be offered only by an authority: a community whose admission counts because it has, and uses, power to refuse admission (E, 19–21).

What liquid identity needs is the affirmation that can only be received by a solid authority, which retains the right to deny affirmation. Winning that kind of affirmation is much more confirming than the blanket recognition cast by toleration, but paradoxically that kind of affirmation has been marginalized in liquid modernity.

Let us take stock. We live in a liquid modern age, the extreme edge of which is seen in gender (or even species) fluidity, but which impacts us all. Liquidity is especially challenging to the formation of identity, which usually relies on solid structures. Thus, we have an identity crisis instigated by modernity and especially liquid modernity. The result is identity politics invading all spheres, including Catholicism. People seek easy identity formation, but they are also inclined to depart once the demands of the new identity become too onerous. Our online environments facilitate quick and oppositional identity formation (“I’m a rad trad, which is not like you”), while providing a place to drop anchor in an instant community making few demands upon oneself.

What is the Good Desired in Modern Liquidity?

Now, all of this is depressing and rightly condemned. But I would like to perform some jiu-jitsu on liquid modernity by asking a more philosophical and anthropological question: what is the good that the denizens of liquid modernity desire?

In asking this question, I am assuming, with Plato and Aristotle, that “all men desire the good” (Meno 77B–C). Both these thinkers realized, of course, that what we most immediately desire is not always in accord with the good. Even when we misunderstand what is good, however, our ultimate goal is always the good, or happiness, and not evil. This gap between the final end of our desire—the good—and the things we think will get us there is precisely the drama, and too often the tragedy, of every human life.

Bauman convincingly shows us that we liquid moderns think that flexibility, mutability, and speed will make us happy, while “solidity” in the form of stability, permanence, and history will drag us down. He likewise shows how discontent we nevertheless are with our liquid world. What he does not do, and as a sociologist perhaps cannot do, is to ask more probingly why we are so infatuated with the liquid qualities. Flexibility is great, but previous ages valued stability even more. So why do we zig liquid, while most people up to now zagged solid?

We have already seen a hint of the answer: Christianity, although in many ways very solid, also acted as a liquifying solvent. Is there more to say? Let us go deeper—into the depths of the triune God. We will begin with the Incarnation, which reveals that the unchanging God can conform himself to the vicissitudes of a mutable human life.[9]

Liquidity and Scripture

It is instructive to see how often the New Testament uses verbs of movement to express deeper spiritual truths. We see this clearly in the Gospel of Luke’s formulation of Jesus’s whole public ministry as one long journey to Jerusalem. Luke is full of potent verbs conveying movement and rising. The former include poreusthai, “go,” used often to describe Jesus’s journey to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51, 13:22), as well as (ex)erchesthai, “come” (2:16, the shepherds hastening to the manger). The latter include anistanai or egerai, “arise,” used, e.g., for Mary after the Annunciation (1:39), the owner of the household who is petitioned at night (13:25), and the Prodigal Son (15:18), as well as for Jesus’s resurrection (24:6). The examples could be multiplied, relying on the other Gospels and the rest of the New Testament.[10] These verbs convey the prosaic narrative truth that Jesus and others in the Gospels go around to lots of places, yes—but they also convey the deeper spiritual truth that Jesus’s public life is, as Joseph Ratzinger says, a movement and a doing that reflects Jesus’s divine being.

The being of Christ . . . is actualitas, stepping beyond oneself, the exodus of going out from self; it is, not a being that rests in itself, but the act of being sent, of being son, of serving. Conversely, this “doing” is not just “doing” but “being”; it reaches down into the depths of being and coincides with it. This being is exodus, transformation.[11]

Of course, there is the further and opposing menein theme, the emphasis on “remaining” or “abiding.” We see this in Luke in the Emmaus account, in which the revivified disciples beg the disguised Jesus to “stay with us!” (24:29). Both the motion and the remaining themes are emphasized in the Fourth Gospel, from the very beginning in John 1:38, when the disciples ask Jesus where he “stays,” to the end, in the discourse at the Last Supper. There Jesus reveals that he is the way-where-he-is-going (John 14:4, 6) and yet also the One in whom the Father dwells (John 14:10).

And if I go [poreuthō] and prepare a place for you, I will come [érchomai] again and will take you to myself, so that where I am [hopou eimì egō], there you may be also. And you know the way [hodòn] where I am going [hopou egō hupágō].” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way [hodòn]?” Jesus said to him, “I am the Way [Egō eimi hē hodòs], and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes [érchetai] to the Father except through me (John 14:3–6).

Jesus is, therefore, the way-where-he-is-going and also the one who remains: in the Father and with the disciples. He is not merely the way-for-us-to-follow; he is also the way-for-himself, as the way-where-he-is-going. I call this Jesus’s vector-nature, the truth that he is his “motion.” This “motion” is ultimately centered around the Father: he is the One-sent by the Father, who is the One who sent him (a title for the Father omnipresent in John). His earthly “motion” is the earthly expression of his eternal procession from the Father, as I will discuss more shortly. Here it is important to see that the disciples are called to participate in his going-and-remaining, “so that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).

To understand this, we have to grasp that the exodus-being of Christ is rooted in his divine Person. As John puts it, the incarnate Son “had come [exēlthen] from God and was going to God” (13:3). This movement applies to his incarnate life in history, but also to his divine triune life. He is the One who is begotten by the Father and returns to him. As John puts it, Jesus is the “only-begotten God” who is “into the bosom of Father” (eis tòn kólpon in 1:18, an accusative). Jesus’s being is a going-toward. Balthasar sees Jesus’s filial existence, his remaining “in the bosom of God,” as an eternal “movement” toward God.[12] Christ’s “whole being is in motion” from and toward the Father, an earthly movement that reflects his eternal procession.[13] In the triune God, therefore, we can see a distant analogous reflection of created movement and fluidity. Obviously, this similarity can only be analogous, because there is no literal movement (or potency or change) in God. But there is something like it, a “something” that is the divine, transcendent origin of earthly movement.

This fluidity is balanced by the fact that these “fluid” relations are also “solid” existence (the menein theme), a balance expressed in the term “subsisting relation.” Each Person of the Trinity is a subsisting relation, with relations acting, so to speak, like substances and substances acting, so to speak, like relations. The Father “dwells” or remains in the Son, and vice versa, but this being is simultaneously an exodus-being.

Liquidity, Availability, and Liturgy

This very compressed argument is to make the case that our human desires for both solidity and fluidity are rooted in God himself, who is both “solid” and “liquid,” analogously speaking. So what might this mean for human beings? The good of liquidity for us is, therefore, twofold: liquidity is ordered to our availability to God and is fulfilled in the pouring forth of self-gift, including the self-gift of worship.

The first, availability, is seen beautifully in two verses from Proverbs: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (21:1–2). The flexibility that is liquidity’s strong point is here reoriented from selfish willfulness to the fulfillment of God’s will. This attitude is expressed at more length by Jean Pierre de Caussade, SJ:

In the state of abandonment, the only rule is the duty of the present moment. In this the soul is light as a feather, liquid as water, simple as a child, active as a ball in receiving and following all the inspirations of grace. Such souls have no more consistence and rigidity than molten metal. As this takes any form according to the mould into which it is poured, so these souls are pliant and easily receptive of any form that God chooses to give them. In a word, their disposition resembles the atmosphere, which is affected by every breeze; or water, which flows into any shaped vessel exactly filling every crevice.[14]

This is the reason why we are liquid as well as solid, so that we can be pliable in the hands of God.

The second reason, self-gift: we are meant to pour ourselves out as Christ did, exemplified in his exodus-being. In the Gospels, Jesus invites the disciples into his motion, so that they can be born from the Father in baptism and return to the Father for eternity. Ratzinger calls this motion of being-drawn-into Christ’s action “the inner” and “essential dynamic of gift, through which he now acts in us and our action becomes one with his”[15]. The action follows upon being, against the performative identity of liquid modernity: “The newness can come only from the gift of being-with and being-in Christ” (JN2, 64, emphasis in the original). Here again we see echoes of the theme of movement or action while remaining.

Liturgy as Solid and Liquid

Let us now return to the question of the liturgy. Both solidity and liquidity have undeniable goods as well as evils. We can see the evils of liquid modernity in recent liturgical abuses, such as a disregard for solid liturgical norms (as opposed to “say the black, do the red”). The last decades have seen a proliferation of individualistic “tweaks” to what is and should be understood as a communal participation in a heavenly reality, not something endlessly and individually manipulable. As someone who suffered through liturgical dances—not to mention the Wiccan parish volunteer post-it-noting over masculine pronouns in the lectionary—I speak with feeling and experience.

Further, we can understand that much contemporary recourse to the rite formally known as the “Extraordinary Form” is a “solid” response to liturgical liquidation. As such, this response is rational and, even, predictable. Of course people would turn back to something solid! Rather than assuming ill will, sedevacantism, or the like, we can more charitably see Catholics who are understandably attempting to find a solid footing amidst liquid idiosyncrasy. And here I speak as someone who only ever goes to the post-conciliar form.

We need solidity, in other words. Let us not, however, dismiss too quickly the balancing reality of liquidity. The history of the development of the liturgy and of sacramental theology bears this out as well. I will not attempt to delve into this history, but let us take one simple example: the changes in the liturgical languages of the Church. Very early Christian liturgy privileged Greek (although not exclusively), as the language of Scripture and the universal “common” (koine) tongue, but other rites in the vernacular have ancient roots, such as Coptic and Syrian. The standardization of Latin as the Western liturgical language began to occur when Latin became the “common” tongue. In this and in many other ways, liturgy has developed and changed under the guidance of the Church.

Let us look beyond sociology and history and look more closely at the liturgy and sacraments themselves. In liturgical, sacramental, and devotional practices, we see an interplay between solidity and liquidity. An authority as solid as the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia informs us that “processions, an element in all ceremonial, are to be found, as we should expect, in almost every form of religious worship.”[16] All liturgy—Christian or not—contains an element of movement.

Benedict XVI on the Eucharist

Let us turn more specifically to the Eucharist and, in particular, the theology of Benedict XVI. He argues that the incorporation into Jesus’s going-and-remaining of which I spoke above happens primarily in the Eucharist[17] and continues in the loving action of the disciples sent into the world on the basis of Jesus’s own motion to the Father (“greater works than these will he do because I go to the Father [pròs tòn Patera poreúomai],” John 14:12). As one scholar puts it, “If, as Augustine said, in the Eucharist we become the body of Christ which we eat, then it is specifically the body of Christ ‘handed over’ that defines and shapes the church’s mission: to be broken, poured out, and ‘handed over’ for the world.”[18]

Indeed, Ratzinger describes the liquidity of the Son as the expression of his being as self-gift.

For John, the picture of the pierced side forms the climax not only of the crucifixion scene but of the whole story of Jesus. Now, [241] after the piercing with a spear that ends his earthly life, his existence is completely open; now he is entirely “for”; now he is truly no longer a single individual but “Adam,” from whose side Eve, a new mankind, is formed.[19]

We see in the two species of the Eucharist both solidity—the bread that remains in the tabernacle—and liquidity—the cup that is poured out. In incorporating us into Christ, the Eucharist gives us the proper orientation to balance solidity and liquidity, remaining and self-gift.

Pastoral Care in Liquid Modernity

So are there any practical take-aways? First, it should be clear why the liturgy is the lightning rod for so many identity-debates in liquid modernity. Because it can be viewed both as solid and as liquid, it can be seen both as a solid refuge from liquidity and as a perpetually manipulable fluid. Further, where one lines up on the liturgical also serves as an identity shortcut, providing an identity suit-off-the-rack—in other words, Catholic identity politics.

Further, though, we have seen how the liturgy, in particular the Mass, feeds us in a manner appropriate to our natures as both solid and liquid. It roots us in Christ’s being, but this being is an exodus-being, which sends us out to give of ourselves. The Eucharist is the fulfillment (in fact, the source and summit) of our solid-liquid desires. These diverse aspects of the liturgy and of the Eucharist can be presented to various audiences.

We have also seen the challenges pertaining to community in liquid modernity. Most liquid people are not integrated into a community but rather try to integrate the community into the self (E, 22). Yet we desperately need guidance in how to be more solid and how to properly direct our liquidity. Even Bauman the sociologist sees this.

Never before was the need for orientation points and guidance as strong and as painfully felt. Yet never before were firm and reliable orientation points and trustworthy guides in such short supply . . . Let me clear: there is a vexing shortage of firm and reliable orientation points, trustworthy guides. That shortage (paradoxically, yet not at all accidentally) coincides with a proliferation of tempting suggestions and seductive offers of orientation and with a rising wave of guidebooks amid swelling throngs of counselors. This circumstance, however, makes yet more confusing the task of navigating through the misleading or deceitful propositions in order to find an orientation likely to deliver on its promise (E, 24–25).

People need role models in how to temper our liquid tendencies without simply falling back into pure solidity. In order to be such role models, we need to figure this out first. Figuring it out will probably have a lot to do with pulling back from online life, allowing community to make demands on us, and finding our identity properly.

How on earth do we do the last? That is its own paper, but here I will briefly propose my own solution to the modern identity crisis. The only true source of our identity is our mission in Christ. How is God sending us? This might sound like an overly action-oriented, pragmatic response, but let us not forget that mission is more a matter of being than doing, more a matter of the saint that God wants me to be than of accomplishing a lot. The recent Magisterium has repeatedly emphasized this point. As John Paul II says in Redemptoris Missio: “We are missionaries above all because of what we are as a Church whose innermost life is unity in love, even before we become missionaries in word or deed.[20]

We in fact have seen this path already when I very briefly discussed Paul. He is exemplary for finding one’s identity in Christ. While before he was identified by his social status and learning (as a Pharisee, zealous for the Law), after he is defined only as God’s chosen instrument to the Gentiles. As Balthasar puts it, “In the very discipleship in which the Christian ‘loses his soul,’ he can attain his true identity.”[21] Accepting one’s unique mission from God enables one to grasp “that most intimate idea of his own self—which otherwise would remain undiscoverable.”[22]

This mission is always connected to a certain kind of martyrdom. This was true of Jesus’s liquid movement toward Jerusalem and for ours as well. “As pilgrims, we go up to him; as a pilgrim, he comes to us and takes us up with him in his ‘ascent’ to the Cross and Resurrection, to the definitive Jerusalem that is already growing in the midst of this world in the communion that unites us with his body.”[23]

As Benedict XVI says, our mission of self-giving holiness is rooted in the Eucharist:

The Eucharist is thus the source and summit not only of the Church’s life, but also of her mission: “an authentically eucharistic Church is a missionary Church.” We too must be able to tell our brothers and sisters with conviction: “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us” (1 John 1:3). Truly, nothing is more beautiful than to know Christ and to make him known to others.[24]

Pastoral care in liquid modernity requires, in other words, helping others to find their identity in Christ and his call. This begins with us, of course. We must learn and teach how to bring all things, including stillness and contemplation but also busy-ness and the motion of a life, under Christ. We must learn and then help those who are excessively rigid to find the true stability in God, not in ecclesial practices that can and will change. We must learn and then help those who are lost in liquidity to reorient their life into Eucharist, which inserts us into the trinitarian processions. The true place of liquidity is found in a life that flows from and into the Father through the Son in the Spirit.

Editorial Note: This talk was a keynote address for the Society for Catholic Liturgy 2022 conference.

[1] Discernible in many places, but not the least in the earliest theorist of “identity,” John Locke, as I explore in The Body and Identity (manuscript in progress), and summarized here: “Identity: A History of An Idea,” Humanum Review (John Paul II Institute, Washington, D.C., online), Issue 1, September 2021.

[2] Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2008), 8­–9. Future references will be abbreviated LM and will be parenthetical.

[3] Zygmunt Bauman, Does Ethics Have a Chance in a World of Consumers? Institute for Human Sciences Vienna Lecture Series (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), 135–36. Future references will be parenthetic and abbreviated E. Thus, the creation of the self is “drifting from the realm of cognitive and moral spaces”—such as, what do I think? How well do I act?— “to that of the aesthetic” (Zygmunt Bauman and Rein Raud, Practices of Selfhood [Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2015], 42).

[4] It is insufficiently appreciated in the scholarly literature how much Butler was indebted to Hegel (the subject of her dissertation).

[5] Drawing on Giambattista Vico, who proposed verum quia factum: truth is found only in “what we have made ourselves.” Ratzinger argues that “this formula denotes the real end of the old metaphysics” (Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, trans. J. R. Foster and Michael J. Miller [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004 (1968)], 59–60).

[6] Bauman and Raud, Practices of Selfhood, 42.

[7] Ricardo de Querol with Zygmunt Bauman, “Zygmunt Bauman: Social Media are a Trap,” El País, Jan. 25, 2016.

[8] Pierre Manent, The City of Man, trans. Marc A. LePain, New French Thought, ed. Thomas Pavel and Mark Lilla (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 179–80.

[9] The following paragraphs of Scriptural exegesis are revised from my “Liquidity: Man, the Triune God, and the Eucharistic Christ,” Communio 46, no. 3–4 (Fall–Winter 2019): 585–619.

[10] See my “Liquidity: Man, the Triune God, and the Eucharistic Christ,” Communio 46, no. 3–4 (Fall–Winter 2019): 585–619.

[11] Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 2nd ed., trans. J. R. Foster and Michael J. Miller (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 230.

[12] Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Finite Time Within Eternal Time: On the Christian Vision of Man” [1984], in Man Is Created, vol. 5 of Explorations in Theology, trans. Adrian J. Walker (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2014), 47–65, at 58, 63–65.

[13] Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Dramatis Personae: Persons in Christ, vol. 3 of Theo-drama, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 153 (hereafter this volume will be cited as TD3).

[14] Jean Pierre de Caussade, SJ, Abandonment to Divine Providence, trans. Dom Arnold (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 91.

[15] Pope Benedict XVI, Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, vol. 2 of Jesus of Nazareth, trans. Vatican Secretariat of State (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), 62 (hereafter this volume will be cited as JN2).

[16] Herbert Thurston, “Processions,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 12 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911.

[17] “Being incorporated into his body, being pervaded by his presence is what matters” (JN2, 60).

[18] Brian K. Peterson, “What Happened on ‘The Night’? Judas, God, and the Importance of Liturgical Ambiguity,” Pro Ecclesia 20, no. 4 (Fall 2011): 363–383, here 382.

[19] Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 240–241.

[20] John Paul II, Redemptoris missio §23, emphasis in the original.

[21] TD3, 162.

[22] TD3, 263. For Balthasar, uniqueness is a good that reflects the Trinitarian particularity. “[I]t is exceedingly good and in every respect positive that an otherness exists in God himself, by virtue of which God is first of all an infinite inner life of self-giving” (Balthasar, Christian Meditation, 61, echoing succinctly the longer exposition in TD 5, 81–85, inter alia). I treat the positivity of otherness in Franks, “Trinitarian Analogia Entis in Hans Urs von Balthasar,” 546–559.

[23] JN2, 11.

[24] Sacramentum Caritatis, 84.

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Angela Franks

Angela Franks is Professor of Theology at St. John's Seminary in Boston and a Church Life Journal Life and Dignity Writing Fellow. Her specialties include the theology of the body, the new evangelization, and the thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar.

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