The Catholic University of America

 Heidi Miller Yoder Defense

Final Examination of Heidi Miller Yoder

for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

March 21, 2011 at 1:00 p.m., Caldwell Room 125


Raymond Studzinski, O.S.B, Ph.D.


The Spiritual Practice of Ritually Enacted Narrative: Expanding Pilgram Marpeck’s Understanding of Action in the Lord’s Supper

Anabaptists have argued for the importance of community expressed in the social dimensions of the Eucharist while neglecting its liturgical and sacramental rooting. Thus, a jump from text to social action ensues.

This study expands upon the work of early Anabaptist Pilgram Marpeck’s (c. 1495-1556) understanding of action in the Lord’s Supper. His theology finds expression in mitzuegnus, God’s action of co-witness with the church in which an inseparable whole is formed with the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. For Marpeck, the Eucharist “makes” the church. It is an action in which no separation exists between the inner and outer reality represented. His work provides a solid place to begin a deeper engagement with the Eucharist, and also helps Anabaptists reconsider the notion of action, which they hold so dear in their ethical emphasis.

To assist in this reconsideration of action, this interdisciplinary study will attend to significant sections Paul Ricoeur’s work, which provide further development of the intricacies of action. His philosophical hermeneutic of meaningful human action shows how action can be considered as text. Thus the Eucharist is seen as an “hyper-ethical” act” which re-orients human action. This understanding leads to a consideration of ritually enacted narrative, an innovative window into what helps change us. Talal Asad’s work with ritual, along with other scholars, will help further amplify some of the insights drawn from Marpeck and Ricoeur.

This study shows how the overarching narrative of God coming among us in the birth, life, death, and rising of Jesus Christ is encountered in the Eucharist and can serve as an awakening critique for the church. The expansion of action in the Eucharist continues with a “turn towards the body,” leading to a hermeneutic of gesture, performative embodiment, a spiritual deepening of ritual practices, and an appreciation of the Eucharist as God’s gesture.

In sum, this study commends the centrality of the Eucharist as the gesture of God that we are to enact. Here we discover the potential of transformation within ritually enacted narrative. We become the gesture of God to the world.

to the topic of sin which may be of use in future efforts to provide a coherent Catholic accounting of ethical demands in relation to social sin.