The Scandal of Sacramentality: The Eucharist in Literary and Theological Perspectives

By Brannon Hancock

An exploration of the nature of the Eucharist, bringing theological and literary resources to bear on the paradoxical role of the central Christian sacrament.

ISBN: 9780227174548


The sacrament par excellence, the Eucharist, has been upheld as the foundational sacrament of Christ’s Body called church, yet it has confounded Christian thinking and practice throughout history. Its symbolism points to the paradox of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of God in Jesus of Nazareth, which St Paul describes as a stumbling block (skandalon). Yet the scandal of sacramentality, not only illustrated by but enacted in the Eucharist, has not been sufficiently accounted for in the ecclesiologies and sacramental theologies of the Christian tradition.

Despite what appears to be an increasingly post-ecclesial world, sacrament remains a persistent theme in contemporary culture, often in places least expected. Drawing upon the biblical image of “the Word made flesh”, this interdisciplinary study examines the scandal of sacramentality through the twofold theme of the scandal of language (word) and the scandal of the body (flesh). While sacred theology can think through this scandal only at significant risk to its own stability, the fictional discourses of literature and the arts are free to explore this scandal in a manner that simultaneously augments and challenges traditional notions of sacrament and sacramentality, and by extension, what it means to describe the church as a “eucharistic community”.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 230

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Brannon Hancock is a pastor and theologian in the Church of the Nazarene and an adjunct professor at Trevecca Nazarene University and Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. His work has appeared in Literature and Theology, The Journal of Religion and Film, and Conversations in Religion and Theology.


Foreword by Ann Loades
Foreword by David Jasper


Part One: The Scandal of Sacramentality
1. Skandalon: Stumbling over Sacrament
2. “The Word …”: The Problem of Language
3. “… Made Flesh”: The Problem of the Body

Part Two: Literary and Theological Perspectives
4. Fracturing: Brokenness and Sacrament
5. Consuming: Cannibalism and Sacrament
6. Penetrating: Eroticism and Sacrament

Conclusion: In-Conclusion



Endorsements and Reviews

Theology can be profoundly disturbing, shocking, and enticing. In particular, let eucharistic ‘body and blood’ be explored in sometimes hair-raising texts and we may find the courage to re-engage with dimensions of mystery that we would prefer to marginalize or even forget. … This book’s remarkable achievement is to show us how this may be done.
Ann Loades, Emeritus Professor of Divinity, University of Durham

In the texts addressed by Hancock here we return to the body in all its messy complexity, and therefore to the mystery that lies at the very heart of the incarnation, the Word made flesh. … For some, this may seem a profane book – but it is in its heart deeply sacramental and, perhaps, even devout. Yet it is timely and challenging, a reminder that religion, and the Christian sacramental tradition, remains a central part of our world and our experience of what it is to be human.
David Jasper, Professor of Literature and Theology, University of Glasgow

Hancock notes that, although, on the whole, eucharistically centred Churches in the West are in decline, popular culture is often full of Eucharistic allusions. Literary and artistic media, in particular those in the post-modern idiom, are often better at keeping the paradoxes intact, and expressing dimensions of the eucharist … which more specifically theological writing tends to airbrush out.
Revd Dr Edward Dowler, in Church Times, 9 October 2015

Anglicans, Catholics, and even Baptists could read this work with interest. Each would find something that accords with and destabilizes their tradition’s dogmatic and liturgical norms. Yet that is precisely the author’s point: none of us have the sacrament within our grasp.
Chris Dodson, in Reviews in Religion and Theology , Vol 23:1

In this inspiring work, Hancock recovers profanity and sacralises it. What he offers is a way of reading the sacred that, emotively and bodily, proclaims the presence of the ‘holy’ in ‘common’ life, which is ‘holy communion’.
Frank England, in Theological Book Review, Vol 27, No 2