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Theater and the Sacred in the Middle Ages

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Andrzej Dąbrówka

The book presents a theory of relationships between the forms of devotion
and early drama genres. The historical background is the circumstances of the Church becoming independent of the Empire. A theological and philosophical aspect of the transformation of piety at the time was the specification of the ontological status of the sacred (spiritualization) and "shifting it to Heaven" (transcendentalization). In opposition to a theory of Western civilization as a process of increasing individual self-control, the author argues for the need to take into account purely religious conditions (the idea of recapitulation). This allows the author to develop a holistic aesthetics for the religiously inspired creativity in the period spanning the 11th-15th centuries and to propose a new typology of medieval drama.

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18. The Aesthetics of Articulation and Factuality

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1. God’s dwelling with man. Does the articulation of devotion in the realm of behavior have a similarly strong doctrinal support as that which the fact of the Incarnation provides for art?

A certain exceeding of the framework of the Incarnation is inscribed in the theory of the Eucharist. Figuratively speaking, the doctrine of transubstantiation is an attempt to prolong the incarnate life of Jesus, that is, to preserve the physical, “non-mystical” presence of the sacred in this world. But it is more than an incarnation, or, more precisely, it is an incarnation understood not as a single fact, but as the whole – and still ongoing – process of human creation of the mystical Body of Christ. Thus, it is not so much “incarnation” as “recapitulation” that appears as the appropriate concept here.

We all know by heart the formula of the Incarnation, but we do not sufficiently ponder on what happened after the act itself: the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. To put emphasis on its importance, we shall describe it as the second breakthrough of the New Testament after the Incarnation: this time, it was the actual God’s dwelling with men as one of them, and it is nothing like the corporeal manifestation of the divine messenger who brings news from elsewhere and leaves,637 let alone the symbolic presence of the Old Testament God in a cloud in the daytime or in a pile of fire in the nighttime. Visibility...

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