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‘Sacrament of the Dynamic Transcendence of Christianity’: Cornelius Ernst on the Church



The new ontology of meaning proposed by Fr Cornelius Ernst OP as a means of articulating the Thomistic synthesis in the idiom of the modern era coheres around ecclesiology. Drawing upon the linguistic philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, Ernst sees meaning as the distinctively human praxis by which man ‘subdues’ and ‘transcends’ the world to which he belongs, thereby transposing it into the world that belongs to man. The Church, as the Body of Christ – who is personally the ontological meaning of history – is the distinctively Christian linguistic community of meaning, in which ultimate meaning – the ‘meaning of meaning’, i.e. God – is present in each successive era. Established in the illuminating event of Christ's incarnation, the Church is the sacramental institution that makes present Christ's re-integration of the plurality of human meanings, realising itself as a concrete community within the world, and realising the world authentically within itself. As the sacrament of the Trinitarian mediation of meaning, therefore, the Church is irreducibly both human institution and mystical communion, serving as the ontological a priori of faith, and thus the authentic locus of Christian theology.