Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2009


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

George Worgul

Committee Member

Marie Baird

Committee Member

Maureen O'Brien


Anointing, Icon, Interruption, Postmodern, Sacraments, Sick


The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick has traditionally been conceived within pre-modern conceptual categories and the supporting structure or worldview of Aristotelian metaphysics. Postmodern sacramental theology suggests a reflexive reformulation, one that no longer sees the world as the transparent horizon of experiences within which the divine can be pointed out, but rather that the incompleteness and contingency of being human offers hidden glimpses of the divine. This reformulation expresses the sacrament of anointing as an experience of iconic interruption of the loving God within the context of the suffering, vulnerability, and dying of a member of the Christian community.

Liessjen, writing on a postmodern understanding of the sacrament of anointing , has proposed an outline, a mere sketch of the communal and pneumatological dimensions of the sacrament that shift to the foreground in this new millennium of theological reflection. I explore the expanded horizons of the sacrament of anointing of the sick that come into view when the postmodern concepts of icon and interruption are utilized. This dissertation examines not only the above mentioned communal and pneumatological dimensions of the sacrament in more depth, but also the accompanying openness in mystery to ever new contexts, the theological limits that arise from these contexts, and the questions that arise when traditional sources dialog with postmodern cultural anthropologies implicit in these contexts.

Chapter One presents a brief history of Anointing of the Sick and how each community and time attempted to better understand the mysterious gift of divine love celebrated and actualized in their communal rituals of visiting, healing, and reconciling the sick. Chapter Two examines the theology of Anointing in the revised Rite. Chapter Three examines anointing as an iconic interruption of the loving God. The fourth chapter examines the experience of iconic interruption of the loving God in the sacramental ritual of anointing of the sick. Chapter Five looks at specific case studies and address issues that arise as postmodern conceptual categories are used to focus any systematic view of the Sacrament of Anointing. Iconic interruption provides a powerful set of concepts that provoke new insights for the changing perceptions of culture and social life in our world.