Friday, January 13, 2017

Theological Symposium on Christology and Trinitarian Theology

Photo and story by Phillip J. Shifflet

St. Benedict, Ore. — On Monday, November 21 and Tuesday, November 22, Mount Angel Seminary (MAS) held its annual theological symposium as part of the newly established Archbishop Robert J. Dwyer lecture series. This year, Rev. Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M.Cap., was the keynote speaker.

Fr. Weinandy is a Capuchin priest and renowned scholar in the fields of Christology and Trinitarian Theology. He holds an M.A. in Systematic Theology and a Doctorate in Historical Theology. Over the last forty years, he has held various academic positions at institutions such as Georgetown University, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the University of Oxford, and two years ago was appointed to the International Theological Commission by Pope Francis. His doctoral dissertation was entitled The Immutability and Impassibility of God in Reference to the Doctrine of the Incarnation, and he is the author of dozens of popular books and articles.

Fr. Weindandy’s symposium was entitled “Issues in Christology,” and spanned across three conferences: two morning conferences and an afternoon conference. All conferences were followed by a period for questions and discussion.

Rt. Rev. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, Abbot of Mount Angel Abbey and Chancellor of Mount Angel Seminary (left); and Rev. Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M.Cap. (right)

In his first conference, he reflected on a contemporary question in Christology, namely the human consciousness of Christ. In his second conference, he presented the traditional doctrine of God, while noting some difficulties he saw in the formulation and proposing a new Trinitarian ontology which has ecumenical significance. In his final session, he addressed the question: “Does God suffer?” In this conference, he offered counter arguments to the claims of process theology, which, for various reasons, denies God’s immutability (i.e., God cannot change) and impassibility (i.e., God does not undergo passionate changes of state).

It goes without saying that these issues are of utmost importance in the life of both seminarians and priests. Pastores Dabo Vobis, Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the formation of priests, makes reference to this when it quotes the fathers of the synod that met in 1992 to discuss “the formation of priests in circumstances of the present day”: “The priest’s identity,” they wrote, “like every Christian identity, has its source in the Blessed Trinity.” If our identity is staked on and has its source in the Blessed Trinity—how important it is, then, to be familiar with the doctrine as such.
Symposia are a standard part of the formation program at MAS, and typically focus on theological or human formation-related issues. Last semester, MAS held a formation symposium with Fr. William Holzinger and Sr. Mary Timothy Prokes, FSE, who presented on “Social Media and Virtual Realities.” Last year’s theological symposium was focused on the meaning of the cross in Scripture, with conferences by Rev. Donald Senior, CP.
Mount Angel Seminary began forming men for the priesthood in 1889 and is now the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States, and the only seminary in the West that offers both a college and a graduate school of theology.  Since its inception 128 years ago, MAS has educated and formed thousands of priests, and many qualified religious and lay men and women as well, for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.

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