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Mount Angel Abbey presents its lecture series: 'The Crucifixion and the Christian Church'

As is always the case, half of the 2019 Winter/Spring Christian in the World Lectures will be presented in Lent. It is only natural that, since it is the great penitential season of the Liturgical year, we Catholics turn our thoughts to the mystery of the Cross.

FILE PHOTO - EBERLEThroughout the Lenten season, we reflect upon the Cross upon which Jesus suffered and died to save us; and we renew our resolve to take up our own cross and follow after him. All of this reaches its climax on Good Friday.

The Good Friday liturgy is centered on the Adoration of the Cross. Surely a climax of that beautiful liturgy occurs when the celebrant, carrying the cross from the back to the front of the church, three times intones, "Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the salvation of the world." And three times the faithful reply, "Come, let us adore."

After two thousand years, the Adoration of the Cross has become so deeply ingrained into our devotion that we hardly give a thought as to how great the paradox is: the cruelest, ugliest, most dehumanizing instrument of death ever devised by sinful human beings has become the Christians' badge of glory because it is the means of our salvation.

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Abbot Peter Eberle, former abbot of Mount Angel Abbey, and presently, a Formation Director, as well as a professor of Introductory Moral Theology in the Mount Angel Seminary, will present the 2019 Winter/Spring Christian in the World Lectures, which will be devoted to "The Crucifixion and the Christian Life."

The series will follow the pattern of some recent lecture series inasmuch as he will present all four lectures. Although the Cross can never be separated from the Resurrection (just as the Resurrection can never be considered apart from the Crucifixion), in this series Abbot Peter will concentrate on the mystery of the Cross.

His objective is to present a theology of the Cross that will deepen the participants' understanding of the Cross in the context of their own lives and our own times. God willing and the creek don't rise (as the saying goes), the series will unfold as follows:

Saturday, Feb. 9

"Save us Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free."

This Eucharistic proclamation declares the central role the Cross plays in our salvation. It is not surprising, then, that theologians of every age have pondered on the mystery of the Cross. Inevitably, the underlying question is, "Why the Cross?"

One of the most noteworthy efforts to explore this mystery and answer this question is found in "Why Did God Become Man?" (Cur Deus Homo?) by the eleventh century monk, bishop and theologian, Saint Anselm of Canterbury.

Although his work would never be considered a best seller by any standard, this theology in its broadest strokes is a classic presentation of the theology of the Cross and one that is not unfamiliar to many Catholics. In this session, we will consider that theology, noting the significant objections raised by his critics, but also reading him through the eyes of one of his staunchest contemporary supporters.

Saturday, March 9

This year Ash Wednesday is on March 6, so Lent will be just beginning when this session convenes. Lent, of course, is the season to "take up our cross" and follow Christ. Abbot Peter will use this session to approach the mystery of the Cross from a couple different, but related perspectives.

The first, which can be described as "Christus Victor" (Christ the Victor) will approach the mystery of salvation by contemplating the great "weight of sin" (especially in our own day) over which Christ triumphs by his death on the Cross.

A second theme to be discussed will be "satisfaction." What does it mean that "satisfaction" has been made by Christ's death on the Cross? Is the Father such an ogre that he demanded his Son's death on the Cross for his appeasement? Or is there a much deeper and more profound understanding to be found in a theology of satisfaction.

Saturday, April 6

Whereas the third session came near the beginning of Lent, this final session will convene the day before Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. With this in mind, Abbot Peter will consider two aspects of the Crucifixion that are closely connected with the liturgy of Holy Week, namely, the descent into hell and the passion and death of Christ as the great Exodus event.

It will be this aim and fervent hope that the grand finale of this series on the Crucifixion will bring participants to the glory of Easter, without which the scandal of the Cross would remain just that: a scandal.

The usual schedule will be followed. Participants are welcome to attend the community Mass in the abbey church at 8 a.m. The library doors — where the talks will be presented — are opened around 8:30 a.m. Participants are welcome to sign in, grab a cup of coffee and a roll, and socialize a bit before the session begins.

The morning begins with an opening prayer at 9 a.m. In the course of the morning, there will be two presentations of roughly 45 minutes each (9:15-10 a.m. and 10:15-11 a.m.) followed by a Question and Answer period which generally concludes shortly before noon so you can join the monks for Midday Prayer if you desire. We hope you can join us as together we ponder the mystery of the Cross.

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