August 31, 2017

The Catholic University of America had the largest contingent of faculty presenters during last month’s 26th biennial Congress of Societas Liturgica, an international ecumenical society for the study of liturgy.

Four faculty members and one graduate student from the Liturgical Studies Area of the School of Theology and Religious Studies (STRS) presented papers at the congress, held Aug. 7 through 12 in Leuven, Belgium. Monsignor Kevin Irwin, research professor, and a number of STRS alumni, also attended the conference.

The topic of this year’s  congress was “Liturgical Perspectives on Sacramentality.” Rather than examining particular sacraments, the congress aimed to articulate “a general theology of sacramentality.” While liturgical theology and sacramental theology are perceived as separate fields, the congress enabled scholars to explore how the two disciplines mutually imply and enrich one another. Presentations from the Catholic University contingent contributed perspectives on sacramental theology from the patristic to the modern period.

Very Rev. Mark Morozowich, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies, presented a paper on “Sacramental Theology in Cyril of Jerusalem: New Paradigms from a Contextual Approach.” Other presentations included:

  • Rev. Michael Witczak, associate professor, on “Carolingian Reflection on Sacramentality: Paschasius and Ratramnus, Amalarius and Florus,”
  • Rev. Dominic Serra, associate professor, on “The Epiclesis Re-envisioned: The Holy Spirit and the Eucharistic Offering,” and
  • Rev. Stefanos Alexopoulos, assistant professor, on ““The Savior Accomplished the Sacraments in Himself”: Symeon of Thessalonike's (+1429) Christological Approach to the Seven Sacraments.”

Liturgical studies graduate student Shawn Strout also presented a paper on “The Importance of the Ordo in Sacramental Theology: Communion without Baptism as a Case Study.” Strout was awarded a scholarship for his paper by Societas Liturgica, which covered his costs for the congress. He said he appreciated that the Congress “provided a unique opportunity to engage with a wide range of experts in the field of liturgical studies and sacramental theology.”

Strout said he encourages other liturgical studies students to attend the congress and submit papers. “Not only does Societas Liturgica have a large number of ecumenical and international participants, it also has a large number of emerging scholars as participants,” he noted.

Societas Liturgica celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding this year. Its first congress was held in 1967 shortly after the Second Vatican Council. When Wiebe Vos of the Dutch Reformed Church founded Societas Liturgica, he did so knowing that the study of liturgy provides a common ground for Christian theologians across various denominations, and with the hope that Societas Liturgica would foster ecumenical goals.

“The opportunity to gather with people from around the world and from different Christian traditions is exciting,” said Father Witczak of the event. “Even though we are separated by different methodologies and different cultural and theological perspectives, when we meet, we know that underlying all of these differences there is a fundamental unity that exists in our desire to worship God in liturgy and ritual.”

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