Dr Michael Waldstein
The following items are tagged Dr Michael Waldstein
Blogged by James Preece 4 Years ago...
Imagine... Fr Aidan Nichols talking pretty much non-stop for an hour - deep, rich, hard to follow in places. Then a man I'd never heard of, one of those speakers you sit through while you wait for Scott Hahn, but Dr Michael Waldstein turned out to be the highlight of the day. An interesting and entertaining speaker he gave an excellent talk around the themes at the recent Synod on Scripture. After the break, the man who translated the Pope's book "Jesus of Nazereth" did his thing before it all ended with the legendary Scott Hahn. His wife wasn't with him, so he was Hahn Solo.
That's four fantastic hours of speaking.. far too much for me to blog in any kind of detail, even if I dedicated a week to it. So I'm not going to blog about it in detail. I'm going to give a few thoughts.
The theme of the conference was Scripture and Liturgy in the Theology of Benedict XVI. I must confess to having been far more interested in the liturgical aspect than the scriptural. Not because scripture isn't important (it clearly is) but because I already have a wealth of resources regarding scripture but when it comes to the liturgy I feel I am only scratching the surface.
I felt that the first speaker (Fr Aidan Nichols) used very difficult theological language to express concepts that could have been explained in more straightforward language. I managed to follow a lot of what he was saying, but I found myself thinking "If that's his point, why doesn't he just say so? Why is he making this so hard?". Still, he made some good points.
One of the things I found interesting was the conflict he identified between a Christianity which is very much about individual, personal relationship with Christ and 'opposite pole' liturgical actions where we act as a group, for instance when we speak the same words or make the same gestures. I found that interesting because while it's not a tension I've ever struggled with personally (My siblings and I have a personal relationship with my Mum, but we all sing Happy Birthday together) it explains a lot about some of the things people say and do. Especially when they clamour for individual 'jobs' in the mass.
As I have said, the second talk by De Michael Waldstein was pleasant surprise and a real treat. I recorded the talks and I plan to listen back to this one especially closely (and perhaps blog on it separately). A point he made (I think it was him, the talks are all blurring in to one) is that Scripture depends on Liturgy because deciding on the Canon of Scripture was originally deciding on 'what shall we have read at mass'. The idea that the Catholic Mass can in a sense be considered the cause of the New Testament is really interesting and it means that the scriptures are primarily meant to be read at mass. Not that private reading is forbidden (far from it) but that the scriptures are most at home when they are being read at mass.
Another point I found interesting... one that is perhaps obvious to my readers. It was Adrian Walker who reminded us that the meaning of symbols is inherently a part of the symbol and not something we project on it. The example he gave was water. Water is used a symbol for life because God gave water that meaning - not because we decided like some kind of code that water would mean life. Bizarrely, I knew that already in one specific circumstance - marriage. We didn't say "How shall we describe Christ and the Church, oh, how convenient, marriage will do". Marriage has that meaning inherently and we simply discover it. Interesting how I had managed to know that for marriage (I've thought about marriage a lot) but had failed to apply the same logic to symbols we see more regularly such as water and bread and wine.
Now. Before I descend in to full on critical mode, I want to say that it was a great conference. It really really was. I got loads and loads more out of it than you can see in this blog entry. Many thoughts and puzzles I had put on the back burner to worry about again someday suddenly awakened. New puzzles and questions and challenges to face. Well worth the cost of admission, I hope they do it again.
It was a great pleasure to meet Scott who is both good humoured and one of my heroes. In fact, it is precisely because he is one of my heroes that I feel obliged to write the following. Even though it pains me to do so.
There's a very real sense in which I think this conference fell short of what it could have been. Not to say that it wasn't excellent, it was, but something was missing for me: Practicality.
I remember a time when I was really struggling with questions about the Catholic faith, specifically questions from evangelical Christians. I remember having questions about the authority of the Pope vs the authority of Scripture. Questions about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the meaning of human sexuality. I remember looking within the Catholic Church in England and Wales and finding nothing. Most people I asked were not particularly interested, some simply reassured me that God would love me whatever I believe (which is true, but not helpful) and some even went to far as to say that (especially when it came to contraception) that other Christian denominations had it right and hopefully the Church will change to match them soon.
While the Catholics I knew were busy taking a pluralistic view (one type of Christianity is as good as any other) guys like Scott Hahn took a very different view. Scott Hahn has been a no-nonsense voice of reason. A valiant warrior on the side of a truly Catholic way of reading scripture. Biblical apologetics used reason, logic and evidence to give explanations for beliefs and demonstrated why some theological views are incorrect and others are true.
In the programme for the conference Stratford Caldecott, who chaired the conference, refers to "the tragic mistakes that have been made in the course of liturgical reform in the last forty years". It was very much my hope that at this conference these tragic mistakes might be identified, the reasons for the mistakes found and remedies suggested. Especially since the conference title ends 'in the Theology of Benedict XVI'. Pope Benedict's 'reform of the reform' has been intensely practical - changes in the style of vestments, arrangement of the altar, methods of receiving communion etc.
When during the Q&A I asked for practical suggestions, the panel deferred to a priest who gave an immensely unsatisfactory answer. Only when somebody else asked a similar question did the panel get involved and then I was immensely disappointed to hear Scott Hahn of all people say that if there's one thing he knows about arguments over the liturgy it's that he doesn't get involved. He spoke of having been to many kinds of masses (guitar masses, high masses, low masses, Latin masses, English masses, etc) and then said that the differences really don't matter. What's important is that at mass we are transported, really, to heaven.
[Update: In fairness to Scott, he didn't say they don't matter (see the comments below). He was unwilling to enter in to discussion about the differences and I took my trademark sloppy paraphrasing too far.]
Can you imagine asking Scott Hahn for practical suggestions on reading the Bible and him saying "I've read the Bible in English, Greek and Latin. I've used the historic critical method and the literal method, I've used the NIV, New Jerusalem, Douay Rheims and King James versions. They are all the same - What is important is that it's the Word of God"? I can't.
I'm sure Scott would feel able to say something about the pros and cons of reading the Bible in the original Greek. I'm sure he would have something to say about the relative merits of the NIV and King James bible translations. I know he would have something to tell me about the historical critical method of reading scripture.
So why the stonewalling when it comes to the liturgy? Why the pluralistic "it's all good" claim when Benedict XVI clearly doesn't think it's all the same. Benedict XVI clearly thinks that some things are a mistake and others are not. When the conferences own programme refers to "the tragic mistakes that have been made in the course of liturgical reform in the last forty years"?
It is absurd to speak of 'tragic mistakes' and then to dodge questions about what is a mistake.
My guess (and it's only a guess) is that there's a political motivation to the silence. Perhaps a desire not to upset the Bishop's Conference and to remain mainstream. Speaking out in favour of Pope Benedict's practice of giving communion only on the tongue to those kneeling would be a very good way to lose friends. I don't know that this is the case but it certainly seems plausible.
Pope Benedict's theology on the liturgy has real practical liturgical consequences...
If this book were to encourage, in a new way, something like a "liturgical movement", a toward the liturgy and toward the right way of celebrating the liturgy, inwardly and outwardly, then the intention that inspired it's writing would be richly fulfilled.
Preface to The Spirit of the Liturgy
August 28, 1999
In the programme for the conference, Stratford Caldecott writes: "our gathering today in Oxford may be taken to mark another turning point - the coming of age and flowing together of the Liturgical movement with the Biblical movement in the Catholic Church".
But I simply cannot see how a liturgical movement can be truly said to have 'come of age' so long as it remains paralysed, unable to say with any clarity what a 'right way of celebrating the liturgy' even is, let alone how to start moving toward it.
I hope and pray and look forward with great joy to the day when the intention that inspired Pope Benedict's writing is richly fulfilled.
Yesterday was a good start, but we (just because I'm not a priest or internationally renowned author doesn't mean I can't be part of a liturgical movement) need to do better.