Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ad Orientem

In the grand scheme of liturgical reform things, there is an elephant in the middle of the room. It isn't the latin language, it isn't the extraordinary versus ordinary rite, it isn't chant versus congregational singing, it isn't guitar versus organ.

That elephant is the altar and which way it faces. That table altar which was so unceremoniously plopped down in the middle of the santuary some years ago. It's big, and it's in the way. Unless and until a way is found to deal with it, to get rid of it entirely, any real change to the way that mass is celebrated will be very tough indeed. The more you think about it, the more apparent it becomes that as long as a priest has "his back to Jesus" and faces the people, the more obvious it becomes that the only way to have a truly Catholic mass is to have the priest, along with everyone else, face Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Mass facing the people is, by unavoidable definition, a mass that is all about the people. There is simply no way around that. No Way At All.

That being the case, the question is how do we get there from here. The technical issues are easy to work out. In some older churches, all of the old hardware still is in place, save for the aforementioned plopped down table. Remove the table, and in minutes, literally, you're good to go. Zero expense. In others, a new altar will be needed, or the existing one "un-modified". Some time, some expense, though not necessarily extravagant. But even in new churches, there is no reason at all that an real "high" altar could not be put into place. Sure, it would cost a bit, but it could be done.

The real issue is getting the church and the people to understand the importance of this change. How to teach people - BOTH PRIESTS AND LAITY - who, for a generation, have been conditioned to believe that it's a meal ("happy are those who are called to his supper"), and that it's all about them, that it ISN'T about them at all. To somehow teach people to be humble in His presence. We are, atfer all being led, as sheep, by the good shepher towards heaven. We are not supposed to be leading the charge, up front like the cavalry or a marching band. I don't know the answer, but the answer is going to have to come, and soon. Because as long as that elephant is there we can't even get off go.


Anonymous said...

Dear Tom,

I am a great admirer of your blog and absolutely love your posts. I've been studying Latin for some time and would like to recommend you and your readers a great Latin Dictionary. This is one of the best collection of bilingual - Latin-English - dictionaries I've found on the Net.
Hope you like it.
Best regards,

Romanist said...

I was talking to a priest in the Diocese of Raleigh just a few months ago, and he feels that the "ad orietenem" posture is much more suited to the celebration of the liturgy.

I tend to agree.

Perhaps we'll see this return to common practice in the future.

Pax tecum!

Tom S. said...

Romanist, I agree with that priest completely. I hope to see that posture returning, soon, especially to those churches where so little or no expense would be required, like Our Lady of Grace in Greensboro.