Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ad Orientem Revisited

A few months ago, I posted on the significance of posture in the liturgy. I have been thinking about this more and more and have come to this conclusion.

No Mass can ever be truly moving, truly focused, with a Priest facing the people across a table. Period.

Don't tell me about St. Peters. The table altar there, while having the same effect, is so big, so high, and masses there are such a production, that it doesn't count. That would be like comparing a bottle rocket to the space shuttle.

I have come to this conclusion by watching closely the masses I attend every week. Unlike the horrible liturgies I hear and read about, both of the churches I attend here in Greensboro, Saint Benedict's and Our Lady of Grace, have very traditional, by-the-book masses. No funny stuff, no clapping, dancing, etc. After watching the masses and the celebrants so closely, I conclude that these (novus ordo) masses are about as proper and reverent as you can get. The celebrants are VERY meticulous and caring and reverent and proper. I have never seen one be more so. As the old beer commercials said - it doesn't get any better than this.

Yet still, the sight of them looking at me across a table makes the whole process seem more like a cafeteria than a mass. It isn't them, it isn't the setting. In fact Saint Benedict's is strikingly beautiful and modest sized, and about 110 years old. And Our lady of Grace is, I sincerely believe, the most architecturally impressive church in the United States. It isn't the congregations, as they are both quiet and reverent.

The inescapable conclusion is that it is the altar. Turn the priest around the way he was for at least a thousand years, and EVERYTHING else will change.

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