Thursday, May 23, 2013

TURN TOWARD THE LORD!

"Prayers at the Foot of the Altar" with Pope Francis turning toward the Lord not the congregation!

The direction of liturgical prayer is definitely not to the congregation. It is to the Lord. Even with the belief that the Holy Spirit is in the soul of every baptized Christian and the Lord is in the midst of two or three Christians who gather in his name, it has never been the Tradition of the Church to direct our prayers to the soul of a person where the Holy Spirit resides or to the congregation when Jesus is in their midst. It simply is not the tradition of the Catholic Church in the east or the west. It is that simple.

But in the 1970's we were taught to proclaim liturgical prayer and make it intelligible to the congregation. We were taught to motion toward the congregation at the consecration with the unconsecrated bread and chalice of wine so that they would feel as though they were at the "Lord's Supper" that they were re-enacting the Last Supper, with the priest clearly being Jesus and them the apostles, the first ordained priests of the Church. We were taught to proclaim the prayer in a proclaiming voice, an arrogant, unhumble voice for all to hear and to make God hear it, but most the congregation knows that since God can hear the liturgical prayer of the Church when prayed silently or in a low, humble voice that there is no need for an arrogant, loud proclamation of these prayers to God to be directed to the congregation in any way whatsoever.

I think our liturgy and style of praying has made many of us Catholics less humble, our priests too, and arrogant looking during the Liturgy, proclaiming this, that and the other in the most arrogant triumphal way possible, no humility whatsoever.

What a mishmash of unresolved intellectual stupidity and arrogant disregard for the liturgical prayer of the Church and its tradition.

Let me remind you what the Vatican's website on the Liturgy teaches as it concerns the proclamation of the Scriptures and the difference between doing that and the priest in the name of the Church praying to God in the liturgy.

Deduced from preceding historical scenes is that the liturgy was not imagined primarily as a dialogue between the priest and the assembly. We cannot enter into details here: we limit ourselves to saying that the celebration of the Holy Mass "toward the people" is a concept that entered to form part of the Christian mentality only in the modern age, as serious studies demonstrate and Benedict XVI confirmed: "[t]he idea that the priest and the people in prayer must look at one another reciprocally was born only in the modern age and is completely foreign to ancient Christianity. In fact, the priest and the people do not address their prayer to one another, but together they address it to the one Lord" ("Teologia della Liturgia," Vatican City, 2010, pp. 7-8).

Despite the fact that Vatican II never touched this aspect, in 1964 the instruction "Inter Oecumenici," issued by the Council in charge of enacting the liturgical reformed desired by the Council in No. 91 prescribes: "It is good that the main altar be detached from the wall to be able to turn around easily and celebrate 'versus populum.'" From that moment, the position of the priest "toward the people," although not obligatory, became the most common way of celebrating Mass. Things being as they are, the Holy Father proposes, also in these cases, that the old meaning of "oriented" prayer not be lost and suggests that difficulties be averted by placing at the center of the altar the sign of Christ crucified (cf. "Teologia della Liturgia," p. 88).

Quoting Benedict XVI: "It is not necessary in prayer, and more than that, it is not even appropriate to look at one another reciprocally; much less so when receiving Communion. [...] In an exaggerated and misunderstood implementation of 'celebration toward the people,' in fact, the crosses at the center of the altars were removed as a general norm - even in the basilica of St. Peter in Rome - so as to not obstruct the view between the celebrant and the people. However, the cross on the altar is not an impediment to sight, but rather a common point of reference.

"It is an 'iconostasi' that remains open, which does not impede being mutually in communion, but is a mediator and still signifies for everyone the image that concentrates and unifies our sight. I dare to propose the thesis that the cross on the altar is not an obstacle, but the preliminary condition for the celebration 'versus populum.' Also made clear with this would be the distinction between the liturgy of the Word and the Eucharistic prayer. Whereas the first is about proclamation and hence of an immediate reciprocal relationship, the second has to do with community adoration in which all of us continue to be under the invitation: 'Conversi ad Dominum' - let us turn toward the Lord; let us convert to the Lord!" ("Teologia della Liturgia," p. 536).

8 comments:

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I should also add that when a priest is carrying the Blessed Sacrament on his person, no one should genuflect toward the priest or say a prayer toward the priest.

Whimsy said...

To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn...

quicumquevult said...

Why's that, Father? It would seem the Blessed Sacrament is the Blessed Sacrament regardless of where It is. Either way, I'd be curious to know the reasoning.

John Nolan said...

At the London Oratory where there is a large number of communicants, those near the back of the church receive from a separate rail. When the priest proceeds down the nave with the ciborium, everyone genuflects as he passes.

Joseph Johnson said...

In an effort to continue the discussion that has been taking place on the previous "Fear of the Lord" post, can someone please explain the difference between "resourcement" referred to by Pater Ignotus and the "antiquarianism" warned of by Pope Pius XII in "Mediator Dei" in 1947?

Is the modern reintroduction of Communion in the hand (by indult in certain countries) resourcement or antiquarianism? If it is an example of resourcement then why was it not reintroduced in the actual manner used in the early Church as described in Bishop Athanasius Schneider's recent little book entitled "Dominus Est" (It is the Lord)? Would such a more historically accurate re-implementation be considered antiquarianism and the actual current practice be resourcement? 'Just curious . . .

John Nolan said...

The 16th century protestant reformers maintained they were reverting to the practice of the primitive Church - ressourcement in other words. Antiquarianism is always preferring older practices to more recent ones.

Joseph Johnson said...

So, if versus populum celebration of the Mass was the practice of the early Church (and I'm not fully convinced that it was the universal early Church norm), was the return to (and preference for this practice, because it was presumed to be older) a form of antiquarianism? Did we adopt just what Pope Pius XII had warned us about just a few years prior?

Centuries of experience seem to favor facing the liturgical east but versus populum was justified on the grounds that it was the practice of the early Church. If that justification is good enough then why don't we also go back to Communion in the hand where the communicant picks up the host from the palm of his or her hand (and the particles) with his or her tongue (and with female communicants having a cloth placed over their hands before the Host is distributed to them)?

Don't get me wrong--I'm not arguing for a return to any of these practices and I still believe that the approximately 50 year old shift to versus populum was (and is) a core mistake that has done great damage to the Faith of an untold number of souls.

Gene said...

There is no strong evidence for versus populum in the early Church. In fact, I would imagine that Jewish forms of ritual were still prevalent and that ad orientum would likely be the norm. I have been taught this in NT theology and history of worship courses...protestant ones.