Wednesday, July 25, 2012


While this is of course a Baroque Church, its altar and altar railing comprise a unity and the altar railing is a lovely table set for those who receive the Bread of Life, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and in this lovely Church, it isn't a walk-up window type of fast food receiving, but rather fine dining at a table set with a lovely tablecloth!

From the time I was 14 until I was 19 years old, I worked at an old fashioned Diary Queen Brazier. It did not have indoor dinning. You ordered at a window and you picked up your order at a window.

Compare that "fast food" approach to going to a nice restaurant like Applebees. After you order, you await the meal to be brought to you by servants, I mean, waiters or waitresses.

Jesus is the ultimate Servant at the Last Supper and on Good Friday, He gives us Himself and sacrifices Himself for our salvation. As a servant (waiter)He washes the feet of the apostles, the first priests ordained on Holy Thursday during the Last Supper.

Our current Ordinary Form of receiving Holy Communion is more like the Dairy Queen Brazier than the fine dining at Applebees. We now go to a "Communion Station" as though to a fast food window and we receive as though we are being dispensed the meal or medicine and we move to the next station, the Chalice station. The same thing happens. Fortunately this never took wings but was experimented with, there was a suggestion in the 1970's that the Sacred Species be placed on pedestals so that communicants could "feed themselves" rather than being fed as though they were small children. The pedestal idea was seen as "more adult!"

Receiving Holy Communion from the altar railing and kneeling (or standing) allows for the priest and any delegates to come to the Communicant with our Lord, thus symbolizing Jesus initiative to come to us, to meet us and nourish and sustain us.

At the railing, one waits for the priest to arrive to the communicant and then the communicant can pause briefly after receiving. Nothing is rushed and there isn't perpetual motion. It isn't a fast food experience of going up to a window to "get Jesus" but allowing Jesus in fine dining style to come to us as the Crucified, Risen and Glorious Servant of His people thus setting an example for all.


ytc said...

Wait... Applebees is a nice restaurant? Am I missing something???

Templar said...

Yah, what ytc said.

If we're going to compare the OF experience to the DQ I think the EF experience is at lest along the line of Natalia's

Joseph Johnson said...

And so remodeling a full-service, white tablecloth restaurant and turning it into a fast-food, walk-up Dairy Queen would be called "restaurant reform," I suppose?

A fellow named Paul Fussell once wrote a book, (I believe in the 1980's) entitled "Class," in which he would refer to such latter 20th century reductions from a higher, more developed form of civilization to a lower one as "prole drift." The way most people dress to go to Sunday Mass nowadays as compared to the 1950's or early 1960's would be another example of this phenomena of "prole drift." You should get the idea.

William Meyer said...

An excellent analogy. And beautiful photos of a truly beautiful house of worship. Not a gathering place. I have little doubt that before, during, and after Mass, there is deep reverence and a respectful hush.

Anonymous said...

Do you ever stop and consider the two numerous to count places in the world where communion is distributed that cannot afford a marble/wooden altar rail, choir in the back, organ playing Bach? In those poorer places a guitar strumming musician can surely reverently lead people to an experience of the sacred. What you promote is an idea among many styles of worship. Jesus faces the disciples at the Last Supper and at the cross where the women outnumbered the men....just saying

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Except for a couple of experiments all my OF Masses face the congregation. However you have fallen into liturgical and biblical literalism and fundamentalism which is the most negative fruit of the experience of the OF Mass. It is NOT a reenactment of the Last Supper or Good Friday. It is the Church's greatest act of prayer and worship whereby the male priest represents is a visual sacramental way, our Lord who alone offers Himself and us to the Father which is recalled and brought forward in a timeless or eternal way what the Father accepts in the greatest act of love. Did you really think the Mass is a reenactment of the Last Supper with only the first ordained priests there or a reenactment of the cross with only the two Mary's and the beloved disciple? Just asking for you are not alone in misunderstanding the Catholic Mass as celebrated in the OF.

ytc said...

Anonymous, altar rails can be constructed of almost any material out of practical necessity. Marble is probably the most preferable, but they can be constructed of wood or even metal out of necessity.

And really, just how expensive is a cheap altar rail compared to, I don't know, a pew? I can make a basic, cheap altar rail with wood from Lowes for $250 or less. It's not going to be pretty, but it will function. A single cheap pew would probably cost me twice that if I made it.

And the cool thing is that the cheapest liturgical music, which also happens to be the most proper and appropriate according to the Church!, is Gregorian Chant. If you have two Liber Usualis or Graduale Romanum and a few singers, you can sing a whole Mass. Don't even need a single instrument, not even a guitar.

A magnificent Baroque building and some Bach/Haydn/Mozart scores are not necessary to have a gorgeous Mass. All you need is an altar, a celebrant with good skills and a few singers. But if you can afford a good building with a marble railing, why not build it?

And I am not sure anyone can prove which way Jesus faced at the Last Supper, or more importantly, why that even matters. According to archaeologists and Judaism experts, seders most likely were conducted with all the people on the same side of a table.

Please do not take this comment to be snarky. It is not intended that way at all.

Henry Edwards said...

anonymous: "Jesus faces the disciples at the Last Supper"

On the one hand, the feeling that this would be relevant today is an example of the heresy of Antiquarianism--the misguided idea of bringing the Liturgy (and the Sacraments for that matter)back to "Biblical times"--which was condemned by Pope Pius XII.

On the other hand--as ytc points out--the claim is undoubtedly historically false. The host would have sat at the center of a long table with his guests to his right and left. Not only was this apparently the universal practice then, but it's shown that way in many or most paintings of the Last Supper.

Of course, the Last Supper reference itself illustrates a misconception. The Mass is not a re-presentation of the Last Supper, but a re-presentation of the Sacrifice of the Cross, which was prefigured at the Last Supper. The Holy Communion that follows the Sacrifice in the Mass is what comes from the Last Supper.

"O, when in error once we stray, how many do we commit!"

John Nolan said...

One of the most ridiculous NO conceits is the so-called 'Communion Procession', an attempt to give post facto recognition to a 1970s aberration. Real Catholics approach the rails when they are good and ready, and might well not take Communion at all, for a lot of reasons. (I'm not being Jansenist here).

Since the age of sixteen the only thing I wanted was an opportunity to practise my religion in the way in which I was brought up; unfortunately my sixteenth birthday was in 1967 when everything went tits-up.

Marc said...

I came here to post what Henry and ytc posted... so +1 for their comments. Nice posts, guys!

Gene said...

Anon, Mass is celebrated that way in the Third World because the Priests and such who go there are all largely Left leaning, liberation theology junkies who think Che and Jesus are on the same level. Their guitar cases (if they have them) are probably covered with Obama decals, Pro-Choice slogans, and the peace symbols they used to wear on their raggy, unwashed, marijuana/bo smelling t-shirts when they were hanging out at anti-American rallies and seducing easy co-eds with off-key Neil Diamond and Kristofferson songs banged out in three chords on a pawn shop guitar.