Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Facing the Altar Together

Part of what drew us to attend a Latin Mass parish for some time awhile ago, were two major aspects, the mutual facing towards the altar and not performing the disruptive sign of peace, both of which contribute mightily to the individual interiority of the mass as one long prayer.

This article from Insight Scoop addresses one aspect.

An excerpt.

“A few days ago I made some passing remarks about ad orientem, which I did not flesh out for lack of time. Here, then, are some further thoughts—none of them my own, actually—on the topic, drawn from men (all priests, save one) who know far more than I do about the topic.

“Nearly thirty years ago, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 1986; German original, 1981. Also available as an e-book), "There is only one inner direction of the Eucharist, namely, from Christ in the Holy Spirit to the Father. The only question is how this can be best expressed in liturgical form" (p. 139). One of his concerns was to address the perception that the priest, celebrating Mass ad orientem, is "facing the wall" or, at best, "facing the tabernacle." This "misunderstanding alone," Ratzinger argued, "can explain the sweeping triumph of the new celebration facing the people, a change that has taken place with amazing unanimity and speed, without any mandate (and perhaps for that very reason!). All this would be inconceivable if it had not been preceded by a prior loss of meaning from within" (p. 142). The general view of the new celebration, he remarked:“is totally determined by the strongly felt community character of the eucharistic celebration, in which people and priest face each other in a dialogue relationship. This does express one aspect of the Eucharist. But the danger is that it can make the congregation into a closed circle which is no longer aware of the explosive trinitarian dynamism which gives the Eucharist its greatness. A truly liturgical education will have to use all its resources to counter this idea of an autonomous, complacent community. The community does not carry on a dialogue with itself; it is engaged on a common journey toward the returning Lord.” (pp. 142-3).

“In The Spirit of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 2000), Cardinal Ratzinger was even more direct: “On the other hand, a common turning to the East during the Eucharistic Prayer remains essential. This is not a case of something accidental, but of what is essential. Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord. It is not now a question of dialogue, but of common worship, of setting off towards the One who is to come. What corresponds with the reality of what is happening is not the closed circle, but the common movement forward expressed in a common direction for prayer.”