Friday, 29 July 2016

Lord to whom shall we turn?
Part Five : of Postures and Prayers

Figure 1
Benedictine Abbey-Church of Brugges.
The principle of the intelligibility of the Church's rites is the liturgical philosophy which underpins the 1970 Missale Romanum and was enunciated in the Vatican II constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium.  But one of the great mistakes made by the Reformers in the 1960's was their conviction that the most important way during Mass for us to communicate with God and for God to communicate with us is by the spoken word.  Happily, this presupposition is being challenged more and more.

The New Mass or Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is very wordy. This is not to say that the Extraordinary Form has fewer words, but it certainly has fewer words which are to be prayed aloud and intended as a form of communication. Whatever about more recent developments in the manner of celebrating the Ordinary Form, it was devised with the intention that it be for the most part and usually spoken, not sung.

Nowhere is the principle of communication more prominent in the Ordinary Form than in what is termed The Liturgy of the Word, in which the predominance of dialogue between the "presider" and the "community" lays. It is for this reason precisely that the incorporation of ad orientem posture is desirable from the very beginning of the Order and not simply during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, as some have suggested. It is desirable because it would have the effect of lessening the prevailing tendency that the Mass is a dialogue (which in degrees of formality, varies from place to place) between those physically present in a particular church, rather than being the worship of the entire Church, visible and invisible.

Figure 2
Benedictine Abbey-Church of Fontgombault.
The mistakes made during the late 1960's and early 1970's should act as a lesson for the new generation : the Reformers of the Reform.  The ecclesiastical explosion which was the whole impetus for this series of posts (and very much more elsewhere) indicates that the spiritual sons of the 1960's reformers are not going to abandon their prized achievements so readily.  For this reason, we wonder about the prudence of a suggestion to introduce the practice of ad orientem celebrations of the Ordinary Form by the First Sunday of Advent.  But perhaps for those who have not been frightened off by the reproof of Father Lombardi SJ* or for those who even have been emboldened by it, a subtle introduction of ad orientem celebrations might be possible.

Already, some pastors through the catechesis of their flocks, have introduced the celebration of the Ordinary Form ad orientem and have been doing so for some time. But not every pastor of souls is in a position to do this. Leaving aside the issue of prudence, the sanctuaries of some churches are not readily suited to this arrangement, namely that the celebrant offer the Liturgy of the Eucharist at the altar facing towards the apse. But for these two reasons, suppose we focus not on the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but a partly ad orientem Liturgy of the Word?

Figure 3
Benedictine Abbey-Church
of Le Barroux
What might be done, to recapture the Church's tradition at this point in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite Mass? In many places, this has begun already to happen, where priests have felt uncomfortable with the prominence of their (often elevated) chairs, and have opted to place the chair at the side of the sanctuary in front of the altar, in the manner of sedilia. We have also read where some priests with chairs in the position just described, have turned slightly toward the altar (rather than toward the congregation) for the Penitential riteGloria and Collect. All of this would seem to be able to take place within the current framework of the Ordinary Form. It also does not exclude the celebrant giving a brief introduction to the Mass, but it might be hoped that this is quite distinct from the prayers of the Rite itself.

Perhaps, under the far-sighted guidance of Cardinal Sarah, a reform to re-instate the tradition might be introduced initially as an option for celebrants. Might it be something like the following? 

The celebrant might conduct the Penitential Rite ad orientem "at the foot of the altar", then go up to stand at the altar for the KyrieGloria and Collect

Then he could go to the sedilia and sit down for the reading of the Scripture. He would bless the deacon (and incense, if it used) at the altar, not the sedilia. 

After the Gospel, he might return to the altar for the Creed and General Intercessions (both ad orientem). 

Note that these ceremonial adjustments might be used even if the Liturgy of the Eucharist continued to be celebrated versus populum (especially if the arrangement of central altar Cross and flanking candlesticks is observed). Might this be a gradual and pastorally-considerate way of re-introducing ad orientem to the entire Ordinary Form Roman Mass?

But the suggestions above might be too radical for some and not desirable for practical or political reasons at present.  Perhaps the time is not yet here for such modifications. Suppose, then, JUST ONE moment ad orientem were considered now as opportune for the Liturgy of the Word.  Just one, which doesn't cause much consternation or uncertainty. Just one ...

If the CREED were sung or recited by the celebrant and the congregation together, the celebrant standing ad orientem at the centre of the altar or at the base of the steps leading to the altar : suppose that were to be introduced? It would surely not be so very controversial, in addition to being a powerful symbol.

There will be an Epilogue to these considerations, summarising the posts and discussing the newly-published Order of Mass for the Personal Ordinariates Anglicanorum Coetibus.

Figure 4
A Conventual Mass according to the New Missal
in the Abbey-Church of Sant'Antimo, Tuscany.

* The retirement of Father Lombardi SJ on 31st July has been noted with satisfaction.