Thursday, 18 August 2016

Lord to whom shall we turn?

Follow the links below to previous articles in this series.

We began this short series of posts by making some observations about a fierce debate that had arisen worldwide concerning the celebration of the Ordinary Form (the New Mass) of the Roman Rite ad orientem. Many bloggers were decidedly up-in-arms and quite grumpy.*  Some prominent bloggers developed a case that ad orientem was normative for the Roman Rite, a view we cannot share since it manifestly contradicts the reality of the past fifty years.

In our second post, we wished to observe that the focus of any church building was not the ambo or the chair, but the ALTAR and that this is in accordance with Tradition.

The High altar of the Italian Cathedral of
Saint Nicolas, Bari rests beneath a twelfth century civory
or canopy. Behind the altar is the eleventh century cathedra
of the bishop : centrally located,
but completely invisible to the faithful.
A bishop, as chief shepherd, in the early centuries of the Church frequently had his cathedra positioned directly behind the free-standing altar, but this was a manifestation of his jurisdiction and was particular to bishops. Most examples of cathedra which have survived in such a position reveal that the chair of the bishop was not significantly elevated above the position of the altar and consequently would not have been completely visible to the faithful. The point of this is that the chair of the bishop was not positioned centrally to facilitate communication with the Faithful, but to express his headship of the presbyters gathered around him.

Following from this, our third post investigated the tradition of the chair in the Roman Rite, drawing the conclusion that prior to 1965, it was the normative practice for any priest-celebrant to offer the fore-Mass, or Mass of the Catechumens at or near the altar and facing ad orientem. The subsequent practice (found in the New Missale Romanum of 1970) for the priest to celebrate parts of the Mass at the chair and facing the congregation as a presider, is an innovation unknown to Catholic tradition.

Recitation of the Creed during the
celebration of Mass according to
The Anglican Use of the Roman Rite.
Our fourth post, developing this theme suggested that consideration of ad orientem celebrations of the New Mass need not be primarily focussed on the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In some instances, the construction of a sanctuary or the steps leading up to the altar do not readily facilitate ad orientem celebrations of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Such constraints, however, do not obtain when considering ad orientem for the Liturgy of the Word, and in particular the Penitential Rite, Kyrie, Gloria, Collect and Credo : any or all of which might be celebrated at the altar, or at its foot, ad orientem.  Whilst it is probable that many priests and congregations might not welcome ad orientem celebrations of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, surely fewer would object to parts of the Liturgy of the Word being celebrated ad orientem, particularly if such a practice were introduced slowly and in stages.

of the five preceding posts
  1. It has been the practice for the Mass according to the 1970 Missale Romanum (and the intention of its devisers) that the Liturgy of the Eucharist be celebrated versum populum. This is (at present) normative but not obligatory.
  2. The celebration of the fore-Mass or Liturgy of the Word versus populum has only a limited expression in Catholic liturgical tradition and was particular to bishops (only) as a sign of their jurisdiction.
  3. The altar is the focus of the Mass of the Roman Rite - Ordinary or Extraordinary uses - not the chair or ambo. The priest is the celebrant of the Mass, not a presider.
  4. Prayers addressed to God during the Liturgy of the Word according to the 1970 Missale Romanum ought be offered ad orientem and preferably at the altar or its foot, in order to make clear that such prayers are not a dialogue between the celebrant and the faithful present.
  5. A gradual introduction of this principle could subsequently (over a period of years) lead to the celebration of the Ordinary Form of Mass being entirely (or mostly) ad orientem.
Already a variant of the Roman Rite exists which puts into effect the points made above (3) and (4); this is the newly-published Altar Missal for the Personal Ordinariates Anglicanorum Coetibus. Some have described it as the Anglican Use of the Roman RiteA forthcoming series of posts will discuss this new Missal in detail.

* Undoubtedly a manifestation of the "Francis effect".