Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Ad Orientum

Fantastic little story here by Amy Welborne concerning which way the priest should face at mass.

Emphasis in bold and [my comments in red]

When you declare that “the local community” should in some way shape [say the black do the red does spring to mind] the liturgy, what will often happen is that the only “community” shaping the liturgy will be the musicians and the priest.  Ipso facto, untethered from rubric or the specter of sin and set loose by the fateful phrase “in these or similar words”  - the liturgy will reflect the egos of both.[A strange irony: the priest who are the most 'anti-clerical' and want to put them selves on a level with the people are the same priest who have changed the mass from being s celebration of God, to a celebration of the people - and inparticular the priest]

So at the beginning we were instructed to “turn and greet Father with our opening song.”
The celebrant ad-libbed much of the Mass (not the Eucharistic prayer, though) and spoke for five minutes after the Greeting – about Hosea, which was the source of the (Weston Priory, of course)  processional hymn, but not the First Reading (which was from Ezekiel), preached a thirty-minute terrifically disjointed homily that barely alluded to any of the three Scripture readings (but did make ample reference to Hosea) , and then spent another five minutes at the end of Mass selling the parish golf tournament [I believe we could definitely learn something from the extraordinary form celebration where the priest only gives notices and greetings just before the homily].
Pope Benedict celebrating mass ad orientum
The priest became the center of the Mass [For those who don't know it's meant to be Jesus] – and not in the alter Christus offering sacrifice mode he’s supposed to - and for the rest of us, there was no escaping him.
But I’ve gone over that before in this space.  Here’s what struck me this time.
The parish has a special intention for which they are praying to the Virgin.
So after Mass the priest led the people [that's good]in this prayer to the Virgin for this special intention.
He turned around. Away from the congregation. With them. [Amen]
He recited the words of this prayer to the Virgin, on his knees facing her statue –  which stood in the sanctuary.
He turned , he faced the statue, he prayed.
With us.
I could not help but wonder why embracing this stance and this mode of praying which did not deviate from the given, “rote,” prayer one bit - leading us, but in the same direction –  was acceptable now, but not during Mass.[despite the fact that the Mass is a much more important, infact the most important celebration of our faith]
Let's quickly take the example of adoring the Blessed Sacrament during benediction. During this time the priest, with his back to the people, joins the people in adoring the Holy Eucharist. Nobody, not even the most 'progressive' 80 year olds, would argue that the priest was being exclusive. Infact we all know that if the priest was to adore facing the people it would draw attention towards himself.

for the record - I have no particular criticism of this priest!
And yet at mass how often do we see the priest making eye contact with the people during the Eucharistic Prayer? Too often... well, I'm sorry priest's but its not about you, you are just amongst one of the tools used to celebrate mass... Jesus is the protagonist!

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