Some Liturgical Thoughts

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A couple of points before I begin--first, it's amazing the way Satan finds things to distract us during Mass. You'll be sitting there and suddenly, wham, this thing pops into your head that you can't seem to dislodge. What follows is my attempt to dislodge it so it doesn't hijack another Mass.

Second, I think it's important to note two things about the commenter. (1) I am not an expert on liturgy. (2) I am not particularly conservative when it comes to liturgical matters.

Yesterday as we celebrated the last day of the Christmas season I was looking at the nativity and at the priest behind the Altar (normally he is seated off to the side where the nativity set is presently) and it occurred to me how language can be so easily manipulated to further any given agenda. Particularly what occurred to me was the way Vatican II was presented to me as I entered the Catholic Church--and of that one particular liturgical innovation. It was presented to me as, "The priest no longer stood with his back to us, he turned around to face the congregation." This was presented as a triumph of civility and sanity.

Yesterday it occurred to me that there are no (or at least few) creatures in nature wherein the head faces the body. Generally the head and the body face the same direction. It would be evolutionarily counterproductive to always be looking at where you've been.

So, how is it a triumph to have the head suddenly face the body--the priest face the congregation? If he is leading us, shouldn't he be focusing our attention in the appropriate direction rather than facing the other way? How do we form one body of Christ with our head turned around and gazing back on us?

I don't feel strongly about this--I can understand the arguments on the other side. And I've never given much thought to the matter, mostly because when it is presented to me, it is packaged up with a lot of other extraneous items that do not necessarily have the same import--the Mass in Latin, the use of Chant, etc. (Again, not that I feel particularly strongly about either of those items except when they are used as goads and whipping rods. They just don't have the same importance as being one body and one people before God, with the Priest acting as Head in persona Christi.)

So there you have it--a summary of my distractions. Nothing important, nothing earth-shattering, nothing even particularly innovative or thought provoking. But I think it would be nice to have a Mass spoken or sung in English with the Priest at the head in the appropriate way. I wonder how I would react to such a thing. I wonder if I would be just as distracted at that as I was at these unwelcome intruding thought? Perhaps the first time, but afterward, I think it would be welcome. I don't honestly know.

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My distractions tend to be much less focussed on liturgical subjects and more along the lines of "got to remember to send Dad a birthday card".

On the substance of this, I couldn't agree more.

If he is leading us, shouldn't he be focusing our attention in the appropriate direction rather than facing the other way?

What is the appropriate direction for our attention?

If he is leading us, shouldn't he be focusing our attention in the appropriate direction rather than facing the other way?

What is the appropriate direction for our attention?

Dear Tom,

It would seem toward God and toward the Altar of God. And, I suppose you could argue that standing on the other side of it He does. But then, the Priest is less president of the Congregation and its head than MC.

As I pointed out, I have no dog in this fight--I'm too liturgically ignorant to have a well-formed thought about it. More importantly, my formative years were in a Church without liturgy, and so I'm inclined to favor any semblance of liturgy over the sort of rough and tumble, make it up as you go along that I was used to.



Dear Tom,

I can't but disagree with you on symbolism and iconography. You either stand at the head of a group leading, or you stand facing a group, presenting. A General faces his troops in the pre-charge encouragement, and races with them in the encounter.

As I have said and will continue to say, I see the arguments both ways. I just have never seen it celebrated in the traditional way outside of the "Latin Mass" snippets I catch here and there. And I can't but wonder if there isn't something there that might be more meaningful in the practice.

However, for fear of detraction and because I really don't want to persuade anyone from their usual habit or comfort in it, I should desist.

Thank you for the discussion.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 12, 2009 7:59 AM.

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