Saturday, 27 June 2009

Christus versus populum

This is an interesting and well presented post from Catholic Analysis: Christ towards the people.

I do think clergy of the "Good morning, everyone" .... "Good morning, Father" mold would do well to read it. Those of the lay faithful who try to be devout, particularly in terms of trying to get to Mass on a weekday, are not going to Mass because they want to "see Father". On the contrary, they are seeking a meeting with the Lord. Please help us by celebrating with the same kind of purpose: "The Lord be with you" does very nicely, thank you.

If you read Catholic Analysis' post you might be able to see in it (though the post does not make it explicit) something that is common to both ad orientem and versus populum celebration, when both of them are correctly understood. What is common is an underlying meaning of facing towards the Lord - in the former case, the "Lord who is to come" at the end of time and in the latter case the "Lord who is to come" on the altar at the moment of the Consecration. [One could perhaps argue that the ad orientem celebration contains both senses of facing towards the Lord, but I think one is more transparent than the other.] There is no contradiction between the properly understood meanings of both orientations - in fact there is a "mutual enrichment".

The singing of the Sanctus seems to me a particular moment in the Liturgy that expresses this orientation towards the Lord and, during versus populum celebration, should be a moment at which we (ie both priest and lay faithful) particularly focus our attention on the altar and on the bread and wine that will soon become the Body and Blood of the Lord.


Jeremy Priest said...

I like the commonality you draw b/t both postures. That's extremely important. However, it is not simply toward the Son that we turn in the ad orientem posture. Rather, we turn toward the Father through the Son. It is largely this Trinitarian orientation, that we are offering Christ's sacrifice to the Father, that we have forgotten in our time.

Fr John Abberton said...

Well, I was trained to celebrate the Liturgy of Pope Paul's missal, the "Missa Normativa", and over very nearly 34 years I have come to believe that great mistakes have been made - or have been allowed to develop. I'm afraid we atill have a long way to go before we really understand that the priest is a servant of the Liturgy and not its master.
The titles "animator" and "president of the assembly", which we were encouraged to adopt have done nothing for our appreciation of the Mass - rather have they led to distractions which now need to be swept away.

Here is another thought on this theme, regarding the re-siting of tabernacles. Some liturgists or other academics (who knows who)suggested, at some point, that the Blessed Sacrament on or near the Altar is a distraction to the congregation (and so, should be moved). In all my years of priesthood, no one ever mentioned this "distraction" (unless, of course, propmted by a "modern" priest). On the contrary, many lay people, over the years, have spoken about the way priests celebrate Mass - either well or badly, depending on their taste or prejudices. Few people saw that this was one of the main distractions - the personality (and eccentricities) of the priest.

One religious sister who taught in a seminary said (as reported by a good priest friend)that when a priest says Mass his personality should not be prominent (I think she actually used the word "disappear") because it is Christ acting through the priest who should be visible.

If only she had taught at my seminary.

Joe said...

Fr John:

I think the question of "presiding" is a question for further enquiry. I haven't yet really understood it in any way as a genuinely "Liturgical" concept.