Sunday, November 25, 2007

Where will the Crucifix be...

...That seemed to be the question Liturgy buffs were all asking yesterday. The issue is considered important as it signifies the centrality of Christ in the writings of the Pope, and the rediscovery of the vertical dimension of the Liturgy. In the past it has normally been placed on a corner of the altar, or even seperated from the altar. Today it was slapbang in the middle and facing the celebrant!

The Italians seem to have a preference of non-symetrical arrangements on altars, which can often be bizare, let us hope this is the beginning of the end of them.

Newly elevated Cardinals, celebrate a a Mass with Pope Benedict XVI, in which the pontiff gave each new cardinal a golden ring, inside St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Sunday.

Benedict XVI urged his 23 new cardinals on Sunday to pray for peace in the world and unity among Christians, and be willing to give their lives for the sake of the Catholic Church. Benedict made the appeal during a Mass in which he placed a golden ring on the finger of each of the new cardinals, a symbol of their links to the papacy, that was embossed with an image of Christ's crucifixion.


Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

I think it is important to remember that Roman basilicas are occidented.

The apse is at the western end of the church.

In St. Peter's Basilica, for instance, Bernini's magnificent Cathedra Petri is sited in the apse at the west end of the Basilica.

The papal altar beneath its famous baldachino faces ad orientem which in this case means it also faces the people in the nave.

But it always has !

This is not a question of
the post Vatican II liturgical innovation of celebrating versus populum.

Therefore, the crucifix and candles belong on the altar.

Anonymous said...


Where did you get your photos, and are there more ?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Photos are from Reuters

Dr Wright, the alter faces west - it is ad occidentum. However when the Pope celebrated Mass in the past the whole of the Papal Court, and anyone else of significance would have been behind him in the area between the Altar of the Chair and the foot of the High Altar.
The people in the nave saw nothing apart from arrival and departure and the actual moments when the Pope ascended to the altar.

Fr Ray Blake said...

By the way he also wore the pontifical dalmatic.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous pictures..

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Father Ray makes a most useful point.

During a Mass at the papal altar, the only people who are oriented in the same direction as the Pope are those who are seated in the west end of the basilica.

People in the nave are turned to the west to face the papal altar.

People in the north transept are turned to the south to face the papal altar.

People in the south transept are turned to the north to face the papal altar.

So, during great ceremonies in St. Peter's, when the basilica is full, (in common with, for instance, the basilicas of San Giovanni in Laterano and Santa Maria Maggiore,) the people face north, south, east and west !

This would be even more evident if St. Peter's basilica had remained in the form of a Greek cross, as was originally intended.

pelerin said...

While surfing television channels on the internet this evening (it's a great way to absorb foreign languages!) I came across an italian station which was broadcasting today's Papal Mass from Rome in which the new cardinals were given their rings.

It was celebrated in Latin and I was able to watch the last hour and a quarter although for some strange reason the sound disappeared from the entire Consecration. It was beautiful to hear the Canon in Latin with the long list of saints and the once familiar 'Oremus' calling everyone to prayer. Towards the end of the Mass a hymn was sung to the music of 'While shepherds watched..' which to English ears heralded Christmas but which presumably had different words sung there.

Pope Benedict spoke for some time in Italian in his homily but although there were annoying voice overs in Italian, the Mass was celebrated in Latin. Magnificent!