I have been celebrating Mass in my dining room whilst the Church floor is being sanded, filled, sealed and varnished. It has taken far longer than I thought it would, the benches go back into the Church on Saturday and are taken away again on Monday, it is a bit tedious. Varnishing is going to take place next week the final coat takes three days to dry.
I have been celebrating Mass facing "the altar", well actually my sideboard, there is an altar stone in the central draw, and a few other relics but it has got me thinking about the "terms" we use.
ad orientem - facing east, the place where Christ will come in glory like the dawn, where salvation will come like the rising sun.
ad apsidem - to the apse, not all churches (or dining rooms) face east, so this term means theological east.
against the wall - contra murum - a bit derogatory but so too is the opposite, westward facing, contra populum - against the people.
cum populo - with the people, the priest and people facing the same direction.
ad Dominum or ad Crucem - to the Lord or to the Cross -the "Benedictine arrangement" where the crucifix becomes the centre of attention whichever direction the priest is facing. It is bit of a halfway house, as the altar, not the crucifix, is consecrated to be "the" sign of Christ.
Mulier Fortis has an interesting slideshow of Mass at Blackfen being celebrated, with the clergy behind the altar, when they genuflect they dissappear behind the altar, Fr Tim is two or three inches shorter than me, so I suspect when I genuflect it most probably looks as though my head, John the Baptist-like looks as though it is being served up on the altar.
Priest and people form "the Church, in much fullness" in the liturgical assembly, the altar is supposed to be the sign of Christ - of unity - but in fact so often it becomes the very thing that divides priest and people. Nothing can be so divisive than a huge block of stone. I always feel uncomfortable talking to people from behind a desk, unreconstructed hippy that I am.