Monday, February 04, 2008

It is a joy not seeing your face

The reaction to Mass celebrated facing east is interesting, some of those who are of the generation that new the Church 45 years ago feel it is a bit reactionary, they are wary of "turning away from Vatican 2", I don't want to be unkind but they tend to be people who have never actually read the documents, but just done "courses". Others of that age group who are quite happy because it is sign that if experimentation is to take place it is more likely to be about moving towards holiness rather than towards the bongoes, sofa and the pottery chalice.
For people who did not know the "old Church" the direction of prayer isn't a real issue, in fact most younger people seem to prefer it.
A few comments by the under 40s:
"It makes sense, Father, when you talk to us you face us, when you speak to God you stand with us."
"I prefer it, Father, it is a joy not to see your face."
"The good thing is the priest just becomes anonymous".
"It is more awesome".

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did you steal that vestment from Fr Biggerstaff?

Henry said...

Awesome. In a synagogue the prayer is towards Jerusalem and the ark containing the scrolls of the Law are placed where people face them when they face Jerusalem.

In a mosque, the prayer is towards Mecca and the within the building, the object which represents the Qu'aba is the Mihrab, which interestingly, perhaps significantly, contains nothing.

Maybe we will start having an impact when all the prayer is to the Lord.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

All right, I'm over 40.
Many years over 40.

But here is my experience anyway :

When I attend the Mass celebrated facing liturgical east, I feel drawn into the sacred action.

I am not a spectator.
I really participate interiorly.
I know I am in the presence of the Awesome, the Transcendent, the Other.

When I speak of the awesome, it is a joyful awe.
And it really is easier to pray.
There is no distraction. My attention is focused on the sacred mysteries.

I think this is because the priest, when he faces the people across the table altar seems to be in a constant dialogue with them.

In a sense, he can almost seem to be in competition with them : the priest versus the people.

We see his face, we hear his voice, his personality almost inevitably dominates the proceedings.

This cannot be right.

How different when he stands, with the people, before the altar of God. A priest, anonymous in his vestments.

The altar no longer comes between him and them.

The priest prays the public prayer of the Church.
And the people are united with him in prayer.

The liturgical innovation of facing the people put me off from the start because it seemed to be saying : "This is the Mass, despite all appearances to the contrary."

The new liturgy literally defied the senses.
It was a serious interruption to prayer.

The liturgy traditionally oriented serves only to emphasise the reality of the Mass.

It guides the senses into the realm of the sacred.
It is an invitation to prayer, participation, and meditation in a holy joy.

One slips so naturally into the posture of worship known to Catholics for so many centuries.

I can't think why they changed it.

Vatican II said nothing about changing it.

Was it love of novelty ? Change for the sake of change ?

I am inclined to think so, yes.

After forty years, this liturgy really is beginning to show its age.
It has been an unhappy and unsuccessful experiment.

What deeper insights do people have into the mystery of the Sacrifice of the Mass ?

What new knowledge have people gained of the Catholic faith ?

Time to turn once again towards the Lord.

(And I feel more closely united in faith with the under 40s.)

gemoftheocean said...

They're not saying you have a "face for radio" are they, Father? ;-D

Karen

pelerin said...

Beautifully explained, Dr Wright. You have put into words what many of us feel.

nickbris said...

Yes Father,the sooner we change over the better,let us hope & pray the Jobsworths at the Heritage department don't interfere.

The Perpetual Malcontent said...

Hi Father.

Could I bother you for a favor? Please make a video of your ad orientem Mass and post them online. I'm curious to see how it goes.

Thanks!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Sorry PM, I haven't got the equipment but look at the post with the video clip of the Pope's private Mass.