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Our ‘modern’ liturgy is inwardly focused on the greatness of……us January 6, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, North Deanery.

I didn’t say it, but I agree wholeheartedly.  No, Msgr. Charles Pope did.  In discussing the tendency to dramatically overemphasize the human, community dimension of the Mass at the expense of directing all honor and glory to God at this Supreme Sacrifice, the Liturgy, the Source and Summit of our Faith, has gone seriously astray.  A few examples:

1. The Tabernacle, once invariably at the center of our churches, was placed to the side or in some chapel. It was almost as if Jesus was in the way, somehow, of what we wanted to accomplish in the Mass. Increasingly what it seems our focus shifted to was our very selves. The principle of unity was thus to be found in us.  

2. The Linear and cruciform orientation of the church building gave way to the fan shaped and even circular buildings of the past forty years. Again the message seems to be that we should look at each other, and the main goal  seems to be that we be able to see each other’s faces. It would be this that would enhance and create greater unity. Hence anything like tabernacles, candles, crosses, even altars that blocked  the view of others was to be eliminated. The unity was to be found within the assembly and by a physically inward arrangement free of any obstacles.

3. Thus architectural  minimalism became essential since the people and their ability to see each other and thus find unity were the main point. Large impressive altars, statues, high ceilings etc., anything that tended to draw attention away from others or bock the view of others, was to be removed. Somehow these outside and “distracting” objects, even if they were images of our Lord, offended against unity which was to be found within the “gathered” Church.  I remember rather humorously a now deceased liturgist from the 1970s, (Eugene Walsh), coming to our parish and telling us that the altar should be no bigger than a night stand or side table and that the priest should never stand behind anything. Even our rather radical pastor at that time thought that was going a bit too far! The altar stayed.

4. The priest must face the people at all times. The ancient and common orientation of priest and people in one direction, all looking outward toward Christ, was replaced with an inward focus, a circle. This was said to create and emphasize unity in the gathered assembly. The principle of unity was within, among the humans gathered.

5. Self-congratulatory salutations abound. We are endlessly impressed and fascinated by what we are doing and who is doing it. At large parish masses announcements and congratulatory accolades for musicians, visitors, youth et al. may last longer than the homily or Eucharistic prayer. This is seen as affirming and community-building and thus, once again, the impression is created that the we are the main point and that our unity and gifts flow from us, and exist for us. That the worship of God should be the main point  seems to many to be a downer or a distraction.

Now community is an essential partof who we are and why we are at Church. We do not come to Mass as a purely private moment with God and the Church is not a private oratory. Neither is this a question of the old versus the new Mass, for many of these trends set up wel before the missal of 1970. But in our attempt to emphasize the important and essential communal dimension of the liturgy,  it seems we may have over-corrected. It also seems that we have set up a false dichotomy wherein focusing on God, on the vertical and outward dimension of liturgy, is necessarily to offend against the human and communal dimension of the Mass.

Not only is this dichotomy false but it also destroys the very unity it clams to serve. For, if we do not communally focus on the Lord, we have no true unity. It may be argued that there is some vaguely human sort of unity, but it really no different that the unity that exists among the members of a bowling league. And even the members of a bowling league know that at some point it is important to focus on the act of bowling rather than merely on each other. Something outside themselves (i.e. bowling) ultimately unites them.

There is much more at the link.

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