Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What is wrong with this picture?

To quote Pope Benedict from his book "Spirit of the Liturgy"

Moving the Altar cross to the side [of the Altar] to give an uninterrupted view of the priest is something I regard as one of the truly absurd phenomena of recent decades. Is the cross disruptive during Mass? Is the priest more important than the Lord? This mistake should be corrected as quickly as possible; it can be done without further rebuilding. The Lord is the point of reference. He is the rising sun of history. That is why there could be a cross of the Passion, which represents the suffering Lord who for us let his side be pierced, from which flowed blood and water (Eucharist and Baptism), as well as a cross of triumph, which expresses the idea of the Second Coming and guides our eyes toward it. For it is always the one Lord: Crhist yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8).

This is the High Altar of the Basilica of St John Lateran. So we hope that the new Marini (recently appointed Papal MC) will address this. Just a job that would take a few seconds cost=0, level of effort = 0, benefits to the people - boundless.

By the way, this is the oldest church in Rome, being commissioned and financed by the Roman Emperor Constantine, who has his statue (carved in his lifetime) at the front door. It was dedicated this church to the Holy Saviour sometime after hs defeat of his rival Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312AD.

Of course looking at the Altar from this angle (the position of the celebrant) I am facing perfect East to the front doors of the church.

Behind me is the glorious Papal Throne, surmounted by a mosaic of the Blessed Trinity. The mosaic has been altered at least twice, the latest being during the reign of Nicholas IV (1288-92). Pope Nicholas had himself added to the mosaic with St Francis and St Anthony of Padua, as he was a Franciscan Pope. It did wreck the composition a bit as Our Lady (the first figure on the left of the cross) was changed from the orans attiude of prayer to resting one hand upon the Pope's tiara.

This is certainly what Benedict was talking about in his book.


Fr Reginald Wilson said...

The problem with the Altar Cross is the result of a dynamic shift in the liturgy. The Novus Ordo Mass has become a "communicating with the people" liturgy, whereas the Traditional Mass is a "ritual worship of God" liturgy. Hence, the Altar Cross must be moved out of the way!

Stephen said...

That is why Pope Benedict implies that one of the keys to reforming the reform is to put the cross in the way!!

You will see some further postings on this issue in the next few days and weeks.

Roman433 said...

If you notice photos from the first friday vigil that i posted some time ago, I allways make sure that there is at least a small altar cross facing the priest on the altar. Marian Valley uses the same praticse, except the altar cross faces the people.

Fr. Reginald Wilson said...

If Mass is celebrated "ad orientem" there is no confusion about which way the Cross of Christ should face.
There was a time when well-meaning, but confused priests, used a Crucifix with two bodies on it, one facing the priest and one facing the people, but this seems to have died out.

Stephen said...

I totally agree. About 12-18 months ago there was a good article on Zenit in the Liturgy question box run by Fr Edward McNamara of the Regina Apostolorum University. His opinion was that the corpus should face the priest, even if celebration is versus populum. He too was dismissive of crucifixes with two corpus's (or corpi) on it.

Of course this leads to the problem than the people are looking at the back of the crucifix. However, with suitable decoration, this shuld not be a problem, and still be meaningful.