Monday, October 29, 2007

More on Altars and Crucifixes

Apart from annoyances such as the poor location of the Altar Cross at St John Lateran, there are other issues with versus populum facing Altars constructed in the post Vat II years. In many existing churches of the time, the new table Altar was placed at the bottom of the Altar steps, in front of the existing High Altar. In some places, the High Altar was completely removed and the priests chair put in its place, and the tabernacle located elsewhere. In other places, the old high Altar was adapted into a modern table Altar.

This of course makes:
  1. the church look lopsided, as it was designed for ad-orientem celebration

  2. the Altar look like a minor furnishing in the sanctuary rather than the total centre of worship (ie just a table).

One of the less disturbing examples is shown here.

Altars facing versus populum in the the Roman basilicas were designed with a different purpose to "making the contact with the people easier".

Here is a pic that I took of Santa Maria in Trastavere. This church was first constructed by Pope Julius I (reigned 337-352) and enlarged by Pope Gregory IV (828-844). The current building that I visited is a rebuild by Pope Innocent II (1130-43). As you can see building in the basilica form with the bishop's throne at the end of the apse, and a versus populum Altar under a ciborium was the orthodox manner of church arrangment well into the high Middle Ages.

Lets take a walk into the sanctuary and look at the proper arrangement of the Altar.

The sanctuary is separated from the nave by a substantial arrangement of stairs and walls, which reminded me of the arrangement of the Old St Peters. the Altar itself is surmounted on two steps with a timber third step (or pradella) being that on which the priest celebrates upon. The whole Altar is framed by the ciborium.

When versus populum Altars came back into fashion in the last half of the 20th century, the architectural setting to make it look truly the Altar of sacrifice was totally forgotten. For instance the first thing that I notice upon return to Australia is that the Altars are too low and look too much like tables. I am sure that this is deliberate intent, in view of the mistaken theologies which run rampant in the local church.

I am not opposed to versus populum Altars per-se, but they need to be constructed with dignity worthy of the Holy Sacrifice. Most churches in Rome seem to see the Altar cross as a distraction , but here is the view of one (St Nicholas in Carcere), which has done it correctly with four candles and the cross in the middle (click on pic for a better look). Also here is a close up of the Altar and ciborium which shows the step arrangment.

Of course these churches would have had the celebration of Mass in the evolving classical form until 40 years ago. There was no problem with celebrating the Tridentine Mass versus populum so I cannot see what the problem is with the Ordniary form (Novus Ordo) Mass being celebrated ad orientem.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More on the "Reform of the Reform"

As I predicted earlier in the year on this blog, Summorum Pontificam has begun to raise questions about the Reform-of-the-Reform and where it will go next. Over at the New Liturgical Movement there is an interesting discussion of the "Reform-of-the-Reform" movement and what its real agenda is.

There are a number streams of thought in the article:
Stream #1 is that the RofR movement is seeking a return to organic growth and an interpretation of Sacrosanctum Concilium that focusses on its Vatican II's desire for organic growth and a mild amount of mofification of the Roman Missal and questions the direction of the liturgical reform from 1962 to 1970 and beyond.

Stream #2 is that the RofR movement simply accepts what is done with the 1970 edition of the Missal (and the 2002 update) and apply it as accurately as practicable (ie. Say the Black - Do the Red or as NLM terms it the STBDTR movement).

Leading from this are the assertions that Stream 1 is the authentic RofR. The chief criticism made by the author of the Shrine of the Holy Wapping is that the RofR is becoming more narrow focussed and hitching its wagon to the "classically tradtionalist" agenda and being excessively restorationist. The author claims that this has led to certain parishes being labelled as "flagship parishes" that reflect what certain RofR proponents want rather than what the "movement" set out to achieve.

Confused? You are not the only one.

This is my take on all of this. I agree that SP has completely changed the RofR agenda. I believe that one of the original driving forces of the RofR was the assumption that the TLM was gone and would never be a viable force, had problems, and that the RofR was an alternative way that would be acceptable to the church hierarchy. I think that this was probabaly some of the driving force behind St Agnes in St Paul Minnesota and the Brompton Oratory. Under this agenda, Stream #1 was more dominant than stream #2.

SP has "pulled the rug" from the stream #1 thought. I believe that the Ordinary Form is what it is. It cannot be "tridentinised" as it is a child of its particular time in church history. Therefore stream #2 should be driving the RofR agenda, and personally I am of the STBDTR persuasion.

If I want to tridentinise the Mass I go to an Extraordinary Form Mass and do it properly. If I want to go to an Ordinary Form Mass because I want a greater range of scripture readings, hear and participate in the Mass in English, I will do so. The fact that Holy Communion is in the hand, the Mass is celebrated versus populum, there may be lay ministers of Holy Communion, is part of that package. The thing that I am concerned about is that the liturgical books are followed accurately and with maturity. What I do not like is "pick and choose" approaches to the GIRM. It is in these areas that the RofR needs to focus.

Incidently in Brisbane we have no parishes that could be seen as RofR flagships. The liturgy is in disarray to varying degrees in all of them.

Divine Liturgy at Marian Valley

Friday, October 19, 2007

More on Altar Crucifixes

My last post has generated quite a bit of discussion (for this blog anyway) on Altar crucifixes. I was intending to make this post in quite a different context, but given the discussion, have decided to put it down anyway.

Whilst in Madrid I took a trip out to the Valle de los Cai'dos (the Valley of the Fallen). This is the basilica which was commissioned by General Francisco Franco to commemorate the fallen of the Spanish Civil War. The basilica is carved out totally underground. I am not sure what the depth from the top of the mountain to the roof of the nave of the basilica, but it would be at least 100 metres. The mountain is surmounted by a cross of over 100 metres high. The arms of the cross are about 40 metres across. The pic here is of the front door, which is surmounted by a giant bronze pieta. You can see the base of the cross

As you can see the day that I was there it was raining, which greatly added to the mystique of the place. I found that the fascist architecture quite confronting as well.

The basilica is inside the mountain and consists of three naves. The central nave is the only one that you see, and go into. The other two naves are mausolea for the fallen, and contain 50,000 corpses, 25,000 in each nave. The nave was deliberately designed to be slightly shorter than the nave of St Peters Basilica.

The High Altar is freestanding and located at the intersection of the nave, transepts and the choir., underneath a dome showing the fallen heroes of the Civil War being raised up and returned to Christ (mmmm shades of the Act II of De Walkÿre for those Wagnerites out there).

The High Altar looks to be a modern post Vatican II freestanding Altar except that there is a giant cross carved from juniper wood in the middle of the Altar. Although we were not allowed to photograph inside the Basilica, I took a sneek picture from one of the transepts, shown here.

The location of the giant Altar Cross located in the middle of the Altar precludes Mass "facing the people". I could see from the arrangement of the microphones on the Altar (and the conventual mass of the nearby Benedictine monastery is celebrated here every day), that when the Mass is celebrated for the monks, (seated in the choir) the Mass appears to be celebrated facing out into the nave. This was confirmed by the presence of two microphones to facilitate a concelebrated Mass. At Masses for when there is a congregation the only way is for the Mass to be celebrated facing the choir. The location of the celebrant's chair on the same side as celebration seems to confirm this.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel is a separate chapel at the end of one of the transepts. Mass is also celebrated here and I was pleased to see that it is celebrated ad orientem. All Masses appear to be celebrated in the ordinary form, as there was nothing on any noticeboard to suggest otherwise.
The basilica is cared for by the Benedictine Monastery located on the other side of the mountain. To access the choir at the apex of the church for the office, the monks go though a tunnel into the mountain and go down in a lift and enter behind the High Altar (very "Get Smart" lol).
In front the the High Altar is buried Josè Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Spanish Falange party (the Spanish Fascist Party) , and behind it is the resting place of General Francisco Franco, dictator over Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. Apparently it is a good idea to stay away from this place on 20th November, the anniversary of his death, as Falange supporters take over the place and goose-step around and make the fascist salute over his grave (I noticed that there were fresh flowers on Franco's grave). The basilica is also controversial because there is strong evidence to suggest that prisoners of war and political prisoners were used to build it.

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.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

13th of October

Ah the 13th of October, a tricky day, 3 great events and people had to pick. Call to holiness, Rosary Procession thought the city or a Big day at Marian Valley. Needless to say I put my loyalty to Marian Valley first, after all I am it's MC.Here Father, Brother and I get ready for reposition
Here we have the procession in.
Father Incenses the Altar with the MC and Thurifer assisting.Just a few photos from the massHere Fr Andrew the previous Prior visiting from Rome blesses the Statue of JP2Here's another photo encompassing the statueLike always the day ended with a procession to the grotto and benediction. The day was great, the turn out was around 650. Which is surprising due to other great events happening at the same time. What I heard and hopefully someone will come forward with photos, that the same number turned out for the rosary procession through the city. Although I was asked to MC the procession (just look after a crucifer and two acolytes), I decline, but it gave my friends who served it a valuable learning experience, that of the necessity of an MC.

The blog is coming out of hibernation and stay tuned for great posts from our reporter Steven.

The Roving reporter

Yes the roving reporter has returned, after spending time in the USA, Spain and Italy. It is good to see the blog re-activating after a month in hibernation. I hope our readership has not totally disappeared - Please come back!!

In the next few days and weeks I will be informing you with commentary on churches and liturgical practices in the places I visited, and what it means in the context of current day trends in the church.

As for Mass attendance, the US leg was very secular, so I did not get to attend any Masses there. In Spain, Sunday Masses are few and far between which was a bit of a surprise in this "Catholic" country, and no liturgical celebration did not coincide at all with our schedule.

In Rome I had the pleasure of attending Solemn Mass in St Peters Basilica on 30th September (Ordinary Form - Latin), and Low Mass at the FSSP (Extraordinary Form) chapel of San Gregorio in Muratorio (thats St Gregory of the Bricklayers) on 7th October. I had the pleasure of meeting Fr Brendan Gerrard FSSP and Fr Joseph Kramer FSSP after the Mass. This morning it will be strange to attend a Mass in English - I will provide you with my reactions later!

San Gregorio is a tiny church and looks much bigger on the website than it really is. The nave is wider than it is long, and would be about the same size as my lounge / kitchen / dining area at home. The Altarpiece is in serious need of cleaning and a big donation would enable the fathers to restore it to its Baroque splendor (please dig deep!). However, with all the soot and rising damp, it is a part of what the Roman holiday experience is all about, and unlike going to Mass at St Peters there are no crowds no queuing and no electronic screening to attend Mass.
When I left after the 9.00am Low Mass the choir had arrived and were warming up for the 10.30am High Mass. I would have liked to have stayed around, but there was some serious Museum crawling to be done.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Latin Mass at the Throne

Well it gives me great pleasure to inform you that I received an e-mail informing me that I am allowed to advertise the Solemn Pontifical High mass at the Throne that will be celebrated by his eminence Cardinal Pell on the 3rd of November at his Cathedral at 10:00am

I will personally travel down for this event and am Already on the servers list. If any of my reads would like to give me a shout and say they read my blog I will cheerfully thank them.

It is a mementos occasion so i encourage you all to come for the mass.

Death of the Nuncio

I have received news that Australia's Apostolic Nuncio, American born Archbishop Ambrose De Paoli, has died. This news has hit me hard, such a great man, such a great bishop. Unlike some people I will not blame God or stop beliving, but rather I take this as God showing me that he is the only one that will not change, My rock, My fortress I stand firm.
I had the great Pleasure of meeting the Nuncio at the annual corpus Christi procession up here in Brisbane and even had the great honor of being his MC. Let us offer up 1 pater, 1 ave and a gloria for his intention.

requiescant in pace