Saturday, October 25, 2008

Church Crawling and hanging out with Roman

Last weekend Roman and I did what my friends call a "church crawl". This is very similar to a pub crawl except there is no drinking (except at the end) and much of the discussion is around liturgy and history and church gossip. Rome is an excellent place for church crawling as when you are tired you can fall into an exquisite restaurant at lunchtime (when all the churches close for siesta) and review the things that you have seen.

The novelist Evelyn Waugh was a great church crawler (or church spotting as the English call it) and his diary in his teen years recounts how he and his school friends went visiting churches. His leanings to catholicism appear this early as he was interested in the Anglo Catholic churches most of all.

We first visited St Johns Cathedral to see how it now looks with the fully extended nave. We also talked about how St Johns actually has a better layout for celebrating the Roman Rite in the Extraordinary Form.

The High Altar is simple and with steps and matches the early mediaeval French style of the cathedral. I know that it is generally used for Ad orientem celebration although there is room to celebrate facing the people.

The Altar shows a good arrangement of the crucifix and two candlesticks supplemented by large candle sticks on both sides. Some of you would say that this is not catholic but it actually follows some pre-tridentine practices. However, it better demonstrates some of the configuration which could be used for a Benedictine Altar arrangement if Mass is celebrated versus populum.

Here is a view from behind the Altar down the nave.

You can see the stone vaulting of the nave - the only place you see genuine stone vaulting on any large scale in Australia. The back of the Altar is very plain pointing to its east facing orientation.

From here we saw the Marian chapel, with a medieval Sarum style arrangement, but without riddels. Roman has some pics of the other chapels with medieval riddels. Eucharistic services are celebrated here during the week.

From there it was down to Brisbane's premier Anglo Catholic Church - All Saints. it has an eastward facing High Altar with six candles and a tabernacle. However, I was very impressed with the side chapel.

Note the Altar cards (which are in English). At All Saints they seem to have two types of liturgies, one to the English Missal (which is basically a reformed blend of the Tridentine Roman Missal, with the book of Common Prayer), and occasionally a more contemporary liturgy with a modern prayer book.

The church organist, Darren, gave us a bit of an explanation of the liturgy and a Mass sheet to takeaway. It showed the simplified Tridentine Missal in English interspersed with the Cranmerian prayers of the general confession at the Offertory (instead of the Confiteor at the start) and the modern Roman lectionary. If anything this shows what a more sensible revision of the Roman Rite in the 1960s may have looked like, if liturgical extremists had not got to it.

We found a table carrying candles and a centrally located crucifix (with corpus) up against a side wall, and asked what it was for. It turned out that this is a table that is occasionally set up in fron of the sanctuary used for versus populum celebrations. However, as the congregation strongly prefer Ad orientem celebration (and remember that this was an aspect that the Tractarian Movement fought for in the 1800's) this is rarely used.

it is intersting the divergent attitudes with liturgy. In the Catholic Church we think that the Liturgy of the Eucharist HAS to be celebrated facing the people, and it is rare to find a parish which celebrates the Ordinary Form Ad orientem. (Note: In Italy this is not so rare probably more because a lot of italians could not be bothered re-ordering their sanctuaries - more about that another time). In the Anglo Catholic Church it seems to be considered someting that is less than ideal and congregations appear to perceive it as a bit of a threat to their beliefs. It would be good if the Catholic church congregations had a lot more of that attitude.

We then went onto the Albert St Uniting Church but there was nothing really of interest there so we moved onto a cafe. St Stephens we did not bother with as we are there all of the time.

A short church crawl you might say but - it is Australia after all.


Anonymous said...

When I was in Italy this year in June I found many of the churches to have a square altar. Do you know why that is? The altars were a moder additon, placed in the middle of the sanctuary and they never suited the style of the church. It was the first time I had seen square altars. Why such a shape?

Stephen said...

I think that the use of a square Altar has todo with a return to the ancient tradition of the Altar being a square shape. However of course there is an essential element missing with the modern interpretation which is the ciborium or baldacchino. This makes the Altar look ridiculous and merely a flat ambo.

I did not notice any square shaped modern Altars in Italy. Normally one saw a table set up (as I call it the picnic table or as Fr Z calls it the ironing board). Thanksfully in some churches they are starting to disappear (eg the Pantheon)and celebration has returned to the High Altar.

Anonymous said...

One place where I remember seeing it was Lanciano where the Eucharistic miracle is. The square altar was a new addition after the renovations in 2000.
Another place was at the Ressurection Father's monastery.
I don't remember specifically where else I saw them.