Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

On Facing East...
a worker in the vineyard ^ | 10/13/2005 | The Rev. Gary Kriss

Posted on 10/13/2005 5:11:34 PM PDT by sionnsar

"In the 20th-century liturgical movement, free-standing altars have become virtually universal in the Roman Catholic Church and the accepted norm in the majority of other liturgically oriented churches of the West, including our own. However, this is not a denial of the idea of eucharistic sacrifice. The reorientation of liturgy and architecture in the modern Church has had more to do with a desire to recover the full participation of the laity in the liturgy. In particular, the practice of the priest standing with his back to the people has been identified as a form of clericalism which excludes the people from their proper participation in the liturgy. The eastward position, it is said, makes liturgy into something the priest does alone, while the congregation waits passively, unable even to see what is happening.

Free-standing altars, with the priest facing the people throughout the liturgy, have become so much the norm that many people would wonder why anyone would bother questioning it. With many other issues dividing the Church, why raise one that no one seems to think much about any more? In fact, I would argue that many of the supposedly more important issues are symptoms of what has become a more fundamental misdirection closely related to this liturgical change.

First of all, it is laughable to suggest that the direction the priest faces has anything to do with the participation of the people in the liturgy. Only a priest may do the things that the priest does at the altar itself, no matter what direction the priest faces. This does not prevent the laity from full participation in their proper order: everything from corporate activities such as singing hymns, to individual roles for readers, cantors, intercessors, acolytes, greeters, ushers, oblation bearers, musicians, etc., not to mention the fundamental role of praying as a member of the body. None of these roles depends on seeing what the priest is doing.

Seeing is important in liturgy. But what we should be aiming for in liturgy is to focus our vision on the One who is coming, not on the people who are doing their particular jobs in the service. We are all there to serve, not to be the focus of anyone else's attention.

An old story, told I believe by the Cure D'Ars, tells how the parish priest observed an elderly man going into the church every day, sitting quietly for a while, and then leaving. One day the priest asked him what he was doing. The old man replied, "I look at God, and he looks at me, and we enjoy each other."

It would seem that we no longer go to church to look at God. Apparently, we now go to church to look at one another. It is not a bad thing to look at one another. We are certainly taught to love our neighbors as ourselves. But to do this properly, we must first look to God and love him. We do not love our neighbor simply because she is our neighbor, we lover her because God loves us, and to practice such love we must first learn it from "Love the Lord [who] is on the way."

This does not mean that free-standing altars must be uprooted and moved. It does not matter where the altar stands: Priest and people may still face east at a free-standing altar. In ancient basilicas the altar was free-standing, but the priest came from his seat in the apse, around the altar, to face east for the eucharistic prayer. In fact, to restore such a movement to the modern liturgy would provide a striking symbol of the unity of priest and people making their common offering of themselves, their souls and bodes, to God.

We do not come to church to look at one another. We come to look for the Lord who is coming to us. If that had been our focus all along, perhaps we would not be so divided now and heading in so many different directions away, not only from one another, but also, I fear, from him."

Father Gary Kriss in the current issue of The Living Church.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 10/13/2005 5:11:35 PM PDT by sionnsar
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: ahadams2; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-9 pings/day).
This list is pinged by sionnsar, Huber and newheart.

Resource for Traditional Anglicans:

Humor: The Anglican Blue (by Huber)

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 10/13/2005 5:12:09 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: sionnsar

The statement "his back towards the people" is incorrect and came about because the progressives wanted to make it seem the priest was being rude.
The priest with the laity are all facing God towards the east. It is not important to see the priests face while mass is going on. It is import to understand what is happening. The priest is offering the sacrifice on the altar for us on his behalf. We participate by reciting acclamations and singing for example.

3 posted on 10/14/2005 5:18:57 AM PDT by badabing98
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: sionnsar

Pope Benedict advocated strongly (as then Cardinal Ratzinger) that in lieu of the impractical re-orientation (orient, orientate = to face east) of altars, the priest should be positioned with his back to the pews, and facing a crucifix situated upon the altar. This is something I expect Catholics will see implemented somewhere along the line. He argued quite forcefully that the Mass has become something akin to entertainment. The priest faces the congregation when the congregation should join the priest in facing the altar...

4 posted on 10/14/2005 5:29:54 AM PDT by Rutles4Ever (Stuck on Genius)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson