Wednesday, July 25, 2007


These two photographs are on The New Liturgical Movement.
From an aesthetic point of view the lower picture seems to bring a harmony to the visual confusion of the modern off-set liturgical setting. The first arrangement is bland and neutral, it could be anything, a municipal hall, a gymnasium, Christ is certainly not at its heart, in fact the flowers seem to have the most prominent place, as so often they do in this type of arrangement, whilst the other picture is quite different, here the crucifix dominates.

Pope Benedict spends much of his "Spirit of the Liturgy" talking about the importance of the centrality of the image of Christ crucified, on the altar.

In a way one can say that throughout all his writings Benedict has always stressed the very centrality of Christ. I really do wonder if placing the crucifix (and the tabernacle) in a corner is a sign of the corruption of much of modern theology, a discomfort with a God who becomes flesh and dwells amongst us, and takes away our sin on the Cross.
The first arrangement intends to focus on the priest who moves from chair to ambo to altar, in the traditional arrangement it is the crucifix that is important, even when the priest stands before it, he merely points to Christ. Important as he is, his importance is centred on his function, his service, not his personality.


greatgable said...

There is another aspect of Pope Benedict's writings that have made me think:

in one or two place he wonders whether some are uncomfortable with the idea that Christ is close to us and that He should be kept at arms length. Food for thought imo

fr paul harrison

gemoftheocean said...

Can I pick door number 3? I'm not really keen per se, on either setup, though I'd lean towards #2... if I *had* to pick one or the other. Both photos have lots of asymetric things going on with the flooring all jacked around like that and the "theatrical" lighting. Feh. I do like the iconostasis...though it isn't exactly in the right space. The candles and tabernacle are an improvement too, along with a good sized crucifix.

And really, as long as the right gestures are done during the Mass, and father doesn't throw in things like "Lord, please do this that and the other" instead of reading *exactly* what's there he won't be seen as "Father Personality." There's enough time for that in the sermon and after Mass. Really, despite rumors to the contrary, we just want to see what's going on, and don't particularly care what you look like, though it helps if you don't have red spaghetti sauce around your mouth. If you really don't want to be "looked at" during Mass, I suppose you could pray to be given the ability to levitate a la Joseph of Cupertino...then your ordinary would forbid you from saying a public Mass so people don't get freaked out. But that doesn't do anyone much good as there's already a priest shortage. [You work on Sundays and Holidays too -- "being looked at" comes with the territory.]

Re: Ad Orientam
I still wanna see what the priest is doing. Bothered me as a little kid, bothers me now! [Only thing I don't like about the Eastern Rite Mass.] I've seen all those articles about the priest and people facing the same way, blah, blah. And I'm STILL not convinced! [How can the priest NOT face God, given that through him He's changing the bread and wine into the Body and Blood right in front of him?] Somehow I just don't think Jesus had His back to the apostles the first Mass. [Who cooked the meal and cleaned up afterwards btw, given "they sang songs" and split right after? somehow I have the feeling it was not Israli take-out.]

As re: the tabernacle. I'd really want to see the church... Centrally located at the back of the sanctuary has its points... but I must say when I make a church visit to sit and contemplate, I want Him in a more intimate space...which sometimes is a side altar...assuming the pews aren't too far away, and I can talk to Him not 15 feet away. Then I feel like I don't have to address the Almighty as "hey, You...yeah, You....way over there...." If I'm going to talk to Him "in the presence" it may as well be "up close and personal." Sometimes, with a centrally located tabernacle, you feel you're in another galaxy. [I was always the kid who wanted to sit in the front row.]

What I really can't abide are those newfangled "hi, this is an auditorium because it's too expensive to put in traditional church architecture" churches. I resent having to call out a search and rescue team to find the tabernacle. I'm a fan of statues and decent stained glass windows and flowers and all that jazz mitt nice stations of the cross that look like stations of the cross instead of "modern art" pieces where you have to ask yourself "what in hell is that?"

I'm not at all a fan of those new round buildings. I really don't want to be looking at the altar...and in the distance beyond get a clear view of Mrs. Murphy whacking her two year old for throwing cheerios all over the place. And can't say I like pews with cloth coverings. Seem high maintenance to me. Though, I suppose maybe if you had a lot of elderly people you might give them a break. Your call, skipper.

Oh. And Why, WHy, it assumed (as long as they are building confessional "spaces") that if I want privacy...I automatically want to kneel down on knees, that frankly don't kneel very well, and make me feel like they're 85 year old knees if a day. I'd like a fold down seat against the wall that I have an option to put down, and the people who still want confession on their knees can have it. I don't know who's insane to go to a priest face to face for confession, but to each his/her own. Talk about being "looked at."
And a pox on "reconciliation" services. Phooey. I did the sins alone, I don't want anyone around me singing Kumbaya when I finally confess to them.

All I ask is that you keep modern "liturgists" away from me so I don't have the near occasion of sin of wanting to beat the tar out of them.

What's the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist? You can negotiate with a terrorist.

Karen H. -- San Diego, Ca.

Mac McLernon said...

Ugh. What substance was the decorator on? because it ought to be banned!! The decor is seriously bad for the eyeballs...

Benfan said...

"I really do wonder...."
Hmm. I don't.
Your faith tells you what should be at the centre. You follow your faith and place at the centre that which you've been told by your faith. So what do these pictures reveal? At worst two different faiths, at best a blindness that can be healed when the living waters flow. Pope Benedict is batting for the second view. His way is the way of faith, hope, and love and how wise he is. We pray for success.

nickbris said...

I just hope and pray that nobody suggests we have Women Priests & Bishops

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

i like the change although naturally it's a mile away from the Oratory!

Anonymous said...

Both of these examples of church furnishing are as bad as each other. They lack clarity of planning and are equally vulgar, amateur and confused in execution. If anything, the cluttered, dressed up altar, hemmed in by fragments of a displaced triptych, encumbered by an entirely unnecessary gradine, ill-proportioned candlesticks and an improvised antependium is worse. If you want to know how to dress an altar properly for the Roman Rite find a copy of Fr O'Connell's book on the design of Catholic churches. It was the standard work before Vatican II and was based on the prevailing rubrics which governed the 1962 Roman Missal. This effort looks like the work of an over-enthusiastic sacristy boy gone out of control or a crazed Anglo-Catholic. Between 1945 and 1962 the Church purified altars and sanctuaries and invested them with classic dignity. It is necessary to return to these principles if the extraordinary rite is to be celebrated as the Holy Father desires.

Moretben said...

Your faith tells you what should be at the centre. You follow your faith and place at the centre that which you've been told by your faith.

Your faith, and the 1965-year practice of the Church. The attitude that the past should be assessed according to the perceptions of the present is about as unCatholic as it gets. Versus populo is an aberrant fad, that's all.

I'm with Mac on the decor. The whole place needs gutting.

Moretben said...


You're absolutely right.