Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Parishes and liturgical reform

There are 3 areas which I believe are the most universal and logical starting points, and which will most effect the liturgy, re-orienting it with an emphasis on the vertical rather than the horizontal. I believe these three things can be done all at once and still remain pastorally sensitive.

a) Move the chair of the priest from behind the altar, to the side of the altar, not facing the people, or angled toward them as some parishes do, but rather like the traditional arrangement, with the priest looking at the side of the altar directly. In short, if your sanctuary faces East (for example), the chair for the priest and servers would be on the South or North side.

b) If you can't resume the common direction of liturgical prayer (and many priests may not yet be comfortable making such a move immediately) take another approach. Place a substantial crucifix back on the centre of your altar, facing toward teh celebrant -- and make it an altar cross that is noticeable and substantial, like the old altar crucifixes. Perhaps in this case, something at least 18" in height. Enough to be noticeable and a bit of an obstactle between yourself, the priest, at the altar and the congregation. This, as Ratzinger has said, will re-emphasize that liturgical prayer is focused not upon a priest dialoging and turned toward the people but rather turned toward the Lord -- in short, making your "facing the people" to be only incidental as in the Early Church. Make sure your altar cross and candlesticks are beautiful! If possible, I would also recommend that you put matching candlesticks back on or by the altar as well, lined up if that works. Use six for Sundays, and four or two for other classes of feasts and ferial days according to the laws of the church.

c) Begin to slowly re-introduce Gregorian chant into the Ordinary parts of the Mass. I would recommend starting with the Kyrie and Agnus Dei as these are the easiest for people to learn. You may consider using some of the basic Latin responses and versicles such as "Dominus Vobiscum" and "Verbum Domini" after the Gospel. But begin with the sung Ordinary for certain and gradually expand it until you've gotten your congregation trained in the sung ordinary in Gregorian chant.

These are, I believe, the biggest three things to institute at first. After a time, you can then consider placing the tabernacle in the centre of the church again and expanding the reform of the reform in other ways. In the meantime, you will have effectively and quickly turned the liturgy away from feeling a simple communal event, to a stronger sense of it as a sacred act wherein the community worships God.

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