Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blogosphere controversy over cathedral alteration

CathNews: A Service of Church Resources, located in Australia, has a piece today (tomorrow in Australia), Blogosphere controversy over cathedral alteration, which reports on NLM writer and architect, Matthew Alderman's recent critique of the proposed renovation of Sydney's Cathedral.

On this matter of the renovation, certainly the two things which particularly strike me as concerning are the ambo and the altar.

In both cases the design is certainly a concern, and not terribly befitting.

Of an even greater liturgical concern with regard to the altar is the fact that its design will work fundamentally against the possibility of ad orientem celebration -- the celebration of the liturgy in which the priest and people together face in the same direction in the offering up of liturgical worship.

On the one hand, this tends toward a situation that wasn't envisioned by the Council -- this goes without saying. Second of all, while versus populum (Mass with the priest facing in the direction of the congregation) has been the de facto norm these past few decades (which was not of course mandated by the Council or the Church) this physical alteration, which would effectively set versus populum in stone at this cathedral (figuratively and literally), is coming at the very inopportune moment when a heightening awareness is becoming evident in Rome and elsewhere (much due to the scholarship of Fr. Uwe Michael Lang, C.O., represented in his work Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer) in understanding the theological, historical and liturgical benefits of a reclamation of ad orientem celebration of the liturgy in the Latin rite -- an in continuity with the universal liturgical tradition of the Church, Eastern and Western.

With the realistic prospect of a return (at least partial if not universal) of the practice ad orientem liturgical celebration, such an oversight seems to be a gross mistake -- not to mention highly undesireable from any liturgical perspective that operates within a hermeneutic of continuity, or which seeks a more faithful implementation of the Second Vatican Council.

Let us hope these things will be reconsidered and revisited.

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