Sunday, March 04, 2007

Fr. Jay Scott Newman on "Turning Towards the Lord"

Fr Jay Scott Newman, pastor of the very excellent reform-of-the-reform parish, St. Mary's in Greenville, SC, has his own site now, and has recently written some random thoughts on Turning Towards the Lord, both the book by Fr. U.M. Lang and also the subject generally.

Please visit his site, but here is most of the text of Fr. Newman on this subject:

Turning Towards the Lord is the title of a small but very important book by Father Uwe Michael Lang, an Austrian priest who belongs to the Brompton Oratory in London. The original work was written in German, and the English translation is published in the US by Ignatius Press, the best Catholic publishing house in the Anglophone world today. If you’re looking for Lenten readying, I suggest Turning Towards the Lord.

Father Lang’s main thesis is simple: the overwhelming weight of theology, liturgical practice, and Christian architecture teaches us that the priest and people should face the LORD together during the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist....a practice know from Christian antiquity as facing liturgical East or praying ad orientem. The practice, now almost universal in the Latin Rite, of the priest and people facing each other from opposite sides of the altar is simply an innovation of the 20th century and a radical departure from 19 centuries of Christian practice, common in all Rites and Ritual Churches.

Father Lang’s book is introduced by an enthusiastic Foreword written by none other than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, two years before he changed the color of his cassock. The book and the liturgical practice it describes have recently been recommended by George Weigel, and the simple elegance of Lang’s thesis is sure to re-ignite a conversation about how our pastoral practice should reflect the best scholarship on this question.

After nearly 15 years of celebrating Holy Mass every day, I can testify that the custom of facing the people across the altar makes the faithful and fruitful celebration of the Eucharist more difficult for priest and people alike. Given that our present arrangements are simply a novelty, that Benedict XVI acknowledges this, that no declaration of the Church ever required the change to versus populum celebration, and that a growing number of priests are increasingly convinced that we should together be turning towards the LORD, look for changes to come gradually to parishes near you.

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