Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Reform of the Reform and Altar Appointments

A parishioner of St. Peter's Catholic Church in New Jersey sent in a link to their parish website.

Apparently the parish has recently refurbished the sanctuary by commissioning frescoes of The Crucifixion, Jesus calling Peter to be His apostle and Peter walking on the water, as well as others throughout the church -- I noticed Pope Benedict's coat of arms for example.

This parish priest is Father Anthony Manuppella, who is apparently friendly to both the reform of the reform and the classical rite -- something which we can hope will become an ever more common combination.

What I was particularly interested in however were some of the photos of the liturgy at the parish.

Fr. Manuppella has taken a suggestion expressed by Ratzinger to heart it would seem. If a pastor does not think he can go ad orientem right away (or at least for all Masses -- and I'm not certain of the precise situation here incidentally), at very least he can begin the process at the other Masses by adding a substantial altar cross back on the altar. Father has done this at his parish (and has also employed the altar frontal, which is wonderful) as a beginning point to helping re-acclamate people to the proper focus of the liturgy (including the priest) as well as to opening the door again to full-out ad orientem.

Mind you, I should also note that this isn't to say a priest couldn't do what many other priests have done: give preliminary catechesis and then move some weekday and a Sunday Mass back to ad orientem. This is to be encouraged. In many cases, this seems to be possible to accomplish, and many of the faithful are quite open to this when it is explained to them.

However, if there is a case where a pastor absolutely feels he cannot do this for some extenuating reasons only he could know at his parish or in his diocese, this provides a good compromise and beginning.

As well however, for those pastors who have been able to re-introduce ad orientem into at least some of the weekly Masses offered, we mustn't forget about the need to take steps in those liturgies which are still offered versus populum.

The arrangement we see pictured above would well serve as a complement in this way. Of course, to make this arrangement most effective as a teaching tool, it needs to be stated that the altar candles and cross, as in the case pictured above, need to be substantial and noticeable, as though it were setup on an ad orientem arrangement. This emphasizes the precise fact that the action at the altar is not a horizontal affair, but rather primarily God-centred.

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