Wednesday, August 04, 2004

On being able to SEE what happens at Mass

A certain Catherine, was commenting on a 1989 film of an indult Mass in England -- the traditional Latin Mass of the kind one doesn't see often anymore, where the priest's back turned to the congregation as he faces ad orientem (East) toward the altar and consecrated Host. She remarked that the really interesting shots "were those taken at the altar of the priest's face and what he was actually doing on the altar. No photographer there as far as I could tell, just the camera. The camera saw what no human eye except the celebrants could see. I don't want to go back to that."

Of course, I see her point. She prefers the Novus Ordo (the new mass since Vatican II), in which the priest faces the people behind a free standing altar so that his actions are visible. But the other point that is easily lost from view here is the question of whether it is really right and fitting to throw the doors open to all that is holy and sacred. Most of us don't do that with sexual intercourse (yet). And the early Church did not invite non-Catholics (even catechumens) into the church to witness the Mass of the faithful (Eucharistic liturgy). "LifeTeen" Masses have hade the habit of inviting teenagers to stand around the alter during the consecration, more often picking their noses than kneeling, and there is little evidence that witnessing that high moment in the Mass at that special proximity has had any saluatory spiritual effect upon them. Minimally, is it not more than enough to understand that the priest up there (in the sanctuary) is offering the Sacrifice on our behalf, even if we (in the nave) cannot see or hear what is occuring in detail as we are beset by crying babies and sundry distractions on every side? On the other hand, might it not also be properly asked whether some things (the details of the Consecration, perhaps, like those sex) ought not be brough out under the klieg lights on center stage to be inspected by the pedestrian hordes of which we are a part?

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