A friend of mine recently told me a story that I think most of you would enjoy hearing. Earlier in his life, he spent some years at a seminary in another state. During those years, he had a class in liturgics in which the instructor was a woman who was, shall we say, somewhat left-of-center in her sensibilities.
One of the projects they had to undertake in the class was to build a liturgy that embodied the spirit of Vatican II. Using the blackboard, the instructor pointed out how the traditional communion rail places a divisive barrier between the priest and the worshiping community. Stressing the communal nature of the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that is the source and summit of the Christian faith, she stated that rightly-ordered contemporary liturgy must have, therefore, no communion rail. Likewise, there ought to be a free-standing altar so that the priest does not offend against the spirit of community by having his back turned on the people, but face toward them, welcoming them to the feast set for them on the table of plenty. The usual drill.
One of the students in the class (I don't remember whether it was my friend), when it was his turn, went up to the blackboard to show how he would build-a-liturgy. He began by pointing out a feature of the instructor's diagram that troubled him. He pointed out that a sharp barrier between the priest and the community was created by her placement of the altar. The altar was divisive, he suggested, separating the priest from the people, creating a rift in their experience of community and solidarity.
[The teacher nodded encouragement, doubtless congratulating herself: By George, I think these young seminarians have finally got it ...]
The student continued. What he would prefer, he said, was to push the altar up against the front, and bring the priest around to the side of the worshiping community, thereby removing the offending barrier between the priest and the people.
[The teacher was still nodding encouragement ...]
Then, added the student, he would have the priest turn around, and, in solidarity with the worshiping community, face the same direction as the congregation.
At this point, the emerging pattern dawned on the instructor, her face fell, and she realized she'd just been had.
[Hat tip to T.F.]