But I cannot help recalling a conversation I had some years after the Council with a very Catholic Italian whom I knew at this time. He was terribly shocked, to the point where he didn’t want to go to church any more. He didn’t like the linguistic change, from the majestic Latin to the colloquial language he uses for the ordinary business of life. After all, he thought, the miracle of the Mass is supposed to take us out of the concerns and troubles of this life to an anticipation of the glory of the life to come. But he was most shocked by the way the officiating priest was now positioned—no longer facing the altar with his back to the congregation—but now standing behind the altar, facing the congregation. His first (very unfortunate) association was with a bartender standing behind the bar, preparing the drinks and cleaning the glasses. He admitted that this association was unfair. But then he added that turning the priest around had a much more profound symbolic meaning: The old position made it very clear that the priest was standing before God, who was believed to be present in the elements of wine and bread on the altar, but who was definitely not standing in the congregation. The new position suggested that what was worshipped did not transcend the gathered assembly, but was identical with the latter. In other words, what was happening now was a group of people worshipping themselves. Did the liturgical reformers intend this? Of course not. How many Catholics reacted as my Italian friend did? I don’t know. If I were Catholic, I would worry about it.[Hat tip to JM]
Monday, August 26, 2013
Priest as "bartender"?
The eminent sociologist, Peter Berger, in "Cardinal Newman and the Progressive View of the World" (The American Interest, August 21, 2013), after discussing the conservatism of Newman both before and after he swam the Tiber, turns his attention to the Church so passionately embraced by him, and then what happened to it after the Council: