11 December 2008

Compass Points and the High (or Low) Altar

Dear Brother Blackbirds, and those who read and lurk:

I want to commend to everyone an article placed into the blogosphere by Rev. Larry Beane (See Link Here to Fr. Hollywood's Blog, See Article Here).

Oh, the wonder of having a large daily newspaper in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the veritable "Bible Belt" (where one of my own dear lambs labors at Oral Roberts University on a soccer scholarship, enduring much pentecostal, anti-liturgical/sacramental bleeecchh), actually publishing an article on liturgical matters, and seeking to teach people liturgical terms, and getting perspective from another liturgical pastor (and a confessional Lutheran, LCMS one at that!) - we should give thanks for these things. Make sure you read the "side-article" where Pastor Beecroft is interviewed! We should write to this reporter and thank him for such an article, whether we agree with its conclusions or not!

Now I personally emailed this article to a few pastors I know, and one responded. He feels strongly about being able to face the people at the Verba. He wrote,

"As I understand it, this [changing direction] was Vatican II's attempt to engage the people, get closer to them, so they abandoned the high altars and installed the tables in the midst of the people. I had heard that Benedict wanted to get back to the high altars. I guess it's finally happened.

Architecturally, the RCC had the wrong idea in facing the people. Facing the altar implies sacrifice as the priest offers of the sacrifice of the Mass. Thus, facing the people really gave the opposite idea.

My understanding is that Lutherans face the people for the Sacrament, indicating that these are gifts from God to the people. Thus, a position that speaks grace not sacrifice. Lutherans have had the right theology but often the wrong architecture."

He goes on to say that he would be happy with correct teaching on the Lord's Supper in our circles, considering all of the grape juice and open communion that flows forth out in our own backyard of the LCMS. In the end, facing one way or another is adiaphora, and the best thing whichever way the chancel is set up would be for us to have a Biblical (that is, Confessionally Lutheran) Sacramental piety and practice. However, our practice confesses what we believe as well! So for us, what does using a free standing altar confess? Is it what this pastor says?

Pastor Beecroft says in the article, "It [facing the "high altar" at the Verba] reflects a sacramental ritual that helps direct the people toward the transcendent... it pulls the community away from themselves and to that which is beyond us. It certainly has helped my piety as a pastor." Pastor Beecroft's congregation in Tulsa had gone back to a non-free standing altar from previously using one. The Roman bishop of Tulsa makes the point - "Everyone is the same from the back. Eyes are on the crucifix, not the priest."

Did we switch to altars away from the wall, and facing the people at the Verba (at least, some of our congregations), because of Vatican II? Or have Lutherans before this time period ever used free-standing altars and faced the congregation at the Verba, as my friend seems to indicate?

It seems to me that Dr. Weinrich in "Early Church History" class, in illustrating some of the Early Church Fathers' understanding of the definition of Church, drew pictures of altars with Bishop facing People, that wherever the Pastor and People were gathered around Christ's Sacrament and Word, there was the Church. Perhaps he was not illustrating so much the actual way it looked so much as the concept of gathering around Christ as His Body. Pastor Stuckwisch can correct me, he is the "A+" student in that class, as are others (I struggled and contended for my B+, thank you). I therefore hesitate to use names of our ancient Fathers in the faith. Does the free standing altar have precedence before our modern mis-mash thanks to Rome's triflings?

Some Lutherans have insisted on a non-free standing altar, I think precisely because of wanting to be anti-Roman Catholic in practice. That argument is easily handled, of course - we ought not do or not do things because Rome does or does not - we would never Baptize infants or read the Gospel if we worried so much about Rome.

The question is of particular interest to me. We (my congregation) have a mission plant here in Texas, and they have built their new sanctuary. The altar in the new chancel is currently "on the wall" - it has not yet seen service - and it is that way because the mother church's altar is that way, and because of a bit of what some would call "bronze-aged" Lutheran piety (understanding the definition of Lutheranism as being "not Roman Catholic") that is part of our history here.

We will be dedicating said sanctuary in January. There is time and opportunity to teach and instill a healthy, genuine, welcoming Lutheran sacramental piety, which indeed we (the Senior Pastor and myself) are teaching and confessing gently and with care. But what should we teach them about this matter of the chancel and the altar in the new sanctuary?


William Weedon said...

I have some posts on this at my blog:


and on the original article by the good father from Okie:


RevFisk said...

I've always found this debate a bit confusing. I mean...which direction does the pastor face when he distributes the elements? Does he speak the words of Christ at that time (as the rubrics do seem to insist)? Is this not the real moment of Gospel?

Paul McCain said...

The chief teacher of the churches of the Augsburg Confession said:

In the true mass, however, of real Christians, the altar should not remain where it is, and the priest should always face the people as Christ doubtlessly did in the Last Supper.

AE 53:69

Paul McCain said...

And, versus populum presiding was the universal practice of the early church.

Paul McCain said...

I'm rather surprised the Blackbirds would not welcome the versus populum orientation as a beautiful way to confess the pastor ministering in the stead of Christ, in persona Christi, as our Confessions put it.

wmc said...

I recall auditioning organists about five or six years ago. One applicant was a Roman Catholic of pre-Vatican II leanings who saw our "eastward" altar and exclaimed, "How beautiful! A proper sacrificial altar, and in a Lutheran church, no less."

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Paul, as one Blackbird, I for one do not understand the aversion to free standing altars, which were clearly approved by the Lutheran Church before Vatican II. Luther's recommendation was such. You won't hear any complaints from this Blackbird.

wmc said...

You won't hear any complaints from this Blackbird.

I agree. Make that two.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

Is this "chief teacher" the one we associate with "adiaphora" concerning liturgical questions or is he the chief liturgical teacher for all churches post-Reformation whose words in liturgical and rubrical questions have the highest priority and must be followed?

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

Is this "chief teacher" the one we associate with "adiaphora" concerning liturgical questions or is he the chief liturgical teacher for all churches post-Reformation whose words in liturgical and rubrical questions have the highest priority and must be followed?

Christopher Gillespie said...

Rev. Sutton,

You were hunting for Cyprian and Dr. Weinrich's infamous diagram to show how he confessed the church:

Bishop -> Altar

Rev. Gifford A. Grobien said...

To reiterate Brother McCain's point, because it seems to have been missed on the other blog posts and in the article in the World, the versus populum posture did seem to be typical, if not widespread or universal, in the first four or five centuries. For example, Hippolytus (2nd or 3rd century) and--I'm working from memory--I believe also Egeria (late 4th century), testify to this practice in Rome and Jerusalem respectively.

Ad orientem is not a universal 2000 year old tradition as some in the World indicated.

William Weedon said...

The fact is Luther was wrong about the original celebration. That's not how an oriental table worked. And as Lutherans, the question is not "what did the early church do?" but "what have we received?" I am utterly amazed at folks discarding the weight of the Lutheran Church orders, which in Lutheranism has always been given precedence in these matters. Not that is must invariably be followed, but that anyone would seek to discredit the near universal position of the Church Orders as somehow defective blows the mind.

wmc said...

I am utterly amazed at folks discarding the weight of the Lutheran Church orders, which in Lutheranism has always been given precedence in these matters.

How much of 17th c. church architecture was predetermined by the buildings that were inherited from prior to the Reformation?

I recall an article in the Leiturgia series which points out that where Lutherans had the opportunity to build their own churches, the free standing altar, as advocated by Luther in the 1526 Deutsche Messe, was the norm. Someone near the St. Louis sem library might check Leiturgia for this. It's been a very long time and the old memory is not what it once was, and as in all things, I'm open to correction based on hard evidence.

William Weedon said...

The hard evidence is the Church Orders themselves. Rubrics are scarce. When they show up, they have great weight. A free standing altar did NOT mean that the priest celebrated behind it. The Church orders overwhelmingly have:

Der Priester kehrt sich zum Altar und singt: Vater Unser... darnach Unser Herr, Jesu Christ...

William Weedon said...

Musculus, observing the Mass in Wittenberg, Exaudi Sunday, 1536, noted:

"Then he sang the Words of Institution in German with his back to the people. The elevation of each element was practiced together with the ringing of the Sanctus bell."

William Weedon said...

Should note that Christian Gerber notes the persistence of the Sanctus bell at the consecration in Saxony still in use 200 years later!

Rev. Rick Sawyer said...

A free standing altar did NOT mean that the priest celebrated behind it.

Here, my iconically laden altar remains free-standing. Of late, I have taken to consecrating before rather than behind. No one wonders now what the pastor dropped and is retrieving when I genuflect at the Verba. They can see quite clearly that I am reverencing the Body and Blood. So, ours is free-standing, but I stand freely before. Of course, I may just as freely stand behind, and - who knows - I may just some time soon. Now that we've raised the altar a bit, I'll disappear entirely behind it. Some Sunday, I might have to stay down for an extra few counts to get em REALLY wondering! :-)

William Weedon said...

And I should clarify - lest my words be misunderstood - I am NOT condemning in the least those who choose to consecrate facing the people. God forbid! I AM defending those of us who choose to consecrate in the way of the old Church orders and the medieval Church: facing the Coming One and praying in the same direction as all the people. What I DO criticize is when the pastor picks up PART of the elements and turns his back on the rest and speaks the Verba. A visiting pastor did this here, and my people were not sure whether to commune. As they told me later: "We weren't sure that the Word had been joined to those elements; it wasn't clear."

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Just to clarify, where the altar is not free-standing, I do not think the pastor should turn either half way or all the way to face the people during the consecration. Let him face the altar throughout, until the Pax Vobiscum. I never thought of consecrating Ad Orientum with a free-standing altar. Hmmm. I suppose it could work. Whatever you do, if you do face the people, DON'T try to make eye contact with them!

PMagness said...

Interesting discussion. Since this is an adiaphoron, and we are sharing our variety of practices, here is what our custom is at Bethany-Naperville: We have a free standing altar, and the pastors celebrate the Liturgy of the Lord's Supper from behind the altar. At the Verba, the sacristans (who are robed) and acolytes pivot slightly and place their reverent gaze upon the Pastor as he says the Word of Our Lord. We do this to reinforce Luther's teaching that these words are "the highest Gospel" and to thereby help focus everyone's attention on what is taking place. We started doing this a couple of years ago, and I have noted increased silence and focus on the part of our assembly during the Verba and so commend this custom to you. What the assisting liturgists do - or don't do - during the liturgy can have a significant impact on the assembly's attention to the Word.

Regarding the main issue of which direction the Presiding Minister should face during the Verba, it'd be interesting if this site put up a poll!

Rev. Rick Sawyer said...

I never thought of consecrating Ad Orientum with a free-standing altar. Hmmm. I suppose it could work.

Actually, I used to consecrate geographically ad orientum when I did so behind our altar, since our chancel is directed Westward. With my back toward the chancel wall, I was facing east, so if Our Lord returned at the consecration, at least my eyes were lifted in the right direction, assuming He returns AB oriente! :-)

Seriously, it works just fine with a free-standing altar. What doesn't work so well is genuflecting from behind it, as you really do get people to wonder why the pastor disappeared. With our changes to the altar, it seemed salutary - after 20 years - for me to move to the front. When people asked, I explained that now I don't disappear and that sufficed. Personally, I like the consecration before the altar, and I still have a chance of seeing Him come when I turn and elevate the Host and Chalice at the Pax. Of course, I'll be the only one, since the congregation's facing ME! I do seem to recall a church in ancient Rome in which the whole congregation turned to face true east at the consecration, when a church was oriented similarly to ours.

wmc said...

A poll would be interesting.

As part of full disclosure of practice, I have an eastward altar and face liturgical east (magnetic south) from the proper preface on. I turn toward the congregation with the consecrated elements for the Pax Domini. Things get a bit more complicated with DS 1 and 2, but the idea is still the same. The expanded eucharistic prayer certainly supports facing east.

Like my 17th century predecessors, I inherited the architecture that I have and adapt the ceremonial and its interpretation accordingly. I briefly entertained turning my back on the altar (which was posed as a viable option at the sem), but found that it destroyed the symbolism of the altar and undermined the consecratory character of the Verba.

I quite agree with Luther's observation in his 1526 Deutsche Messe. Here Luther shows himself to be much more of a liturgical free thinker than many give him credit for being. In fact, the entire Deutsche Messe and its comments are surprisingly radical to a traditionalist. I think Luther is reflecting the multi-faceted character of the Verba - they are both proclamation and consecration. Luther reflects the proclamatory function of the Verba, in parallel with the Gospel. Facing east emphasizes the consecratory function of the Verba, while facing the people across the altar carries a both/and ambiguity.

In a discussion among Lutherans, I would discourage the use of "high" and "low" in describing altars or liturgical practice, as we are not engaged in the Anglican via media compromise between Catholic and Reformed theologies. In my opinion, Lutherans should be able to use a free standing or eastern altar without compromising our theology of the Sacrament, and we can interpret the ceremonial appropriately in both cases.

William Weedon said...

Amen, William!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Hmmm. . . Well, here in Lahoma we have what is being called an "Ad Orientam" altar (even though it actually faces West. . .go figure) and the elements are placed on the Gospel side of the Altar, and during the consecration I am standing at the center of the altar but facing the elements, so I am slightly turned. . . so can someone liturgically describe what I am doing? Ad East-south-east (or in reality "west-north-west")? >=o)

And here I will give out my typical word of caution on any liturgical discussion as the vile semi-minimalist (i.e. one who loves high church stuff, but is perfectly fine with low as well) minimalist that I am. When it comes to the consecration, the two important things are the Words of our Lord and the elements. These are the necessary. Make sure people hear the Words (for wasn't the fact that the Verba be proclaimed audibly the biggest point Luther made in the liturgical reform at this point in the service?) and then. . . distribute.

Start as simple as that, and then move towards as beautiful as piety allows without slipping into liturgical pietism - move as reverently and ceremonially as one can without slipping into a back-door schwemristic-mystical mess where the beauty of the service trumps the One doing the service.

And yes - I spelled schwemer wrong. . . I think. . .but surely if I can't spell it I'll never become one!

And ironically - the code word for this post is "purely".

Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate that the rich symbolism of liturgical orientation, ritual, and ceremony is neglected in our training and education. We may have had one or two classes in the seminary and then were left up to our own devices and preferences. We might read a book or two, probably limited to our own tradition. We find a quote from an historically naive Luther to support our position. We make a specious argument that this is how it has always been done; or this is how the early church did it; or this is how Luther did it. Rarely, however, do we explore the deep structures of our public worship to consider what they communicate to the gathered people.

We argue that the Word is all that is important, but forget that the Word is attached to material things and people engaged in ritual conduct. It does not take place in a vacuum. Yet the minimalist approach of our confession is evident in the rubrics of our LSB. Our liturgy is almost entirely verbal and textual. I think we have forgotten key ways to communicate the gracious presence of Christ in our midst through non-verbal means. We are not ghosts, but enfleshed human beings who are engaged by sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. The Scriptures are replete with examples. Our confused minimalism, in my opinion, reflects an inadequate understanding of the human person and how they both confess and learn faith.

Of course I am well aware that the arguments from historical precedent, adiaphora, form/content distinctions, etc. will hold the day and no ceremony or rite will be able to bind the practices of our congregations. My desire to celebrate ad orientem simply reflects a desire to submit to our received tradition in the West. Is it medieval? Sure. Is there evidence for versus populum in early Christianity? Yes, but it was not universal or overwhelming as those liturgical tyrants of the twentieth-century tried to argue. Regardless, I have found that ad orientem communicates powerfully both the sacramental and sacrificial character of the Mass, while pulling the people into the hope of the faith... "As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. Amen. Come Lord Jesus." We celebrate ad orientem and look for the return of our Lord.

At the end of the day, I must confess that both options have their merits. If we were bound by rubrics, then I would submit to them, either way. I wish this was the case. And I am quite sure that the brothers who read this blog conduct the Mass with the utmost reverence and fidelity. I confess weakness in my pastoral practice in this parish and pray for patience for myself and the people.

I think the larger issue at hand for our confession is a general ignorance and overwhelming indifference to matters of rite and ceremony that are appropriate to our theological confession. Contemporary worship, individual cups, irreverence, ex corde spontaneity, mawkish prattling, hyperspeed verba, grinning egotists, banal music, etc. all work against our belief that God Himself is present. These deritualizing trends are not consistent with our sacramental faith. Well, enough rambling.

wmc said...

I don't think a discussion such as this is advance much with phrases such as "general ignorance" and "overwhelming indifference," much less liturgical straw men.

While I admire the zeal of those who are somewhat new to the holy ministry, I would counsel a bit of restraint in judging others. After 16 years of preaching, presiding, and pastoring, I am surprised at how many of my firmly held opinion have softened considerably.

I think the Bible calls this "wisdom."

Anonymous said...

My apologies if the post came across as over the top. I have a tendency for hyperbole and being a tad dramatic.

I do believe that our confession does suffer from general ignorance and overwhelming indifference. Look at our seminary curriculum. How can we explain the state of our current practice? Perhaps my experience in Texas and Oklahoma is not the norm, but I have seen and heard enough in other places to stand by the statement.

I'm not sure where the liturgical "straw men" are at in my post. The rant line in the last paragraph, perhaps, but it does reflect a reality and general tendency. Neither do I see where I was judging the other brothers. When I said "we" I was including myself.

I would love to see the discussion revolve around rite and ceremony appropriate to our sacramental confession. What is the range of diversity allowable when we contend that Jesus Christ is truly present?

If I came across as too much of an ass, then I apologize. It would not be the first time.
A properly chastised whippersnapper,
+Mason (my real name)

Anonymous said...

Also, my practice and the liturgy at our parish is far from perfect or appropriate. I do not pretend otherwise. We are symptomatic of the disease. I raise the issue out of personal concern and struggle.

wmc said...

How can we explain the state of our current practice?

I think we need first to define what the state of our current practice is. Sorry, but this simply will not do: "Contemporary worship, individual cups, irreverence, ex corde spontaneity, mawkish prattling, hyperspeed verba, grinning egotists, banal music, etc." All of these have their counterpart, namely: Traditionalist worship, preoccupation with the chalice as the sine qua non of the Sacrament, robotic reverence, faux British accents, Verba chanted so slowly one imagines that the celebrant may be having a stroke not to mention the celebrant sounds like someone is choking him (the "Elmer Fudd School" of chanting), liturgical egotists, elitist music, etc.

See, anyone can play that game.

The answer, I believe, is neither repristination of medieval forms nor starting with a blank slate. Even the current Pope recognizes that you can't throw the church into reverse. You begin where you are and you chart a good course forward, being mindful of the history that brought you to the current state of things.

I'm frankly weary to the bone of all the blame being laid on Vatican II, the 60's, boomers, inadequate seminary courses, etc. Much of this could be better dealt with if we had actual pastors teaching preaching and liturgics, and if we had a long novitiate before we turn men loose on their own. It takes seven years to make a sushi chef; I think we ought to have at least this much of an apprenticeship prior to letting a man be on his own.

I think the problem in a nutshell is a lack of identity. We do not know who we are as Lutherans. We are uncomfortable with our not quite Catholic / not quite Protestant place in Christianity. So we tend to lean to one side or the other; some even fall over to one side or another.

I truly believe that when we have a grasp on who we are as Lutherans and how we fit in with the greater body of believers in the world and in church history, we might not even worry all that much about which way we face when we consecrate the Sacrament.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

I think that if people who criticize a perceived "fussiness" about so-called insignificant things ought to just read Piepkorn's Conduct of the Service and Lang's Ceremony and Celebration, especially the parts where they espouse the Confessional standard concerning ceremonies: no one ought to criticize another for having more or less ceremonies. Piepkorn boils down all rubrics to "be courteous." Every pastor has his or her comfort zone. It took me about 4 years in the same place before I finally found mine, but what I do works for the congregations I serve. It might be a different story somewhere else. But I would always strive, no matter where I served, to be (1) deliberate about what I do, where I stand, and have a reason for it, (2) be reverent in how I conduct the service, and (3) be courteous towards fellow pastors serving with me and with congregation members.

wmc said...

Piepkorn boils down all rubrics to "be courteous."

Courtesy goes a long way. A lot of rubrics amount to nothing more than liturgical etiquette.

I'm not so sure it's about a pastor's own "comfort zone" being determinative, though if one is uncomfortable with one's self, that will certainly manifest itself, sometimes in strange liturgical behaviors. A lot of liturgical decisions are, and should be, pastoral. A common ground between presider and people tends to develop over the long haul. I didn't really arrive at that for about seven years. I'm much more at ease after 16 years in one place. A level of trust builds over the years that allows one to a greater degree of freedom.

One of the greatest dangers to the liturgy is where the pastor sees himself as a reformer, correcting the misdeeds of the past, rather than as a shepherd, gently guiding by word and deed (more deed than word, actually) into greener pastures.

This drifts a bit from which direction one faces during the consecration, but the original post serves as an example. There is no need to criticize or diminish those who agree with Luther that the bread and wine are best consecrated facing the people. There is also no need to criticize those who find something laudable from the medieval tradition of facing East. Clearly, much of 17th century Lutheranism, for good or ill, ignored Luther's observations in the 1526 Deutsche Messe.

There is hardly anything wrong, or un-Lutheran, with a reasoned both/and position that is able to extol both while recognizing the limitations of each.

Anonymous said...

Touche! I know my sentence will not suffice, but it had a flourish. Two snaps and a....

The problem with playing either of our games is the subjectivist nature of both. The entire Divine Service is held hostage to the celebrant or worship leader and their preferences. There are abuses in either direction, which appears unavoidable with our current amnesia.

I am not arguing for repristination, antiquinarianism, novelty, or absolute creativity, as if that were possible. Moreover, as a newcomer to these neck of the woods, I have heard almost nothing of the blame you mention. Perhaps it does take place in dark, smoky rooms smelling of bourbon and incense, but I have yet to join one of those parties.:)

I am becoming convinced that both the Liturgical Renewal Movement of the twentieth-century and the CGM are born of the same enlightenment principles with respect to worship: an overwhelming desire for intelligibility, accessibility, transparency, spontaneity, community (?), diversity, effervescence, and such. These principles hardly work well in a sacramental community engaged by the impenetrable mysteries of the faith. I think we need to consider the range of appropriate conduct for the Mass and submit to it. The Church needs forms that can bear the weight of its confessed faith. If there were shared rubrics for the conduct of the liturgy, then I would happily submit. Really. Our current situation, in my opinion, allows for too much. The rubrics are almost exclusively verbal and definitely minimal. I find it confusing. I know this goes back to the fruitful canon discussion...

Pastors teaching liturgics or a novitiate might help the situation, although I suspect we would be just as confused, unless we agreed with the person's positions. With respect to Lutheran identity, I would love for our confession to arrive at some consensus. I look forward to a grasp of where we stand as LCMS Christians, but am not holding my breath.

Anyway, I would have been happy to be a novice for any number of years, as long as my bishop was faithful and agreeable to me.

Finally, I am not concerned that everyone prays ad orientem. Neither am I fussy. I should be more particular on a number of issues, in fact. I think Fr. Beisel is right in referring to Piepkorn. Of course there are just as many who would disagree.

wmc said...

The rubrics are almost exclusively verbal and definitely minimal.

Part of the problem we face with LSB is that we on the liturgy committee made an intentional effort to minimize the rubrics in the pew edition. The liturgy was beginning to look like a manual on the liturgy.

There is a forthcoming Ministers Desk Edition which will flesh out the history, theology, and practice of the liturgy. Unfortunately, Paul Grime is sidelined at Ft. Wayne and the project has lost considerable steam under the current administration.

This may leave LSB in the same unfortunate situation as TLH for which the liturgical chants were not released until 1943, two years after the introduction of TLH because two members of the committee could not agree on the chants that were to accompany the liturgy. As a result, we inherited the TLH oddity of the pastor speaking and the people chanting.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

The Words of Institution are both proclamation and consecration. I think someone mentioned that before. Through them the hearts of the hearers are moved to faith, and the sacramental union is effected. This proclamation and consecration can take place whether a pastor is facing the people or away from the people, since they can hear the words either way. My personal preference is to be standing behind a free-standing altar, since the gifts are being offered to the people, and not to God. I think that this posture better conveys the fact that Christ, through the Pastor, is giving His gifts to his people. However, I believe the altar in the Old Testament tabernacle was free-standing, yet Moses stood in front of it when offering the sacrifce, but turned to the people when throwing part of the blood on them. Scaer said that in the cross, the blood is thrown to God, on the holy of holies; and in the SAcrament it is thrown on the people.

wmc said...

Scaer said that in the cross, the blood is thrown to God, on the holy of holies; and in the SAcrament it is thrown on the people.

That is a magnificent observation, worthy of all repetition.

William Weedon said...


You made a most helpful observation. It was that you've come to a place of comfort (probably not the right word, but I think we know what you mean) in your current place. PLACE does influence how the liturgy is celebrated in ways that are difficult to articulate, but I hold it has always been so. High Mass in the Cathedral looked one way and in the parish Church a bit different. Helpful for us all to assess the space in which we worship and ponder how it would impose some limitations on us. I, for example, would maintain that it would look patently silly for me to make a procession down the aisle of simple St. Paul's in a cope. I have nothing against copes, but the ceremonial "fidn't dit" in that space.

wmc said...

High Mass in the Cathedral looked one way and in the parish Church a bit different.

Very important observation from the Venerable Weed. This is not a "high" vs "low" matter, but a matter of proportion and pastoral considerations. I recall attending a Mass with a handful of Benedictine brothers in their house chapel which was a converted garage. Very sparse and simple; minimal ceremomial; intensely beautiful.

William Weedon said...

I really am going to have to kill Paul McCain AND Dave Benke...

Robert said...

May I watch?

wmc said...

I really am going to have to kill Paul McCain AND Dave Benke...

Rather violent statement from the usually pious Venerable Weed. Context please?