Thursday, December 27, 2007
Changing the Face of the Liturgy in Rome
I'm not sure how many of you are taking notice, but the face of the high altar at St. Peter's in Rome is quickly changing. These changes include the movement of the altar cross from the edge of the altar to the center as well as the addition of the 7th candle.
"So what?" you might be asking. Well, these changes, although seemingly small at St. Peter's, indicate a whole new mindset at the Vatican concerning liturgy. As a matter of fact, from a liturgists point of view, the Pope has stopped saying Masses versus populum and is now saying Mass ad orientem.
"But Zach, the pope hasn't switched directions when saying Mass!" Well, as far a his physical orientation, no he hasn't. This is because the nave of St. Peter's faces west (when walking toward the altar.) This set up is the same in all of the Roman basilicas. However, the changes the pope has made are the same changes that your parish priest would make if he would start using the high altars. Let me explain. The difference is in emphasis. The versus populum orientation was adopted in the Mass so that people have "access" to the Mass and can see what is going on at the altar. The focus of Mass being said ad orientem is the priest facing God to address him in prayer and to face the rising Son of God. The emphasis has once again been taken up at the Vatican. This is shown by the placement of the candles and altar cross in the traditional layout. The pope is no longer concerned (or at least seems to be) with being able to face the people during Mass or the people seeing the action at the altar. He now seems to be concerned with doing his duty at the altar. Namely, offering sacrifice.
If you still don't understand the significance of these actions by the pope, I would suggest reading the popes book "The Spirit of the Liturgy" as well as the great liturgical treasure "Reform of the Roman Liturgy" by Msgr. Claus Gambier.