As mentioned here previously, the weekday 9:00 a.m. Mass is celebrated Ad Deum (toward God) as with the Traditional Latin Mass, said at 8:00 a.m. Last Sunday, Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel using the altar beneath Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. (The picture on the front cover of this bulletin shows the Elevation of the Chalice.) The press release about the Mass from the Vatican stated: “…in some moments the pope will find … his eyes on the cross, thus orienting the attitude and disposition of the entire assembly…”
The following is an excerpt from his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy:
“The turning of the priest toward the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is locked into itself. The common turning toward the East was not a “celebration toward the wall”; it did not mean that the priest “had his back to the people”: the priest himself was not regarded as so important. For just as the congregation in the synagogue looked together toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian Liturgy the congregation looked together “toward the Lord”. As one of the fathers of Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy, J.A. Jungmann, put it, it was much more a question of priest and people facing in the same direction, knowing that together they were in a procession toward the Lord. They did not lock themselves into a circle, they did not gaze at one another, but as the pilgrim People of God they set off for the Oriens, for the Christ who comes to meet us….
But is this not all romanticism and nostalgia for the past? Can the original form of Christian prayer still say something to us today, or should we try to find our own form, a form for our own times? Of course, we cannot simply replicate the past. Every age must discover and express the essence of the liturgy anew. The point is to discover this essence amid all the changing appearances. It would surely be a mistake to reject all the reforms of our century wholesale. When the altar was very remote from the faithful, it was right to move it back to the people.”
May our Holy Father continue his work as he leads us to Christ Jesus.