Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Concelebration and the East.

Westward facing concelebrated Mass.

I cannot make the altar out for all the clergy.

Concelebrated Mass in my Parish Church. A hiding of the elements.

High Mass with the Anglican bishop of Whitby.

Perfection, in my opinion. Eastward facing Mass at a free standing altar. Unencumbered access to the Altar of God.

Some time ago, I posted a few thoughts under the title 'Conversi Ad Dominum'. It seemed to generate a lot of correspondence, mostly positive and some negative. It is with some trepidation, therefore, that I offer my thoughts on the continuing dialogue from the Vatican concerning concelebration and once again come out and say 'I don't really think it is a good thing, on the whole'. The Vatican seems to be telling us that we should not use concelebration unless there is a clear and obvious reason why, like the Bishop is visiting or there is a Chrism Mass or, possibly, two parishes are having a joint pilgrimage and the two priests wish to maintain a daily Mass and this is the only way of doing so.
We need to free ourselves from certain misunderstandings, however, before we proceed. I am disinterested in Chasuble cuts. It is sufficient that they be dignified and made from natural fibres, according to Jewish Law as well as Canon Law. I am allergic to lace and am unconcerned what is on my head, or your head, come to it. I dislike flounce or pomp and am naturally politically inclined towards socialism. I will only use the NHS and try to take the bus rather than use a car. I am disinclined to appreciate a Viennese Mass setting in it's natural place, although will enjoy one on Radio three. Some of you will think me an ignoramus.
However, with my thoroughly modern, reasonably PC, inclusive mindset, with my belief in the equality of all peoples I still believe in three things which strike many as at odds with my views. I believe in a male Priesthood, not because of any reason but that I cannot overthrow scripture or tradition, I do not believe in concelebration because I believe in the sacrifice of Christ, not the sacrifice of a caste and I believe in facing East for Mass because our whole lives, literature and scripture point us towards the East, from St Luke to The Wasteland by TS Eliot, our humanity screams out with a desire to turn towards God in humility and praise. The East shows our priorities, which are to God, not to each other. The East shows our common journey and common goal, which is Christ. A single Priest shows Christ and shows humility, whereas a caste offering the sacrifice shows, to me, elitism and a very non scriptural egotism. High Mass, if correct, shows the very natural progression and structure of the Church and is a poem of praise offered symbolically by the whole people of God. As Heaven comes to Earth and Earth to Heaven, though, there is space for only one man to stand before Christ, before kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. Encouraging concelebration eventually confuses the centrality of the Eucharist in our lives and diminishes in peoples eyes the eucharistic miracle. To face the same way, towards God, with no distraction betweeen the altar of God and the people of God, with attendant clergy in Choir - for it is right to expect this, that those God calls kneel and show their humility before all the people and before God - is, i think, the way we should await the Divine.
Gosh Andrew, I can hear you saying, you really know how to ingratiate yourself with the powers that be, don't you? No, probably i do not, but there it is. This is a long term goal, maybe never to be realised in my ministry. It needs much careful education, as well as careful footwork so as not to tread on the toes of good and holy men who have thought differently before me, for what has been done is equally as valid and equally as transcendent as what can be done next. We all need to walk humbly before the risen saviour and to live simply with love for our fellow people, just, in my opinion, one or two screws need tightening in the maintenance shed of the Church, for we are about to take a massive blow, i think, and we must have the belief in the traditional ecclesiology which is the life of the Church that we need to survive. I truly believe, that, in the end, people will come back to our beliefs, for they are divine truth, but in the meantime, i think we need to more fully express our faith in the Risen One, who comes from the East and to whence our lives, our bodies and our world are orientated. Let's just put our altars in the same direction as well.