Father Driscoll, in the CNS video which I linked to this blog on 15 June, makes what some might call an irenic comment affirming the value of both celebrating around the altar and celebrating ad Orientem. I rather suspect that his no doubt well-reasoned statement may have been for me personally a sort of provocation, "the last straw" so to speak, as after mulling it over for a couple days I decided to give up patiently waiting for my carpenter and an artisan to deliver and install all the pieces in their proper order here in my chapel and so still incomplete I returned to what is for me the optimal orientation for worship and celebrated Holy Mass here in Kyiv for the first time with me, the celebrant, also turned toward the Lord.
Maybe that is the argument we need to put forward more clearly and namely that what is at issue, often enough at least to my mind, is that with Mass around the altar or across the top of the altar, the priest celebrant is the one who is turning his back to the Lord. Please excuse me if in making such a statement I am tending toward little more than the cavalier, but there is at least as much truth to my statement as there is to funny claims that restoring continuity with the Latin and Byzantine traditions of oriented worship would be for the celebrant to turn his back on the people... Not so!
Yesterday, as we were moving the new wooden altar into place (nobler in form and better proportioned than the previous one), one of the sisters commented that now the Nuncio is going to pray like the Greek-Catholics! She said so smiling and with an air of approval! As I was celebrating this morning, now for the first time in my life here in Ukraine having had regular and direct experience as a con-celebrant of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, it came to me just how close the structure of our two liturgies is, even if the Byzantine genius is quite different from the Roman. In both traditions the Church has always and everywhere turned toward the Lord.
I'm sure the great church architects and designers of our day would note some issues with general proportions and such in my chapel (mixed metaphors, if you will), but I nearly have my worship space the way I want it and the way I think it should be for however long the Lord blesses me with this assignment. Rejoice with me, then, and look again at the possibility of orienting yourself as a celebrant toward the Lord or if from the pew you are already oriented then encouraging your priest or bishop to turn to the Lord.
Sursum corda! Habemus ad Dominum! There is more to the people's response than meets the eye, Father!