Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Prayer as Linear

The Exception to the Rule

In a recent contribution by Fr. Thomas Kocik to a debate which (it would seem) pits theology against posture/orientation in liturgy NLM - Form and Function Discussion I am a bit at a loss to understand why anyone could have the impression that anything orthodox or right-thinking in our theology of the Eucharist would militate against returning to worship, according to the existing rubrics just as it has always been possible, ad Orientem. I cannot help but see praying the Eucharistic prayer with everyone facing toward the Lord as anything less than an essential component (please, sooner rather than later) to any serious effort at healing the rupture or loss of continuity within the tradition.

I remember years ago going with a group to visit the church in Rome named Santo Stefano in Rotondo. Why exactly we went and as I group I do not know because there wasn't much to see as the floor inside the church had been taken up and there were archeological digs going on everywhere inside. I say this so as to make it clear that I did not experience liturgy in this ancient round church with the altar in the center. My suspicion would be that the "in the round" part of the name of the church pointed to the anomaly of it all. This building was an exception to the rule. The tradition leaves us for the most part with linear houses of prayer and even those little baroque jewels elsewhere in Rome with hardly a straight wall or column inside are no exception in terms of the arrangement of the altar (even the Pantheon as a Christian house of prayer is no exception) not in the middle but to one side.

I think it is a mistaken tactic to argue in favor of ad Orientem on the basis of the ascendency of the sacrificial character of the Mass over the table/feeding, meal/banquet... communion notion. Would it not be better just to say that our whole tradition of prayer and adoration is linear? The sobriety of our transcendent faith keeps us from hopping ecstatically or as if in a trance around some campfire. The reason that monastic choirs face each other probably has more to do with the one big book shared by all and turned from side to side in days back before the printing press than it does with anything else. 
Our Canon, our prayer is addressed to the Lord and we kneel or stand before Him, facing Him.... together.

(Label this one an opinion piece, please.)

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