Our friend South Ashford Priest, Fr. John Boyle, has alerted me to a fine renovation project going on at his parish Church ofSt. Simon.
My emphases and comments.
I know some readers are curious as to what has been happening over the last couple of weeks. Well, all can now be revealed.
The sanctuary needed to be extended since, as my predecessor aptly put it, celebrating Mass on the previous construction was like celebrating Mass on a mantlepiece. The altar was at the very edge of the sanctuary. Whenever one wanted to incense the altar, or carry the Gospel book in procession, or hold a service of Exposition and Benediction, one had to leave the sanctuary and ‘perform’ from the floor of the church. This clearly was unsatisfactory. [And theologically problematic.]
A secondary reason to extend it was to facilitate the now regular celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Mass. In order to enable eastward celebration, heavy boxes had to be brought in and placed in position, and then removed after the Mass.
Now, with the extended sanctuary, Mass can be celebrated properly facing east or the people.
Last January, on the feast of the Epiphany, I introduced the option of kneeling for Communion. The numbers of people who took up this option were not insignificant, so as an addition to the original plan I decided that altar rails should also be put in place.
Many have commented very favourably on the result. A few have raised objections, among which are the following:
"I thought altar rails were gone now"
Well, as alluded to in a previous post, nowhere did the Church indicate that there should be no altar rails. Rather, the absence or removal of altar rails was something that became common, I think under the pretext of removing any barrier between the priest and people, which brings me to a second objection:
"You are putting a barrier between priest and people, reminding people of hierarchy and separation…" [Well…. yah! That’s right. There is a hierarchy in the Body of Christ, the Church. That hierarchy should also be manifest in the church building.]
Well, actually, although the priest is a human being like anyone else, and although we all share in the common priesthood of the baptised, the priest is set apart for sacred duties, and the sanctuary is a separate and sacred space within the Church. The priest and ministers enter into that area and co-operate in a real manner with Christ the Head of the Church, and his priest acts in the person and in the name of Christ the Head of the Church, in relationship to his bride the Church. [Excellent. This is what I have been pushing in my WDTPRS articles for years.] The structure of the Church and the distinction of roles within the liturgical celebration illustrates sacramentally the ministry of Christ the Head to the members of the Mystical Body. So, actually, there should be some sign of separation. Indeed, in the Eastern Churches, the sanctuary is screened off from view by an iconostasis, and only the priest may pass through the Royal Door. In many ancient churches in this country, one can still see evidence of Rood Screens which were in place before the Reformation, and some which were removed were reconstructed in Victorian times.
So, here’s a video of the works: