At NLM there are photos of a “Benedictine arrangement” of an altar in Bogota.
The “Benedictine arrangement” is, of course, the placement of the Crucifix with candles at a versus populum Mass such that the Crucifix becomes the common focus, not the priest.
Fr. Ray Blake, on his excellent and recently-renamed blog, finds the photo of the setup in Bogota a bit silly. He is not against the Benedictine arrangement per se. He is concerned about the doubling of symbols and creating a barrier.
I am not concerned about creating a barrier (there is historical precedent barriers in liturgy in both East and West), and I think people are fairly smart and can handle more than one crucifix in view at the same time. But, I must admit he is right. Fr. Blake also comes to the obvious conclusion: just do it right. And you know what I mean by that.
Fr. Blake correctly mentions the “Benedictine arrangement” as an improvement and also as the “next step” to getting the altar back the way it ought to be.
It is interesting that in Spirit of Liturgy the Pope writes a great deal about facing East but falls short of saying definitively we should face East but is only the brave or eccentric priest who dares do it.
What did Joseph Ratzinger write in The Spirit of the Liturgy (pp. 83-84)?
A more important objection is of the practical order. Are we really going to re-order everything all over again? Nothing is more harmful to the Liturgy than constant changes, even if it seems to be for the sake of genuine renewal. [Pope Benedict doesn’t like to impose. He also remembers the chaos caused by the hamfisted way the “reforms” were inflicted. He isn’t going to say “This is how it should be”, even as you have to conclude that that is what he is saying.]
I see a solution to this [If he is proposing a “solution” that means that he sees that something must be corrected.] in a suggestion I noted at the beginning in connection with the insights of Erik Peterson. Facing toward the East, as we heard, was linked with the “sign of the Son of Man”, with the Cross, which announces Our Lord’s Second Coming. That is why, very early on, the East was linked with the sign of the cross. Where a direct common turning toward the East is not possible, the cross can serve as the interior “East” of faith. It should stand in the middle of the altar and be the common point of focus for both priest and praying community. [Where it is “not possible”…. Where would that be, exactly? I suppose it might refer to those places where the main altar was detached from its original position and moved forward , perhaps the edge of the step, so that it can’t be used ad orientem. But what labor and money caused to be changed, money and labor can correct. Of course it is possible, with the will, to change the position of the altar. I have in mind something explained to me when I was in London. Before the Holy Father made his visit to England, the papal MC Mons. Guido Marini scoped out the altar of Westminster Cathedral. He said that, because of its position in respect to the columns of the baldichino, the Holy Father would not be able to go around the altar with the thurible. The folks at Westminster panicked at the implication. They spent tens of thousands of pounds to shift the altar just a little so that there would be no excuse for the MC to have the Holy Father to say Mass ad orientem.]
In this way we obey the ancient call to prayer: Conversi ad Dominum, “Turn to the Lord!” In this way we look together at the One whose Death tore the veil of the Temple — the One who stands before the Father for us and encloses us in His arms in order to make us the new and living Temple.
Moving the altar cross to the side to give an uninterrupted view of the priest is something I regard as one of the truly absurd phenomena of recent decades. Is the cross disruptive during Mass? Is the priest more important than Our Lord?
This mistake should be corrected as quickly as possible; it can be done without further rebuilding. [In other words, this is an immediate solution. That doesn’t rule out something more down the road. At a certain point it will become obvious what has to be done, as with that chapel in Bogota.] The Lord is the point of reference. He is the rising sun of history. [And as far as the two Crucifix problem…] That is why there can be a cross of the Passion, which represents the Suffering Lord who for us let His side be pierced, from which flowed blood and water (Eucharist and Baptism), as well as a cross of triumph, which expresses the idea of Our Lord’s Second Coming and guides our eyes towards it. For it is always the One Lord: Christ yesterday, today, and for ever (Heb. 13. 8).
I am glad that Fr. Blake called attention to this.
I think the Holy Father really does want to have priests use this “Benedictine arrangement”, and use it right away. It is a quick and easy way to begin a shift both in the priest’s ars celebrandi and also in the congregation’s perception of the true Actor at Holy Mass.