Today’s great blog posts you don’t want to miss

As you carry on with your blog slog today, be sure not to miss these items.

First, New Liturgical Movement has a very good article about the architectural-liturgical symbolism of the fascinating Basilica of St. Clement in Rome.  You will learn a lot from this piece.  I did.

Next, the great Fr. Tim Finigan, His Hermeneuticalness, has a summary of a first meeting of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy which has been newly formed in England.  Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP, gave a talk.  Fr. Finigan makes his own observations as well as gives good news about that meeting.  Surely this is great news, not just for people in Englands, for this will help their priests, but English speakers everywhere, because we are so interconnected.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Centristian says:

    From the NLM article cited:

    “All the churches built by Constantine in Rome were laid out “backwards” this way (except Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, which was built into an existing building), and I can only guess that this was done in part to imitate the Temple at Jerusalem.

    There are other possibilities as well. The priest offering the Holy Sacrifice is facing east, of course–the design of the altar makes it impossible for Mass to be offered any other way. It is thought that in antiquity the assembly would actually turn around and face east with the celebrant, putting the Sanctuary behind them. This is not as strange as it might at first sound. A shepherd is always behind his flock. This is why the celebrant always comes last in procession. Furthermore, the church building symbolizes the Barque of Peter. In fact, the word nave derives from the Latin navis, which means boat. So the Sanctuary is where the helm in an ancient ship would be–at the back.”

    I first encountered this explanation in seminary, from our Sacred Liturgy professor, and I was astounded as he related that these basilicas were so occidented because it used to be the case that the congregation, during the Canon, turned around to face East, as the doors were opened to welcome the great “Oriens ex alto” (represented by the rising Sun). In this way, the posture of not only the celebrant, but the entire worshipping community, was ad orientem. How amazing.

    This was a very eye-opening revelation for me, and contradicted the notion held by many in that institution that the “Mass of All Time” had always been celebrated the same way throughout history (the Last Supper notwithstanding) and could not be celebrated any other way. The idea of the entire congregation turning to face away from the altar and towards the main entrance so fascinated me that I would sit in chapel and contemplate what that must have been like. It also caused me to imagine what it might have meant to have lost that tradition, to those who had become accustomed to it before it ceased. Was it a sudden change, I wonder, like the changes that occurred in the liturgy in our own times? Would Roman Christians have missed that practice, after it was discontinued? I think I would have.

    There are museums and halls of fame for everything, it seems. Is there such a thing for the liturgy, I wonder? What I wouldn’t give to see what the Latin Rite liturgy would have looked, sounded, and felt like in Apostolic times, in ancient times, in the Middle Ages, in pre-Tridentine days. I would love it if some talented and scholarly group of liturgists (real liturgists) were to present some sort of video series of the Mass through the ages, acting out the Roman Rite liturgy in its various forms over time (not only more the solemn forms, but your typical weekday Mass). It’s one thing to read the texts and to try and figure out what a writer is trying to describe as far as liturgical setting and action, but it would really be something to be able to actually watch it all unfold before one’s eyes.

    The New Liturgical Movement article mentions the Schola Cantorum feature of the basilica and the writer makes note of the fact that this feature is more often than not absent from churches. I have always found the absence of the chancel in Catholic Churches disappointing. Anglican/Episcopalian churches, even the smallest of them, always seem to preserve the choir as an essential component of the church’s interior. Too bad we have not done likewise, I think.

  2. asophist says:

    In the vein of Centristian’s observations, I found that in England, the great churches that were formerly Catholic all have the choir between the nave and the sanctuary. After Vatican II, as I (mea culpa!) experimented with being an Episcopalian, I sat in the choir and found it a great way to be close to the liturgical action (such as it was). I can appreciate the more modern Catholic abandonment of that architectural arrangement in favor of bringing the faithful in the pews closer to the sanctuary. After all, we can’t ALL sit in choir. Though, I admit, the older arrangement is more pleasing to my eye and to my architectural sensibilities.

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