The other day I had the privilege of meeting with a group of the Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulcher to talk about the Novus Ordo, the TLM and so forth. In talking about celebration of Mass I brought up Jewish mizrah, or “East”, the direction of prayer for the Jews, “oriented” toward where the Temple of Jerusalem was. The misrach is also the east wall in synagogue where the rabbi is, and in a home. Also, their Torah “ark” containing the Scriptures is usually there, in the East, covered with a curtain.
Today His Hermeneuticalness has an interesting post about similarities of Catholic and Jewish liturgical worship. HERE
He made an insightful point about the orientation of the priest whereby he has, or does not have, the sight of the people in the congregation. One of his points concerned where people sit in some synagogues, men on one side women on the other, as well as other customs such as arrival time and bowing and so forth. He comments:
4. reminds me of the practice I heard about once, in which the congregation were told to remain standing in their place after they had received Holy Communion, wait until the last person had received, and then all sit down together. The experience of the traditional Latin Mass is not as freeform as Judaism 101’s description of Orthodox Jewish liturgy, but in fact there are no rubrics for the people, only customs. [NB] I think that whether the priest is facing the people or turned to the East has an influence on how closely he tries to control what everyone does. If you are focussed on the altar and the crucifix, rather than trying to make eye-contact with everyone, you are less likely to be bothered if people choose to occupy the rearmost pews.
Did you get that? It could be that there is a correlation between versus populum celebration and attempts of priests to control the participation of the congregation. I think Fr. Finigan is on to something here.
I, for example, could care less whether people sit or stand for most of Mass. Of course there are times when it is most appropriate to kneel. I think people properly kneel for the consecration, etc.
I could care less about when people come forward for Holy Communion. Frankly, I’d like the practice of row-by-row Communion to fade away, and the psychological pressure to go forward when you shouldn’t along with it. So Communion time is a little messy. Okay.
In my experience liberals are far more controlling than traditionals in certain aspects of worship. Of course we all know some relaxed libs and some controlling trads, no question. However, in the main, my experience has been that trads – at least those in communities which have finally gotten comfortable and don’t fear persecution any longer – are pretty laid back, while libs are control freaks.
Perhaps the greater structure of the liturgical rites gives trads space to “be”?