From the Anglo-Catholic. Always interesting. Sometimes applicable to the Lutheran Liturgy. And he fails to mention Luther's personal preference/innovation of the freestanding altar.
As some of the older clergy in both Anglican and Catholic traditions are what I would call '1970's dinosaurs', still thinking about what needs to be discarded in order to be relevant to modern man, some of the younger folk are labouring to recover what the older men spent their careers on destroying. We have recently discussed the language of the liturgy, namely archaic and modern English. Language is important, but not the only consideration in the liturgy.
One of the very first articles I wrote for The Anglo-Catholic was on the Eastward Position. There is also an extremely interesting article in The New Liturgical Movement on Bringing Verticality and Presence back to Free-standing Altars. In our pilgrimage to the Catholic Church, we are obviously concerned for our Anglican patrimony. We should also take Catholic patrimony to heart, the very patrimony that Pope Benedict XVI is trying to recover – and for which he needs the help of Anglicans. It is a task for which men of vision and energy are needed, men who are capable of seeing far beyond the confines of the 'establishment' box which perhaps nurtured them.
The concept of the 'horizontal' liturgy is hard to explain without an illustration. I have carefully avoided the caricatures many traditionalists choose of clown masses or other such extreme abuses. This is a run-of-the-mill concelebrated Mass one would find in the vast majority of Catholic churches in the world. The main celebrant is wearing a chasuble, and the concelebrants are wearing albs and stoles. What strikes me in this scene is the horizontality of everything. The altar table has nothing on it other than the cloth, the chalice, paten and ciborium (or a metal dish), a missal and perhaps a microphone. The candlesticks are free-standing and the crucifix is off to one side. Asymmetry is often a device for destroying verticality. One very often comes across a pair of stubby candles on one end of the altar (facing the people) and the crucifix on the other end, the microphone in the middle. Here in France, a common arrangement is the chalice and paten on a corporal on the side of the altar facing the people, and the missal in the centre of the altar between the priest and the corporal. Everything is symbolic.
My objective here is not to raise polemics against the modern Roman rite, but to highlight the fact of an emerging tendency within our journey to Rome. Most of us in the TAC are somewhat more 'traditionalist' in our liturgical orientations and geared to contributing towards a revival of traditional forms of the liturgy. I think most of us are much more tolerant in regard to the other emerging 'tendency' among us that is more inclined to melt into the landscape of contemporary English Catholicism. We should be tolerant and engage in dialogue, that progress be made in our learning and our spirituality. At the same time, I am convinced of the necessity for us to have clear and lucid minds. The world to which we are walking – the Catholic Church – is a difficult one, and we must proceed without romantic ideas of a 'perfect' Church as was often dreamt of in the nineteenth century. The Catholic Church (or at least her Pope and the more lucid bishops and clergy) is seeking to recover her own identity and sacredness in the liturgy.
I respect Anglicans who have opted for the modern Roman rite, knowing that they frequently celebrate it in a reform of the reform spirit using traditional music and celebrating with a profound sense of the sacred. I have already said that I am prepared to celebrate the modern Roman rite in situations where it would be the right response to a specific pastoral need. Like the good priests presently in the Church of England, I would interpret the texts and ceremonies in the light of Tradition. It can be done. However, I am convinced that the liturgical spirit can be fully recovered in the Church by the mutual inter-influence of a number of rites, as the Pope has allowed through Summorum Pontificum.
So it should be in the future Ordinariates. How it will all work out is not up to me, but up to men with authority and much more wisdom and experience than I. However, I am positive and hopeful that everything will continue to be impregnated with a spirit of generosity and pastoral welcome. I certainly await the day when it will be possible to minister alongside the many heroic priests here in France who have suffered everything but dungeon, fire and sword for their priestly vocations and pastoral charges.
We must work to understand each other, and walk forward in our long Lent of 2010, perhaps the most historic Lent of our lives, and remembering those who died before seeing the wonders we see today.