The decision to make versus populum [facing the people] celebration [of the mass] a possibility rested on a profound theological insight, one which is profoundly traditional. The Eucharist is the action of the church—head and members. This sacred action is a sacrifice (self-offering along with Christ) that takes the form of meal, in which the body and blood of the Lord are given and shared.
(This latter point invites more emphasis than I can expand on here. Suffice it to say that current attitudes toward receiving Communion in a consumerist culture often obscure the fact that Communion is something we share with one another as the body of Christ).
Oh that consumerist culture. Puts food on the table more than any other we have allowed to happen, but it’s still a favorite whipping-boy of churchly (churchy) idealism (idealists).
It was perfectly clear to St. Paul (I Cor 10-11) and St. Augustine (Sermon 227, 272) that we receive the body of Christ in order to become the body of Christ. Hence the importance of the council’s clarion call for full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy.
“Become the body of Christ,” eh? Toss that off in a Sunday sermon and watch heads nod, eyes glaze over.
Last, as the church historian Massimo Faggioli has frequently and astutely argued, liturgical reform is an interpretive key to the whole of the council. A reversion to the pre-conciliar position of the priest at Mass [not facing the people] would be a profound signal that the forward steps the church took in Vatican II are in question.
I suspect that a good number of people who make the ad orientem argument [for the
priest looking at the people while saying mass] are in favor of just such a reversal.
Hey. Not me, brother, no sir. Not in a month full of Tuesdays. No sir.
If stuff like that isn’t perfect for silencing lay opposition, what is?
Rev. James Martin, SJ, puffs this fellow on Twitter as “a liturgical scholar.” I’m sure he is that.