Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Orientation

I have snapped (in all charity) at several people within the Catholic Church when they have tried to say they are Catholic and that they have a preferred sexual orientation.  I maintain that this is simply a nonsense.  There is only one orientation and that is towards the cross is what I say. When we see God face to face, sexual orientation, like any other 'preference' (no matter how deeply held) will be of no consequence.  In matters sexual, it is lust that is the killer and lust is lust is lust irrespective of what it is directed towards.  Indeed, all preferences smack of politics; preferred ways of doing things based on our notions of what is right and comfortable for us (and by extension what we think is right for others). Preferences and politics aren't sin, but they are of the world so they offer the potential for sin.

I've been musing on the fallout from the Sacra Liturgia conference that was held recently in London. Cardinal Sarah again talked about fostering a greater understanding of the sacred liturgy through the adoption of the ad orientem arrangement of priest and people on the same side of the altar. It has been suggested elsewhere that ad orientem and versus populum are liturgical preferences, and judging by the verbiage flying around the interwebs, it seems to me that the minute we start expressing a liturgical preference we are entering into the murky world of politics, mud slinging and division.

So if I am to be consistent in my logic, I must step aside from my 'preference' and look to approach the matter of liturgical orientation (and it is a serious and worthy matter to consider) from a completely different perspective and look sola scriptura.

Because the Jewish tradition of temple sacrifice massively favours the ad orientem arrangement for the holy sacrifice of the Mass, I decided to ignore this and look instead at references in scripture to the altar in heaven.  Scan the book of Revelation for reference to the altar in heaven, (it is easy enough to do using an online bible) and you will find 7 references: Rev 6.9, 8.3, 8.5, 9.13, 11.1, 14.18 & 16.7.

The souls of the redeemed are said to be under or in the altar. So this is obviously not a 'practical' altar and at first glance seem to be of no help in our understanding of proper orientation at Mass here on earth. Second glance is slightly more revealing. 'Under' is easy enough, the altar should be above the highest point reachable by man. Indeed in heaven, priests will still be priests and people people, but we will all be orientated towards the Lamb that was slain. We will all be under Him.  'In' is also easy enough to understand if we take the insight offered in Hebrews (Heb 13.10) that Christ is the altar.  We will ultimately only find rest in the wound in His side, from whence flowed blood and water. We will, in heaven, in a very real sense be both 'in' and 'under' the altar. It is a good job the rules of geometry won't apply. What is clear is that the orientation is fixed towards Christ and doesn't necessarily stick to the type given in the historical temple in Jerusalem.

The angels of God are before the altar and issue from the altar to undertake the commands of God. This fits with our liturgical notions of the place of the angels in the Mass, Novus or Vetus Ordo.

The relationship between God and altar is as follows: I heard a voice from the four horns of the great altar, which is before the eyes of God. The altar is before God as God the Father will always have the sacrifice of His Son before Him.  The altar of sacrifice is then a bridge between God and Man.  Man and God cannot be on the same side of the altar, man faces the eyes of God from the opposite side of the altar.  Surely, that is ALL men, even those who have been the alter Christus? No man, not even a priest can get between God the Father and God the Son.

It is no good!  Wherever you turn, even towards heaven, there is only one orientation and it is towards the cross.  There are no liturgical preferences, there is only one orientation.

As Fr Faber said so often; we have forgotten that we are creatures.  We must wake up to this fact because it shows the very real mess the Catholic Church is in.  We are bearing heaven away with real violence (Mat 11.12) due to our arrogance and lack of humility in our communal prayer life (and that applies to all of us irrespective of which Rite we attend). No Mass is perfect liturgy, perfect liturgy only exists in heaven.  To God every Mass must look like a clown Mass (certainly a Mass presented by clowns- that's you and me, we're nothing but clowns), but He can read our hearts and that is all that matters. So I think that what I'm trying to say is that (as I see it) there can be no 'reform of the reform' and there can be no more 'rupture' either.  Things are a mess, but most cannot see it.  This is about the conversion of hearts.  Those of us who KNOW what is right have a huge responsibility resting on us to act accordingly, and the internet will probably not be the forum where hearts are changed. Ultimately we can achieve nothing and we will fail.  But if our hearts are orientated correctly then God will do the rest.

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