July 30, 2007

Oh No, Not the Back!

In all the wailing and gnashing of teeth that has accompanied the release of Summorum Pontificum (I'm still eagerly awaiting the A.P. photos of people rending their garments over it), there are two frequent complaints about it: Latin is back and the priest will have his back to us.

Leaving aside the reality of how Latin was never abolished in the first place, I want to muse about the priest's back for this post.

Why are some Catholic's upset about the priest praying the Mass ad orientem?

Here's what I think based upon my decades of Catholic dissidence:

* We can't see Father's face
* It's rude to have your back to people when you are talking to them
* Father can't see us
* I'm going to have trouble hearing him/reading his lips

Obviously, these responses reveal that these Catholics, unfortunately, think the Mass is about them and Father Joe. It's not about you, me, the organist, the liturgist, or Father Joe-it's about God.

Cathy's Big Shoot Down:

We can't see Father's face
Won't you see him after Mass for coffee in the church hall? Can't you sleep at night without knowing if he cut himself while shaving before Mass? There's more to people then their face anyway. Some of the holiest men have faces for radio. Don't be obsessed, Father's not going to date you.

It's rude to have your back to people when you are talking to them
Is it better to have your back to God then the congregation? Father isn't talking to us. He's praying to God. He's in front of us because he's LEADING us in prayers to God. You don't lead someone by pushing AT them.

Father can't see us
Honestly, considering what some people wear to Holy Mass these days, this could be a great blessing for Father. (You knew I was going to say that didn't you?). Father can see you and note that you were there and what you are, or are not, wearing when he shakes your hand in the porch after Mass.

I'm going to have trouble hearing him/reading his lips
The parts of the Mass where Father faces us are largely the parts that can change each week (readings, homily, announcements). The rest of it doesn't change that much and if you have to you can follow along in the Missal. If you've been to Mass for awhile, you should be able to get an idea where Father is by his gestures. (i.e. the elevations, the hand-washing, the sign of the cross etc.) If you are paying close attention, you can still see what he's doing even he's not facing you. What do Catholics who are visiting this country and don't speak English do? Surely, they have an idea what is going on? What about the deaf or the blind?

The Israelites spent centuries desiring to see the Face of God. God said to Moses: "You shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen" Exodus 33:23 God was revealed to us, at long last, in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. (John 14:9)

I've been thinking that one of the, many, reasons for ad orientem is to recreate the Israelites frustration and desire to see the face of God. They were only allowed to see his back or his light or some other natural phenomena but not His face. I think of it as the period of deprivation before He is revealed to His faithful when His stand-in (the priest) turns around at long last and offers us His Body and His Blood at Holy Communion.

7 Comments:

Blogger Anita Moore said...

What do Catholics who are visiting this country and don't speak English do? Surely, they have an idea what is going on? What about the deaf or the blind?

And said Catholics from elsewhere will have an even easier time understanding what's going on at Mass once it's free of all the kookburger innovations and improvisations that currently prevail in the Novus Ordo.

July 30, 2007 7:22 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

"The Israelites spent centuries desiring to see the Face of God. God said to Moses: "You shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen" Exodus 33:23"

This is inspired! Thanks.

July 30, 2007 9:21 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Let us face God together on our knees,
Let us face God together on our knees.
_When we fall on our knees
With our face to the rising Sun_,
O Lord, have mercy on me.

:)

July 31, 2007 3:06 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

The definitive answer to those whiners who are upset with Jesus' back.

July 31, 2007 7:07 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

excellent post Cathy!

July 31, 2007 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Georgette said...

Good points you make, Cathy.

I, for one, will be very much RELIEVED not to have to feel the "eye contact pressure" as I have felt from many priests. By that I mean, the theatrics which some priests do trying make eye contact with each person in the congregation as they consecrate the bread and wine as he says, "he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said, take this 'each and every single one of you present'..." UGhhhhhh! It always makes me cringe when they do that. It takes my focus off teh Eucharist and onto the priest and I feel like saying "It's not about US or YOU, Father Joe-Schmoe, it's about JESUS right there on the altar in your hands, which you seem to have forgotten all about!!!

I say THANK GOD I know longer have to feel the pressure to gaze into their eyes any more!

August 02, 2007 3:33 AM  
Anonymous Georgette said...

PS I am so sorry to hear about the awful bridge collapse in your area. I hope all of your family and friends are OK.

God bless,
Georgette

August 02, 2007 3:34 AM  

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