Wednesday, 18 December 2013

On and on...

I went away for about six months and switched off. Between May or June of this year until this very month I thought better of reading any religious blogs because I found that they all rattled on about the same things. Well, I looked at the New Liturgical Movement again and found this article by someone I've never heard of. It's yet another appraisal of the "Benedictine Altar arrangement," and, typically, the author gets the very premise wrong and just repeats a lot of theories designed to water down an obvious abuse. I've heard all these arguments before and they're really quite meaningless. The fact remains that facing the wrong way is the absolute worst thing you can do liturgically. You cannot seriously ascribe the word "liturgical" to any compass direction you like or to some nebulous "inward orientation," and then expect orthodoxy to somehow fall into place; neither is furnishing an altar with gradines and claptrap in accord with the spirit of the Liturgy. The standing of any object whatever upon the mensa of the altar was completely contrary to the devotional conventions of the early Church and as for a crucifix, it is superfluous. Such things have nothing whatever to do with piety or liturgical orthopraxis but remain questions of aesthetics best left to the choice of the celebrant. If you wish to pile on more and more candles, flowers, and prayer cards, that's your lack of taste. Please don't try to make it the yardstick of orthodoxy.

I shan't repeat what Percy Dearmer brilliantly said about the "big six," so perhaps Dom Gregory Dix should have this one?

What preposterous nonsense it is to try to erect sacristy orthodoxies and even tests of theological allegiance out of these minute details of pious furnishing, that have varied endlessly throughout christian history and have never meant anything in particular by all their changes!


  1. I found the comment by FrJBS to be the most ridiculous:
    "Employing the cross and candles as a kind of Roman "iconostasis" is also a great way to help bridge the recent liturgical divide with the East, and to highlight our common roots in the Jerusalem Temple, with its distinct Holy of Holies. It's a win+win+win."

    Nothing can top this.

  2. The article is so full of holes and want of continuity it actually beggers belief. What has he said that wasn't said by somebody else two, three, five years ago? And what is his idea of a "more traditional altar arrangement?" Something that comes from the pen of a theologian still with us? Or the constant practice of the Church?

    I honestly cannot believe that people are still debating this matter. It's like a dried up old onion.

    Your friend who left the comment must be American.

  3. I suppose there is a need for reassuring the people, now that Francis has shifted the candles a bit and has shown that there is nothing "Benedictine" about a pretty standard lay-out for "people's altars". My parish has been using this for a veyr long time now, and it's a pretty aliturgical parish.

    And you know well enough that "traditional" refers to the supposed practice of the 1950s, except in the case of the ICRSS, where it refers to all possible post-baroque kitsch. ;-)

  4. What always amuses me about these people who promote a row of candles is that they fail to grasp that the Roman liturgy required different numbers of candles on days of different liturgical rank.

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