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Sunday, 13 January 2008

Pope Benedict leading by example

Today the Holy Father celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel and baptised thirteen children. In recent years, a platform in front of the High Altar has been used with an altar "facing the people." Today, the Holy Father celebrated Mass at the High Altar of the magnificent chapel. There was apparently a notice from the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations but I have not been able to locate it. Rorate Caeli translates part of the Apcom report:
"This year, the wooden platform on which an altar was placed for the occasion will not be set up, but the actual altar of the Sistine Chapel will be used.

"A decision was made to celebrate on the ancient altar to avoid altering he beauty and harmony of this architectural jewel - the Vatican note explains - preserving its structure, in a celebratory viewpoint, and making use of a possibility foreseen by liturgical legislation. This means that, at some moments, the Pope will be with his back turned to the faithful and facing the Cross, thus guiding the demeanor and the disposition of the entire assembly"
Here are a couple more photographs of the Mass:


The New Liturgical Movement has a collection of photographs which illustrate the visible continuity between today's celebrate and those of previous Popes (NLM: Hermeneutic of Continuity).

Today's instance of the Holy Father leading by example is of tremendous importance. We have all seen Churches of outstanding architectural beauty where the harmony of the lines of sight and the overall unity of composition has been radically disrupted by the placement of a "people's altar" in front of the High Altar. There are many fine Victorian Churches in England whose architectural focus could be allowed once again to shine in all its original spendid harmony. Perhaps the Holy Father's example will help those responsible for such Churches to take the step of quietly removing the wooden platform and table which is in some cases all the alteration that is necessary. A very obvious example in Rome itself is the Chiesa Nuova which I wrote about just over a year ago (The "New Cheese") Here is a photo showing the (easily reversible) disruption:

In his homily at the Mass, the Holy Father's words neatly contradict the secularist nonsense about the supposed "harm" done to children by bringing them up in the faith:
Certainly, to grow healthy and strong, these babies will need material care and much attention; but that which will be most necessary for them, indeed indispensable, is to know, love and serve God faithfully, in order to have eternal life. Dear parents, be for them the first witnesses of an authentic faith in God!
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