Friday, 25 May 2012
On using the pulpit
The second Vatican Council (SC 65-66) gave prominence to the homily as a part of Mass, especially on Sundays and feast days. In many Churches in Europe, there is a magnificent pulpit which is obviously designed to bring the preacher closer to the people (they are usually somewhere down the nave, away from the sanctuary) and give a certain dignity to the homily as something more than a chat.
It was good to see the pulpit in the Church of the Immaculate Conception used by Fr Maciej Zachara. You can see the doors through which he accessed the pulpit, via some stairs inside the sacristy.
By contrast, the Cathedral in Lublin has a strange arrangement. As part of the recent renovations, the pulpit has been restored. Unfortunately there is no way of getting into it. Perhaps the priest could climb up a ladder discreetly before Mass and then abseil down after he has finished preaching?
I remember in England after Vatican II, pulpits in many Churches being demolished or converted into odd shaped lecterns, usually on the sanctuary. Along with the common custom of literally placing the priest on a pedestal (in the presidential chair), these developments do seem to have distanced the priest from the people. I can't see that they have really enhanced that respect, so much desired by Vatican II, which should be shown for preaching the word of God.
I'm not convinced by the claim that the homily is part of the Liturgy - it necessarily requires the preacher to compose something himself, rather than to follow a ritual that is prescribed by the Church - but preaching at Mass (or at other public services of worship) would surely benefit from a clearer sense that it is not just an opportunity for the priest to give a good speech, but a demand upon him to offer doctinal, moral and spiritual nourishment to the faithful in fidelity to the magisterium of the Church.