Monday, October 24, 2011

Facing God

Bishop Alexander Sample gave an excellent homily on the orientation of prayer during Mass and the misconceptions about this, that is to say, the tradition of the priest facing God and facing east when offering Mass. "Where is the focus" when the priest faces the people rather than God? He singles out the problem of the "inward focus" of the people that naturally results when the priest faces the people, rather than faces God with the people. So often, you'll hear tried and tested criticisms from people who are offended that "the priest's back is turned toward them." Bishop Sample addresses this baseless, yet widespread critique head-on.

I think this misplaced grievance is a direct result of the catechetical meltdown in this country when it comes to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Once you have a correct understanding of the Eucharist and a correct understanding of the Liturgy, it makes little sense for the priest to face the people. In fact, what is odd is to see the priest facing the people while praying to Christ, behind him in the tabernacle, or off to the side, in an inconspicuous Blessed Sacrament Chapel. These same people who talk about the grave offense of the priest "turning his back to them" are silent about the turning of the priest's back to Christ in the Eucharist!

For further enlightenment on this, read the Pope's excellent book, The Spirit of the Liturgy.

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