Friday, 28 April 2006

Quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit!

Just been reading a useful post from Fr John Zuhlsdorf of What Does The Prayer Really Say? concerning Paragraph 299 of the new General Introduction to the Roman Missal. It's good to remind ourselves of this, especially in the light of the release of the Italian edition of Fr Lang's Turning Towards the Lord (see post below).

The Latin reads: Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit. The official English translation is: The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. However, according to Fr Zuhlsdorf, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit should be translated as which is useful wherever it is possible rather than which is desirable wherever possible. Moreover, the quod refers to the altar rather than celebration facing the people.

In other words, the thing that is useful is having the altar separate from the wall; paragraph 299 is not proposing that Mass 'facing the people' is in itself 'desirable whenever possible' at the expense of the traditional eastwards orientation. A free-standing altar (or, for that matter, celebrating Mass versus populum) is not obligatory. Tens of thousands of pounds do not have to be spent ripping out altars attached to the wall. When I was in Bavaria in February (here I go again!) it was interesting to see the number of churches which still used their historic altars for Masses (although the proclamation of the Liturgy of the Word was versus populum). I said Mass in such a manner on our first day in Munich and my pilgrim band did not seem to mind!


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