I have an interesting experiment: let’s have the Catholic Church turn the altars back around.
See, I’m a post Vatican II Catholic, and I’ve grown up with the priest doing his thing facing the laypeople during the Mass. It’s fine and personable and all that, and yeah, I have to say I like the prayers being in English (no matter how ineptly translated) and it’s good to be able to understand what’s going on.
But — I would like to turn the altar back around.
Here’s my thought: during the consecration, the priest and the congregation should be facing the same direction so we are physically representing that the priest isn’t standing in the place of God, but rather that all of us are approaching God together as His People. Yes, the priest is technically acting in-persona-Christi, but it might be that there would be a greater sense of reverence if we were representing with our bodies the idea that God has His sacred space and during that time, the priest himself doesn’t even enter there. That we’re all approaching God together.
With modern sound systems, it shouldn’t be a problem that the priest would be facing the other direction, since the microphone would pick it up just fine no matter which way the priest was facing — or even if he was in the sacristy.
It was only about five years ago that I realized the entire Mass itself functions as one long prayer. And the physical representation of that by having us all facing the same direction would help give us a sense that we’re all in this together, and that you don’t have to be a saint in order to become a priest, and that God loves us all the same.
I wonder if we didn’t lose something valuable when we faced the priest toward the people, if we didn’t put the priest up onto the first rung of a divine pedestal he never should have gotten onto.
What say you? Or have I just put my hand into a hornet’s nest on this beautiful Friday morning?
(I’m willing to be argued down. Just don’t stop with telling me I’m stupid: tell me precisely why this idea is stupid. Use extra comment boxes if you run out of room.)