Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sursum Corda!

I finally was able to obtain a copy of the little tome Turning Towards the Lord, Orientation in Liturgical Prayer, by Uwe Michael Lang. I'd been looking for the book on and off for two years and finally was able to get hold of it on Kindle. I was not disappointed, though perhaps a bit surprised, by this scholarly and in the best sense of the term dispassionate treatment of the historical question of how we Catholics have directed our prayer over the centuries. It is anything but a polemical or pedantic work. It reasons and should put no one off, that is, if the person in question seeks the truth and wants the best for God's people as they worship in spirit and in truth.

I think the book should be on the reading list for every continuing education or renewal course for priests both because it is not a long book and because of its dispassionate treatment of a topic which tends to get priests and bishops on both sides of the argument rather hot under the collar. While the Eucharist can legitimately be celebrated with the priest looking at the people over the top of the altar, I think Fr. Lang makes a convincing case for preferring the Eucharistic Prayer to be prayed with all in the church turned in the same direction, that is regardless of the compass direction, toward the liturgical east, which is Christ, the Dawn from on High that comes to visit us.

Turning towards the Lord is not a comprehensive work on how the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass ought to be offered. It does one thing and does that quite well: it makes the case for oriented worship. It is not a must read, but rather a key work which challenges the belligerence of those unwilling to live in the open atmosphere of the Catholic Church of today, the Church of Summorum Pontificum and of the generous provisions for an Anglican ordinariate within the Church. 

Neither our Holy Father nor Uwe Michael Lang would condemn Mass facing the people, but I respectfully maintain that worship ad Orientem, in continuity with the tradition of the Mass of all time is the way to achieve the needed reform of the reformed liturgy. And as one of the blogosphere's cult figures would say, it is no more and no less than saying the black and doing the red.

Personally, one of the perhaps unintentional points made by the book for me was to underline in conjunction with the introductory dialogue to the Preface the additional sense or reasonableness in terms of orientation to be found in the Latin exchange: Sursum Corda! Habemus ad Dominum. While it certainly involves lifting our hearts "up to the Lord", since reading this book that ad Dominum is inextricably bound with ad Orientem, with turning towards the Lord.

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