Update Below: Glorious picture of the event and comments from the disgruntled.
Pope Benedict, our fearless leader, has jumped into the breach again, this time celebrating the Holy Sacrifice ad orientem (toward the East, i.e., facing the altar, not the people) at the ancient altar in the Sistine Chapel. A Vatican spokesman defended the pope’s action saying that it was an act of respect for “the beauty and the harmony of this architectural jewel.” That explanation is enough to provoke endless commentary on the “reck-ovations” that have claimed the beauty of so many Churches here in the United States over the last 40 years. The senselessness of the destruction, the indiscriminate disregard for beauty an patrimony, has been no less than barbaric.
This move has been characterized as a subtle rejection of the liturgical renewal that the Pope himself has advocated. Isn’t it cute how enemies of tradition will refer to the Mass celebrated ad orientem as the priest “turning his back on the People of God”? This not so clever use of double entendre leaves the average person with the impression that the liturgical traditions of the Church are stuffy and uncharitable. I imagine that those who personally witnessed the event in Sistine Chapel itself might have thought much differently.
There they would have seen the vicar of Christ, the man with the whole world on his shoulders, standing directly beneath and facing Michaelangelo’s Last Judgment offering the One Sacrifice that takes away sin on behalf of all mankind. With the whole Church as witnesses, Militant, Triumphant and Suffering, there Christ stands, in the person of His vicar, leading the Church forward into fray of the eternal battle.
One of the friars commented at the lunch table on how the pope must of appeared as a general at the head of the troups, everyone facing the rising sun and the goal of eternity. Instead of whining about feeling left out, the People of God need to follow the the pope’s lead.
Jesus Christ the King is a general of an army, and we are His soldiers that are called into battle. He will reward those who fight with Him and punish those who desert; however, punishment for desertion from this army will largely be deferred until the veil is pierced and Michaelangelo’s grand fresco becomes a three dimensional epic.
The Holy Father can only lead. May he not have to weep over us for our having failed to recognized the hour of his visitation.
Yet the centuries-old history of the Church is made of gestures, of signs, of symbols, and when Joseph Ratzinger … solemnly elevated the host and the chalice in the direction of the crucifix situated on top of the ancient marble altar, not looking at the faithful, but staring at the Christ of the Universal Judgment on the wall, all understood. The pontiff will not deviate from the chosen path: to review the application of Vatican II.
Yes, all understood. The hijacking of Vatican II has come to an end.