COMING INTO FOCUS - IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT US
|Father Tim Deeter|
By Fr.Tim Deeter Director of the Liturgy Office Archdiocese of Sydney 2007 (Father Deeter has since returned to his home Archdiocese of Perth W.A.)
When I was a young Priest, I was determined to do my best to "engage" the people in worship. I had seen a number of Priests who seemed to have their eyes glued to the Missal; we even used to speak of the Priest "reading the Mass".
I was going to be different. I learned many of the prayers by heart, so that I could look the people in the eyes and “proclaim" the Mass to them. I became very good at that; I rarely took my eyes off the people.
Then, one day, as I read the Gospel of the raising of Lazarus, I was struck by these words:
"Then Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven and said: Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer........" (Jn. 11:41)
Some time later, I was reading about the Last Supper where Jesus speaks to his Apostles in the “Farewell Discourse." The Gospel goes on: "After saying this, Jesus raised His eyes to Heaven and said: Father, the hour has come....." (Jn. 17: 1)
I began to search the Gospels. When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, “He took them, raised His eyes to heaven and said the blessing." (Mt. 14: 19, Mk. 6:41, Lk. 9:16).When He healed the deaf mute, "looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to the man: Be opened."(Mk. 7:34)
In other words, when Jesus prayed- when He spoke to His Father- He directed His attention to Him: He lifted up His eyes to heaven.
The Gospels also note that when Jesus finished speaking to His Father, He changed His focus to speak to others: “Then, turning to His disciples, He spoke to them....."(Lk. 10:23)
There is occasional talk about the pros and cons of the Priest facing the people during Mass versus the Priest “facing east", that is, " with his back to the people."
But I think that this misses the point. What was (and is) happening in the Tridentine rite was this: when the Priest addressed the people, he turned toward them; when he addressed God, he turned “towards God", or towards the East." It was a matter of changing focus.
|EYES FIXED ON THEM - AND OTHER ERRORS|
Although Pope Benedict( as Cardinal Ratzinger) has argued for a return to the " facing the East" position during the Eucharistic Prayer, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. We have become accustomed to the present posture of the Priest facing the people throughout the Mass.
But because he faces the people, does that mean that all his words are addressed to the people?
I'm a bit chagrined now when I see Priests begin the Eucharistic Prayer, carefully turning this way and that to include the entire assembly, looking them straight in the eyes and saying " Father, You are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives You praise..."
Likewise, Priests will smilingly look around as they say, " Lord Jesus Christ, You said to Your Apostles: I leave you peace...."
The problem is regaining focus. The Mass is not a dialogue between the Priest and the people; it is a dialogue between us- including the Priest - and God. That is what was meant in the Tridentine rite: the Priest did not turn his back on the people; he simply assumed the same direction as the rest of us: he faced God.
|WHEN ADDRESSING THE PEOPLE - "PRAY BRETHREN..."|
THE SERVANT OF GOD ARCHBISHOP FULTON SHEEN CELEBRATES HOLY MASS
We have some problems to-day with balancing the Mass as a community gathering and as a sacrificial act of worship. What can be done? I think it is fairly simple: when addressing the people, the Priest looks at them.
When addressing the Father, he lifts his eyes to heaven, as Jesus did. And when addressing Jesus Himself at Communion time, he looks at the Eucharist on the Altar.
ARCHBISHOP FULTON SHEEN AGAIN
In this way, the Mass is more easily realized as a prayer to the Father, and we regain a focus, a sense of worship that can at times be obscured.
This article originally appeared in the "Catholic Weekly".