This is a really impressive article by Archbishop Mark Haverland, Metropolitan of the Original Province of the Anglican Catholic Church. He is also my Ordinary and therefore my father-in-Christ. He has written this article in his blog Anglican Catholic Liturgy and Theology.
The point he makes is that we spend a lot of time discussing rites and ceremonial details, forgetting the interior disposition a priest is asked to have as he approaches the altar of God. I have had to examine my own interest in the medieval Use of Sarum, faced with question like whether ordinary churchgoers would be attracted or find it the right expression of their piety.
I see the entire rite as simply a symbol of a less regimented Catholicism than after the Council of Trent. I have to say honestly that it is something of a daydream, but daydreams in their right place can sometimes be the cause of great inspirations and creativity. Archbishop Haverland takes a look at the usual attitude in regard to worship: traditionalist or modernist. Is it the language? Is it the Prayer Book, the rite of Pius V or Paul VI? No, it is the priest’s attitude, his self-effacement and putting himself second to his Church and its worship.
The rite is a part of this profoundly priestly attitude. When I was in the TAC and Archbishop Hepworth was telling us that “we would be all right”, all sins forgiven and Rome’s red carpet rolled out for us, I celebrated the Paul VI Mass a couple of times. I needed to have that experience with a “traditional” attitude, using the Roman Canon, etc. It all seemed so bare and stripped, so that a natural reaction of a priest would be to fill in the void with his own personality. It would be an exaggeration to claim I was committing some kind of sacrilege. It is an official rite of an institutional Church, but one I could not live with. Was that not a message from my own subconsciousness? I resumed the Use of Sarum which I began to use with Archbishop Hepworth’s blessing in 2008.
Thus some priests see themselves as entertainers, a dimension which is enhanced by the practice of celebration facing the people. Orientation at the altar has been discussed by men of the stature of Pope Benedict XVI and Msgr Klaus Gamber (Zum Herrn hin and Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background). There is another fine book on this subject, U.M. Lang, Turning Towards the Lord. These books are based on good liturgical scholarship rather than traditionalist polemics. Celebrating Mass on an eastward-facing altar also helps the priest to be recollected and self-effaced.
Archbishop Haverland gives several points by which the priest takes a more humble attitude: following a set rite and not improvising, wearing vestments, restraining signs of extroversion or outward show, avoiding affectations in reading the sacred texts or bumbling through them in the shortest time possible. The priest should be introverted and quiet, allowing the Mystery itself to take first place.
This is a most timely reflection.