July 13, 2007

Liturgical Peevishness

Sr Joan Chittister has just had a reflection published concerning recent developments in the Roman Catholic Church's liturgical life. I agree with much that she says in her article, but she has also lit upon two of my pet liturgical peeves.

The "many" and "all" issue: the Scriptural record of the Last Supper uses 'many' -- though Joachim Jeremias made an argument back in the era of the Liturgical Movement that in this context "many" means "all." However, contrary to his assertion, there is a clear distinction in Hebrew and Greek between the words for "many" and "all" -- just as in English. (This argument was invoked when we changed "many" to "all" in Enriching Our Worship, so there is some relevance to TEC here.)

Most importantly, this is not about salvation, as Sr Joan suggests, but about those who drink from the cup -- and manifestly "all" do not in fact do so. To my mind it distorts the message and implies that those who do not drink from the cup have no salvation -- exactly the opposite of the intent of the revisers. We've always taught the reception of communion (in both kinds) is not required for salvation; and putting "all" here confuses the issue -- as well as not being what Jesus actually (is reported to have) said.

The Eastward Position: As those who have read my longer reflection on this will know, I do not find the Eastward position to be "all about the priest." On the contrary, I find the celebration "versus populum" to lead to more of an "all about the priest" mentality. Nor do I note that the introduction of this practice made the RCC (or TEC) more outgoing or missionary in its attitudes or more in touch with human need. Some may say it fostered a greater sense of community, but I don't think I've seen any hard evidence of that. On the contrary, I think the great days of outreach from Vincent de Paul through the Catholic Worker movement (or the ministry of the Anglo-Catholic slum priests) give the lie to the idea that the posture of the priest in relation to the congregation impedes a sense of community or mission.

Sorry, but these are two of my pet peeves, and Sr Joan just got on the wrong side of them...

Tobias Haller BSG


Michael M said...

For once I disagree with you. The phrase "for many" or "for all" in the Institution Narrative is about Christ's blood being shed for the forgiveness of sin, not about who does or does not drink. The issue is whether Paul and the others are saying that Christ's blood was shed for all or only for many. Also, my understanding of the reason for saying "all" rather than "many" is not some confusion of the difference between the two words, but that "for many" was idomatic meaning "for all."

I think most expressions for or against the position of the presiding priest are purely subjective and probably depend to a significant extent on the Myers-Briggs profile of each person.

You do great stuff, keep it coming.

*Christopher said...

You said it better than I...but I was fussing about these as well.

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

I'm gonna leave two comments because these are two separate issues.

The first one, you may recall, we once had a mighty tussle about. I have since done some more research.

One thing your discussion here slides over is that "all" is used, as is "many", in the NT. We have, essentially, "Drink this all of you...my blood poured out for many..." in all four NT versions. If there is an important difference in meaning in this context, then I would be interested to hear you reflect on the difference between the all in the command, and the many in the following description. At the least, it seems to run exactly opposite to what you say above, if I have not misunderstood.

The relevant word here also occurs only in Matthew and Mark; the Lukan account says "poured out for you", and in reference to the cup, and not the blood. The liturgical text in the 1979 BCP has "which is shed for you and for many", which is a conflation of the synoptic accounts. (1 Corinthians has none of this.) Except that Luke, the only one with "for you", does not say that the blood was "shed for you", but that the cup was "poured out for you."

Finally, the grammar of the Matthew and Mark texts is different, in a way which the NRSV covers over. The NRSV has "my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew) and "my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark), leaving the impression that the only difference is the "for the forgiveness of sins" phrase.

However, the Matthew text actually says: "τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ περὶ πολλῶν ἐκχυννόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν" and the Mark has "τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ ἐκχυννόμενον ὑπὲρ πολλῶν." In literalistic reading: "The my-blood, the of-the-covenant, the for-many, which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew), vs. "the my-blood, the of-the-covenant, the poured-out-for-many." There is an important difference in the placement of the article, which is missing before ἐκχυννόμενον in the Matthew text, making that use predicative and not attributive.

Now this all tells me a couple things:

1) The text in the Prayer Book is simply not any of the accounts, and not even a harmonization of them (as is sometimes claimed), containing, for example, "poured out for you" in reference to the blood. The "for you and for many" is a total invention of the liturgical tradition, having absolutely no basis in the NT at all.

2) The issue of "many" vs. "all" makes it sound as if these are the only two possibilities; we could also simply drop it, or say "poured out for you" and omit both "many" and "all."

3) What we have is not a translation of anything in the NT and so it's a little odd to complain that the newer text is a mistranslation of the NT.

4) There is a grand tradition liturgically, in this sentence, of moving words around. The "poured out for you" was moved from the Lukan text into the Matthew text, essentially, and its reference was materially changed in the process So in response to the question "but where does 'all' come from?" an answer can be supplied: it has been repeated and transplanted from the "all" in Matthew 26:27, and used to refer to something different than what it referred to in Matthew 26:27. If this is indefensible, then the transplantation of "for you" is equally so.

5) The arguments which tell us that we should be using "for all" are off-base, and miss the point entirely. I have no problem with retaining the 1979 BCP text; indeed, I would prefer it. But I cannot say that the newer text is indefensible, without simultaneously damning the 1979 BCP text, and the older prayerbook texts, and the Western tradition's use of this text in general.

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

Ok, on to number two... which is more relevant, in a sense, because neither of us will have much power to stop the bandwagon of the "for all" language. (A priest I know likes to use the 1979 language, but she changes "for many" to "for everyone", because she really wants to amp it up. Against such forces, we are powerless.) We'll be stuck saying "for all", and I see little hope for convincing the powerful.

But posture is a local matter, so here I have a different and more burning concern.

I have become well convinced that having everyone face the same way is important, and I am on-board with you 100% here. My question is therefore a pastoral one.

Many people--whether rightly or wrongly--believe that "facing the people" is "inclusive of the people" and that "facing the wall" is "facing away from the people" and indeed "turning the priest's back on them." As Exhibit One, I present my own mother, a Presbyterian, who never worshipped in a presider-facing-east way, and always over-the-table, since she was a little girl. And, somewhere, she picked up the idea that a Catholic priest (facing east) was "turning his back on the people". She cannot see such a thing without thinking this.

Add to the mix the many Episcopalians who have been taught how important it is to face the people, and would interpret a new priest in their congregation facing east as an affront.

Now most of our churches these days can be used either way. Some are built (as St. James is!) where the altar is fixed at the east, and so that's what you do; others have an architecture which makes facing east impossible. But most can be used either way.

How does one switch to facing-east, if one wants, in a way which is respectful of the people, and which does not cause affront, when expectations have been set up as they have been?

Nicholas not the Wonderworker said...

In the "many" vs "all" controversy I believe you are right. But I believe that Sr Joan might be forgiven much considering the context. It is hard enough for women in the Roman Church, but the decree that God should never be referred to as feminine is worse than Rome's usual style. How this can be claimed to fit into the great tradition when the Spirit was in Hebrew (and, more importantly, in Aramaic), grammatically feminine is simply beyond me. And this is not to consider the Christian feminine images of the divine through the centuries (e.g., Thomas Aquinas calls Jesus the "affectionate pelican" referring to the mother pelican who was believed to wound herself to feed her young).

In addition to the points made in your article, there is also the tradition of the Baptismal Catecheses by Cyril of Jerusalem (and others) where during Lent the catechumens would face West to abjure Satan and then turn to the East as they turned away from Satan to Jesus.

I agree that the VP position can actually underscore the idea of the Eucharist as a performance presented by the priest for the people. IIRC, in his Liturgy and Architecture Bouyer describes how in the early Syrian church the bishop would actually be standing in the front row of the congregation, all facing the altar in a sort of semicircle, during the Eucharistic prayer. There was no need for the presider to handle the elements during the prayer and he would move forward to the altar only at the fraction.

Patrick said...

On the priest's stance, what about the old Anglican "northside" position? (Who invented it, but the way?) Am I right in thinking this meant the priest stood on the left side of the altar, such that the congregation, facing east, could see the elements on the altar (something I think is important) and then beyond and upwards to the cross and/or window? That really prevents the "all about the priest" thing. If so, maybe we should revive that tradition?

Tobias said...

Michael M, and Thomas,

There are clearly matters of conflation going on here. The primary conflation is of the institution narrative blood of the cup of the Covenant with the Pauline blood of the cross (Col 1:20). But the form of words preserved in the institution narratives I think makes the case for preserving the distinction between "all" being saved by the atonement (the blood of the Cross), and the Holy Communion being a Covenant meal for "all of you and for many" rather than an explicit reenactment of Calvary, which is "once for all." There is a lot of debate about that, certainly, but I think we have to go back to the text.

In the long run I regard the institution of the Holy Eucharist (and its celebration) as not as strongly connected with the crucifixion as some see it. There has to be some significance to the language of "covenant" as a fellowship-marker, some significance to the fact that this meal is shared with a select few rather than on the hillside with the multitude.

Ironically, in the long run, I think preserving this distinction points towards a more universal notion that allows for the "salvation of all" even though only "many" will partake of the Eucharist. To me that opens the door rather than closing it.

And in this case, I think, Thomas, the use of "all" and "many" in the same passage indicates or points to a distinction. The "all" is conditioned by "of you" but the text then makes it clear it is not "just for you." Jeremias argues what Jesus is saying is "all of you" and "all the rest (other than you." I see the possibility, but if that is what was meant, Jesus simply could have repeated "all" instead of using "many." I sense from my general review that the evangelists, and Paul, are sensitive to the shades of meaning of each, all, few, many, and so on, and I am certainly more comfortable following the text more closely (though admittedly it is a conflation).

As to facing east in a congregation used to versus populum? I'm not even sure I'd make the switch, to be honest, out of pastoral concern. I did so in my present parish because I knew that the congregation wasn't happy with the change made by my predecessors. Clearly if one is to make the change a lot of education is needed. (Copies of my essay are available!) The emotional side of it can be dealt with in part by the intentionality of the celebrant not thinking "now I'm turning my back" but "now I'm joining you all in facing east." That can be made practical with gesture and stance. I really like the note from Nicholas about the priest in the front row of the congregation! In a parish with a deacon preparing the altar, that might make a point, the celebrant only advancing to the altar, clearly representing the people at the appropriate moment.

But the teaching is most important, I think. People have been sold a bill of goods, and yes, they believe it. I've heard, tho, that one of our more liturgically experimental TEC parishes has adapted to the Eastward Position, with "the priest among the people rather than opposite them." If they can do it, I think others could as well. The important thing is the idea that the priest is still "with" or "among" the people -- and that is easier in some architectures than others.

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

i must confess i still think you're getting all vs. many exactly backwards.

What Matthew has is that all should drink, and that the blood is poured out for many. You are, it seems to me, turning that exactly around, saying that the sacrifice on the cross (the "blood poured out"?) is for all, and the cup is for many.

(what that means liturgically i draw no conclusions about; as I said, i prefer the 1979 BCP language, but i cannot protest that the newer words are indefensible.)

Tobias said...

Thomas your missing my point: it is "all of you" -- that is, the disciples, sitting there, who are told to drink of the cup of the covenant. Recall as well his promise to James and John, "You will drink the cup I drink... etc." It is as much about the cup as the blood. This is something, initially at least, that is instituted among the apostles, and is to be a sign of sharing among those who become part of that body in the days to come, as an anamnesis. It is not about universal salvation, but communion.

RH said...

Dear Lord, please tell me we are not still having arguments about Eastward celebrations! The solution is to get the altar out of any position which is not resolutely in the midst of the gathered people. Everyone gathers around it. Period. The priest has no special place that is set aside because there is no need for one. And God is understood to be in the midst of the gathering and not at the table, in the table, or on the East side of the table. The gathered assembly is facing God which can only be found in one another. I believe such an arrangement is the only liturgical conclusion of the anamnesis and institution narrative-- which is my larger point:

I can't get over the experience of the (admittedly few) Eastward celebrations of which I've been a part. The words don't match the set up. And the set up always wins. One of the best things we could do for our churches is to actually begin re-ordering the naves and chancels of our churches so that the 1979BCP could be celebrated with the baptismal ecclesiology it intends rather than a make-shift setup designed for choral Morning Prayer.

But that's my own bias. And, like you, I will tussle over it.

Tobias said...

Actually, RH, I have nothing against the "altar in the midst of the people." What I don't like is what you most often get in "free altar" churches, which is the altar inched forward (well, maybe "footed" forward) in the sanctuary, and the priest on one side and everyone else on the other. This, to my mind, puts even more focus on the celebrant. The celebrant becomes Julia Child confecting something for the "audience." I actually think that is worse than an old fashioned facing east celebration, as it forces the congregation to relate to the priest, and vice versa. St. Gregory of Nyssa seems to have adapted the Eastward Position well to central position for the gathered community.

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

yes, i see you're right; i have misread the first part of Matthew, and that leaves us with no universal language in the narrative there.

as for seating in the round, that's fine too, i don't mind it, but still, it is easier to join a parade than a circle. also, i am very much hostile to liturgical arrangements that are dishonest reflections of the community. i have never been in an episcopal church in which the priest-in-charge was not, in fact, in charge; whether titled "rector" or "vicar" or whatever else. a seating arrangement which is confused, or which cannot bear the truth of the actual power relationships, is one which is speaking a lie.

a priest who cannot bear to be seen as "the priest", is in a deep confusion about what they are doing. in my experience, sadly, some of those are the most imperious priests, desperate for a liturgical arrangement in which they are "not special", and yet insisting on a degree of power and authority which makes me blanch.

people are also not fooled. a priest who insists on micromanaging every detail and controlling everything he or she can, does not somehow hoodwink people into believing something else about him or herself merely by a change in the placement of his chair.

let us not forget that Augustus was content to be "first speaker" and Robespierre was merely "first citizen" and Hitler and Mussolini needed no more title than "leader". i distrust those in power who wish to pretend they are not possessing it.

so, in the last analysis, i would much rather have the presider in a clearly identified "presidential chair", which at least indicates that the person sitting there is not in denial.

RH said...

Tobias, thank you for the clarification. We actually agree for the exact reasons you (well, we both) state. Pulling the altar only inches forward has done us more harm than good from the perspective of liturgical theology. Whenever one I can convince one of my colleagues to celebrate in the midst (as I call it) it is most often an eye opening and liberating experience. It allows the presider to become an icon of prayer (in the Orthodox sense) and less the star player while at the same time shifting the community's icon of Christ from some piece of furniture or liturgical froo-froo to the community itself.

*Christopher said...

Br. Thomas' point about leadership is on target, echoing my own experience on the matter. Those who mask their power by pretending they are "just like us" ignore their iconic role and often are more in danger of abusing their authority because they're pretending they don't have any.

As for the Northside business, that's from experiments by Cranmer among others, and is especially a token of his drift more and more toward a memorialistic understanding near the end of his life (and reflected moreso in the 1552 BCP). His intent in part was to remove any doubt about the "magic hands", but the practice underscores, like the breaking of the bread by the Zwinglians, simply a meal--Christ not present "through, with, in"...Best left out in my humble opinion as an option. Even versus populum is preferred, though ad orientam is best!

Grandmère Mimi said...

Giving thought to the inclusiveness of Our Lord in "all" of the Gospels, I must say that it takes a certain kind of mind to have a discussion like this parsing out the meaning of "all' and "many", and I do not have that kind of mind. Not that there's anything wrong with the discussion.

Proper translation is a thing to be desired, surely. I want that. Knowledge of historical context in working out the present day application of the words is a good thing.

I liked the Latin mass, even with the priest facing away from the people. I did not much like the English translation of the RC mass, although I was glad that the mass in English came into being.

I love the liturgy of the Episcopal Church, probably too much. I say with a regrettable amount of pride that our liturgy is better than the RC mass of today.

JCF said...

The celebrant becomes Julia Child confecting something...

Aha! Bingo! Eureka!

You've hit EXACTLY why I'm one of those laypeople you fear, Tobias and Thomas.

[In my own parish which I moved to in 1999, I was *shocked*, at that late date, to find the altar "nailed to the wall". Me being me, within a year it WASN'T! ;-D]

As with the increasing usage of "all" (again, I *hope* your fears are correct), the theologians are wrong, and the people are right.

There's a reason it looks like Julia Child: because far from being some Great High-Falutin' Mystery for the Elect, the Eucharist is Turkey Dinner w- all the trimmings.

It's a meal, period. Jesus giving himself to chow down on.

...and the priest is a homey, dare I say (even IF male!) maternal figure in "presiding".

I'm agin' the Sydneyside experiment (lay presidency)---but not because the priest is Sumthin' Special.

No, it's precisely because Episcopal priests are such COMMON FOLK, that we humor 'em.

I've ALWAYS seen my priests at the altar, as "Crazy Uncle Ned whom we always let carve the Thanksgiving Turkey---because, bless his poor heart, he'll pitch a fit if he doesn't."

Priests receive their dignity IN and THROUGH their Great Unwashed (as it were) Humanity, and not apart from it.

You think we layfolk think you're so special up there? Your mere "audience"?

Oh chilluns: you dog-collar'd SO don't get it.

We KNOW your dirty laundry. And that's precisely WHY, looking you straight in the eyes, we know exactly how unworthy you are---how unworthy we ALL are---to be participating in it (but you most of all, since your sinful hands get to do the Zap!)

Most of all---and this is key---it's knowing what sinful losers, you are priests are, is WHY WE LOVE YOU SO DAMN MUCH!

It's in the midst of this love---losers loving losers---that God is in the midst of us, feeding us who can't even FEED ourselves!

It's not that we, your "flock", can't celebrate the Eucharist while seeing only your backside...

...but that you, dear hearts, can't *lead* us without all those smiling eyes, saying "We know you know we know [the bad, unworthy stuff] and we love you anyway. You ARE our alter Christus, not for your own worth, but because we've chosen to LIFT you up."

And through this exchange of love, Christ is "given for all".


Ormonde Plater said...

In many VP celebrations, the praying priest appears to be addressing the congregation, making announcements instead of prayer. But eastward prayer has its problems too, with the priest distant from the people, and with the people kneeling while the priest stands. Any solution must unite the people and priest in prayer.

bls said...

"Everyone gathers around it. Period. "

Wow. For some crazy reason, I thought people were talking about the Episcopal Church. Where, you know, the locals themselves get to decide things like this.

My mistake, apparently.

Tobias said...

I agree about the maternal aspect of the priest -- even if male. And I appreciate your strongly felt response. But I hope you understand that there are others who do not share your reaction to facing the priest across the table, and they are feelings as strong as yours. In my parish, when I returned to using the old altar instead of the table (literally) my predecessors had installed, the church not only rebounded from a period of decline, but there was actually a round of applause! One member said, 'We're a church again!'
I guess this all goes to prove the old saying that you can't please everybody.
And as to being a priest, well, I'm still a few months short of my 10th anniversary of priestly ordination, and I spent most of my adult life in the church as a lay person. I do not "fear" the laity -- as I was part of that body far too long to have any fear. And I do listen to them -- but sometimes different bodies of the laity do say different things. And that's o.k. I'm certainly not demanding a single model for all churches -- after all, I'm an Episcopalian!

Perhaps I will post a drawing of my vision for an ideal liturgical space -- that may explain better than words.

bls said...

Well, at least we're fighting about the things that really matter again, instead of fighting over the pitiful Anglican schism.

Yippee! The Liturgical Wars are back!

bls said...

(BTW, Fr. Tobias: I'm with you about facing East. Don't really care where the altar is, as long as we all face the same direction: towards the Morning Star.

I can get into a service-in-the-round, too, occasionally - obviously God is both Immanent and Transcendent - but prefer the other. Glad we have both available!)

thomas bushnell, bsg said...

the good Deacon OP confuses me. i am not fond of kneeling, but i don't see the connection between kneeling and facing east.

i'm the guy you'll see from time to time in various places standing amidst a congregation of kneelers. not once have i gotten a dirty look or a snide comment, but most people have nowhere near the fortitude to carry it out. :)

so i agree that unity of posture is important, and this one particularly (though i grant that the BCP does not require it).

but what i don't get is why you link it to eastward-facing. they seem entirely separate to me.

bls said...

BTW, here's an interesting quote from one of the commenters on the Get Religion blog:

"I have never felt comfortable looking at priests’ faces when saying mass. It seemed such an intrusion into a totally personal experience. By the same token I would have felt incredibly violated if people watched my every expression while praying. The idea of priests facing the altar together with the congregation seems to me the most logical one since we are all praying to same God."

JCF said...


the church not only rebounded from a period of decline

PLEASE tell me you're not talking about #s of arses in the pews?

[Sudden fear that I'm at TA, hearing "NP" rant about how his---and Akinola's---#s will bury us. Gack.]

One member said, 'We're a church again!'

OK, now *I'm* afraid.

Yes, Tobias (and bls), Anglicans are FREE to worship in all kinds of wrong-wrong-wrong ways.

In which I'm not in attendance.


[Actually, I did take part in an ad orientem Eucharist just about a month ago, at St. John's Chapel at the DeKoven Center. And I survived. (But it was in a 150 year-old collegiate/monastic-style chapel, on a special occasion---and as a visitor, I'm not on hand to agitate for another wall-prying session! ;-/)]

Tobias said...


This seems to have hit on one of your pet peeves! I don't know if you've read the essay to which I referred, but even there I do not say that the celebrant facing the people is wrong -- in fact I note that in some circumstances it may be preferable. What I am saying there is that it is without historical foundation -- which doesn't mean it is wrong in itself, merely that one of the reasons often advanced for it is wrong. Apart from the experiments of Luther and some other radical protestants, and the experiments of the post-Vatican II liturgical movement, the celebrant did not face the congregation across the altar through most of Christian history. In the Eastern Church the celebrant is essentially invisible, off behind the iconostasis. Again, that doesn't mean it is wrong for the priest to face the people -- if that's what people prefer. But it is a matter of preference, not of any clear theological or historical import.

I have no interest in forcing people to worship in one particular style. I think they need to have a voice in the decisions.

As to the bouncing back, I was not simply referring to numbers, but also to the Spirit. The parish was "dispirited" -- in part because clergy insisted they knew best and tampered with the sanctuary furnishings, as well as other appurtenances of the church and its programs, without any input from the laity. They felt the church had been taken from them, and that the restoration of the altar was in part a return -- along with a number of other forms of empowerment I undertook with them. But at the eucharist -- just like the Last Supper -- we were all on the same side of the table. (My parish has a large stained-glass window of the Last Supper, a very early work by Louis Comfort Tiffany, based on the DaVinci version -- and yes, there they are, Jesus and the disciples all on one side of the table. That is empowering.

The young fogey said...

As I noted in my blog today, Father, we're on the same side of these two issues. How about that?

My first experiences in church were eastward-facing and I've stayed with it.

On the priest's stance, what about the old Anglican "northside" position? (Who invented it, but the way?) Am I right in thinking this meant the priest stood on the left side of the altar, such that the congregation, facing east, could see the elements on the altar (something I think is important) and then beyond and upwards to the cross and/or window? That really prevents the "all about the priest" thing. If so, maybe we should revive that tradition?

That's a practice you could still see in conservative Prayer Booky places in England and Ireland at least until recently. It comes from the confusing instructions in the 1662 Prayer Book.

In 1552 the altars against the wall either weren't used any more or destroyed and a wooden table was put lengthwise in the chancel between the choir stalls, creating a kind of 'service facing the people/church in the round'. So in the old Prayer Book the priest is instructed to stand at the liturgical 'north end' of the table, that is, on one side of the table, a long side naturally and not an end, facing half his congregation.

When in the 1600s Laud put the tables back where the altars used to be that's when the confusion and the funny 'sideways' position, at one end of the table, got started. Instead of saying the sensible thing and calling for celebration facing 'east' now that the table was 'altarwise', the Prayer Book still said to face 'north'. So at the quarterly Communion that's exactly what the priest did.

There was also 'lion and unicorn': a priest on either side facing the table between them like bookends.

And if that weren't confusing enough the Ornaments Rubric, IIRC from the 1549 Prayer Book, remains in the 1662, instructing priests to retain much of the ceremonial from 1549, that is, altars, facing east and lots of other things from the Roman Catholic services! Since 1552 it had been completely disregarded IIRC but it later served as a kind of authority behind what the Anglo-Catholics brought back.

JCF said...

Nah, I'm just peeved that my first post on this thread doesn't seem to have proved as persuasive as I thought it was.

If I should find myself in NYC, and especially Da Bronx, I should like to visit your parish, Tobias, and receive Our Lord in the Eucharist...

...but , truthfully, I just don't know whether even YOUR back-side would be too off-putting (given my choice, blessedly, of zillions of Episcopal churches in the general area. Most likely, I'd return to MY former parish home of "Matt & Tim's" on the Upper West Side).

I just don't get it. I *remember* Ad Orientum (w/o that name, of course), in my Episcopal youth. But when my parish's altar moved out---circa 1970 or so? I was really young---it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. Ala, "Duh, what were we EVER thinking, having the priest facing away from us all those years?"

[Can I emphasize, that I've NEVER heard any layperson use the terms "Well, we're all on the same side/all facing the same way" for A.O.? It's "priest facing us" OR "priest facing away from us", period. In my experience]

Seriously, if we're gonna go A.O. why not at least get us lay people get that other "Orientum" thing? A colorful iconastasis to look at?

Like I said, I just don't get it.

...but I wonder, Tobias, how much of what you're experiencing (yes, including your characterization of "bouncing back...in the Spirit") has to do w/ the previous Power-Abuse:

clergy insisted they knew best and tampered with the sanctuary furnishings, as well as other appurtenances of the church and its programs, without any input from the laity. They felt the church had been taken from them

Seen this way, it really doesn't have as much to do w/ the priest-altar-position, per se, than that the (long-time?) laity feeling that they'd regained a measure of control. I can empathize w/ THAT, even though I believe that the liturgical choice made re altar-priest (to return to A.O.) is still whack.

In conclusion: I'm going to have to think about this some more. A.O. leaves me deeply unsettled (perhaps, like we're marching backwards to an all-male/all-closeted priesthood next?)---but I admit that probably says more about ME, than anything else... Pax!