Wrong on Revelation
Many thanks for the great October 7 issue. I did have a problem with one article, however—the essay on revelation by Gabriel Moran (“A Verb, Not a Noun”). I doubt a coherent idea of revelation can be created if we include every religious notion anyone has ever had. From a biblical perspective, there is the overriding idea of God disclosing himself in creation, in the history of Israel, and finally in Christ. This disclosure reveals what the mind apparently does not always see, that there is an overarching purpose to our existence, that God is leading us into union and communion with himself and the whole of creation. There seems to be a distinctive “Christian” revelation, then, although Moran doesn’t exactly say so. There is a universal destination for this message, but to pretend that the interpretive key that unlocks this message is widely available is a case of wishful thinking.
Paul A. Hottinger
Rita Ferrone’s article (“Still Point of the Turning World,” October 7) made me realize that my recent encounters with priests celebrating Mass with their back to the people could be part of a trend gaining strength. I am a post–Vatican II convert. My experience of Mass has always been with the priest facing the people, embracing both the Eucharist and the faithful. I find it actually alienating to go through the Eucharistic prayer seeing and hearing little of the sacrament. The symbolism of the priest turning his back on the people is far more powerful to me—negatively—than the symbolism of leading the faithful “toward the Lord,” ad orientem.
After attending one of these “turned around” Masses while visiting another church—feeling very excluded and unhappy—the following morning I attended Mass at my own parish. When the priest opened his arms and said “peace be with you” and “lift up your hearts” as we formed, in effect, a big circle around the altar, my heart really did lift, and I realized how much that inclusiveness means to me. I have been a Catholic for forty-five years now, and have a profound love of and respect for the traditions and rituals of the church. But I will never by choice attend a Mass where the altar is turned around.
Priests, Not Comedians
Rita Ferrone has led a sheltered life. Mass facing the people has caused an unexpected problem in the United States. Too many priests think of themselves not as presiders but as MCs—and Vegas MCs at that. We are treated to jokes, crooning, asides, and remarks to members of the audience: “Hey, I see Mike’s back. How was the fishing?”or “Let’s give the choir a big round of applause for their rap rendition of ‘On Eagle’s Wings.’” I am always expecting a little soft-shoe or tap dancing. I have not noticed that priests in Europe behave as if they think Hollywood scouts are in the congregation.
The Author Replies:
The problem with Mr. Podles’s criticism is that it’s misdirected. The examples he cites do occur sometimes, but never during the Eucharistic Prayer. They tend to happen at the opening and closing rites. If you want to wage a war on informality, that is the place to start.