Monday, March 14, 2011

On celebration versus populum and the location of the tabernacle

Skimming through these old periodicals never ceases to give me new insight into old problems. Why didn't I start doing this months ago!?
In his address to the Assisi congress of pastoral liturgy on September 22, 1956, our Holy Father [Pius XII] declared: "To separate the tabernacle and the altar is to separate two things which should remain united by their origin and their nature. The question of how the tabernacle could be placed on the altar without interfering with celebration facing the people admits of several different solutions. On these the experts will give their opinion."

The Holy Father's remarks were generally understood to mean that he took both the liturgical and pastoral legitimacy of the altar versus populum for granted, that he accepted as certain the possibility of reconciling a worthy tabernacle with such an altar, and was encouraging the specialists (liturgists, artists and architects) to work on the problem and to come up with suitable solutions. The problem has now, however, eight months later, officially been declared insoluble.

"Liturgical Briefs," in Worship, Vol. XXXI, No. 10 (Nov. 1957), 612.

Somehow, I suspect that this solution, which works well for our Eastern brethren, might not hold up so well in the Latin Church...


  1. If you've never read Pius XII's whole address, here it is.

  2. Indeed. People do whole theology degrees and never read anything written between about 600 and about 1962, except perhaps bits of St Thomas, the autobiography of St Therese and Rerum Novarum. When I tried to pick up my theology studies in a standard Catholic university, I was quite taken aback to find that this was literally the case. The best theology was written by the philosophy professors.

    Did you read the review of Fergus Kerr's "Twentieth-century Catholic Theologians" in First Things?
    here it is.


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