Cardinal Robert Sarah criticizes certain behaviors of lay ministers in June 2015 essay for L’Osservatore Romano.
In this regard it is deplorable that the sanctuary in our churches is not a place strictly reserved for divine worship, that people enter it in worldly garb, and that the sacred space is not clearly delimited by the architecture. Since, as the Council teaches, Christ is present in His word when it is proclaimed, it is likewise harmful that lectors do not have proper attire that shows that they are not pronouncing human words but a divine word.
I’d like to know how he views the “sanctuary.” My sense is that this would ideally include the nave, and so it opens up the discussion to all the laity.
As for the notion that clarity is sometimes blurred by architecture, that also has a context in diverse individuals. Some people have a very narrow view of what constitutes a “proper” church. And others are more attuned to sacred architecture however they encounter it.
Lots of clergy attempt to encourage people to a higher dress code. It’s probably worth looking more deeply at the underlying assumptions regarding the shift from Sabbath to leisure as the primary understanding of Sunday.
Even liturgical ministers fail now and then in this regard. My sense is that they should blend in with the people, and attract no notice at all, either in terms of too dressy or not dressy enough.
Notes: I’ve used an “early” translation, attributed here to Michael J. Miller at Catholic World Report. I wasn’t able to find the original essay on the L’Osservatore Romano site.
From Chapter V of the GIRM, which is a post-conciliar document last I checked:
II. Arrangement of the Sanctuary for the Sacred Synaxis
295. The sanctuary is the place where the altar stands, the Word of God is proclaimed, and the Priest, the Deacon, and the other ministers exercise their functions. It should be appropriately marked off from the body of the church either by its being somewhat elevated or by a particular structure and ornamentation. It should, moreover, be large enough to allow the Eucharist to be easily celebrated and seen.
I accept the definition. If that is Cardinal Sarah’s understanding, I would quibble with him about *where* divine worship takes place. Certainly, the CDWDS has made recent rulings (with which I largely agree) about the dignity of the church building as a whole, including the nave. Worship is far from exclusive to the sanctuary, in fact it would seem a small minority of worship actually takes place there.
Ah, but his syntax indicates his reference is not about where divine worship happens, but what part of the overall space is supposed to be strictly reserved for divine worship.
PS: A memory from a community I long inhabited in the 1990s. It was a venerable church space, with a sanctuary and nave and vestibule. The Blessed Sacrament was reserved in a separate, much smaller chapel that also was used for daily Masses. The tabernacle was in one of the four corners of the chapel, fairly opposite the entrance door, and there were small doors to enclose the tabernacle corner if need be.
The purpose of the reservation chapel was in tension with the fact that the chapel was often turned to for convenient meeting space (there were offices and spaces off the main space, too…). One would have to remind people (if one was not well placed to do it ones’ self) to at least close the door to the tabernacle corner before proceeding to have a committee meeting or, worse, a community meeting involving a lot of heated exchanges of opinions and sometimes even personal invective. People were oblivious to the issue, and eyebrows would be raised if one if tried to gently deal with the issue.
A previous pastor here instituted the practice of having the lectors and EMHC’s wear albs. I have never seen this done in other parishes. The albs are getting kind of worn and dingy. I and the other EMHC’s are hoping to see them retired. Replacing them would be expensive. Not sure what the original purpose was.