Synagogue, Modena, Italy
It's the best synopsis/analysis/summary I've read for a very long time - or at least since Card. Ratzinger's, The Spirit of the Liturgy. The information has been discussed on various blogs over the years - but Fr. Fessio's is the most straight forward to date, devoid the pious embellishment, angry rant and theatrical spin other bloggers tend to rely on to impress their readers.
A couple of highlights:
The Council did not say that tabernacles should be moved from their central location to some other location. In fact, it specifically said we should be concerned about the worthy and dignified placing of the tabernacle. The Council did not say that Mass should be celebrated facing the people. That is not in Vatican II; it is not mentioned. It is not even raised in the documents that record the formation of the Constitution on the Liturgy; it didn't come up. Mass facing the people is a not requirement of Vatican II; it is not in the spirit of Vatican II; it is definitely not in the letter of Vatican II. It is something introduced in 1969.
And, by the way, never in the history of the Church, East or West, was there a tradition of celebrating Mass facing the people. Never, ever, until 1969. - Read the entire essay here.
Note especially Fr.'s comments on Gregorian Chant and the similarity to Judaic singing of the psalms in the Temple Era. Those of us attracted to Judaism, and especially those of Jewish heritage, will find it meaningful and consoling:
Now, just a little footnote on the Gregorian Chant. In reflecting on these things about Church music, I began to think about the Psalms a few years back. And a very obvious idea suddenly struck me. Why it didn't come earlier I don't know, but the fact is that the Psalms are songs. Every one of the 150 Psalms is meant to be sung; and was sung by the Jews.
So, I called this wonderful rabbi in Manhattan and we had a long conversation. At the end, I said, "I want to bring some focus to this, can you give me any idea what it sounded like when Jesus and his Apostles sang the Psalms?" He said, "Of course, Father. It sounded like Gregorian Chant. You got it from us."
I was amazed. I called Professor William Mart, a Professor of Music at Stanford University and a friend. I said, "Bill, is this true?" He said, "Yes. The Psalm tones have their roots in ancient Jewish hymnody and psalmody." So, you know something? If you sing the Psalms at Mass with the Gregorian tones, you are as close as you can get to praying with Jesus and Mary. They sang the Psalms in tones that have come down to us today in Gregorian Chant. - ibid
How cool is that!
NOTE: The essay appeared in the September/October 2000 issue of Catholic Dossier and is based on a lecture on the liturgy given by Father Fessio in May, 1999.