When Vincent Nichols moved to Westminster, pretty well immediately a major change happened in the Cathedral Sanctuary. The 1970s mobile, now-you-see-it-now-you-don't, altar was taken out of use.
I have always given VN credit for this. Few traddies would be prepared to, because Traddidom is much preoccupied with the idea that the priest should be facing in the same direction as the Congregation; and, at Westminster, the original High Altar is far enough forward for Eucharistic Celebrants to get behind it and thus face the People. Which is what they do.
However, this post is not re-entering the old ad Orientem controversies. What I am looking at today is the principle that, in the Sanctuary, there should be one Altar. I believe that liturgists of all schools share this view.
It has a theological rationale. The One Altar bears witness to the fact that there is but the One Sacrifice of the One Lord.
I've recently seen ... I think it might have been in the Eponymous Flower blog ... a picture of a church in Ferrara where, just as used to happen back in the dear dead 1970s, what we have come to call a "coffee table" has recently been intruded between the old (baroque) High Altar; and the People.
Aesthetically, of course, this is perfectly horrible. But it is not aesthesis that I am mainly now discussing. My point is that the unicity of the Eucharistic Sacrificial action is here blurred. And blurred, in my view, diachronically as well as synchronically.
In a double-altared sanctuary, the clear implication is that what is now done at the new "coffee table" is not the same Thing that used to be done at the original, structurally authentic, High Altar. Contrary to Benedict XVI's 'Hermeneutic of Continuity', it is visibly taught by such arrangements that a Rupture has occurred; that something New has been intruded.
It is most deplorable that this sort of theological, liturgical, artistic vandalism is still occurring, half a century after the exhilarating catastrophes of the 1970s.
It is further evidence of the illiteracy Cardinal Mueller has recently referred to among those currently being nominated to episcopacy. (NEVER MISS A MUELLER INTERVIEW. That's an order.)
There are few things more archaic and out-of-date, more clinging-to-the-past, than the fashions of the 1970s Trendy Mafia. Original authenticated surviving proponents of this base culture should be professionally stuffed and mounted and preserved in easily accessible museum collections so that crowds of keen young traddy home-schooled children could be taken along to look at them and have a good laugh.
This needs to be done urgently, while there are still some of the dear old things left unstuffed.