Well, in a Catholic forum, in a thread asking people whether their parishes had adopted this altar arrangement, one woman posted this remark:
It is just a preference he has - until he takes steps to make into some kind of enforceable practice does it make any real difference what parishes do or don't adopt the same practice?
My parish is no less Catholic because my pastor does not use the same table setting as the Pope.
Now, on one hand, she's absolutely right: this altar arrangement is a preference of the Pope (albeit one he is endorsing more and more lately) and it is not law or enforceable in any parish.
But it was the second thing she said that really disturbed me. Does she really see this as quibbling over "table settings"? Is this what the Altar of Sacrifice has become? A dining room table with a tablecloth and candles and napkins and utensils and a centerpiece?
Don't get me wrong: Holy Communion is the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, and happy are those who are called to share in that banquet! But the Eucharist is first and foremost the sacrifice the Church offers God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to the Father. It's not a picnic! It's not a meal! It's not a snack! It's not a "course". It deserves more than a "table". Pope Pius XII says that "one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive tableform" (Mediator Dei, n. 62) or entertained a host of other antiquarian tendencies, such as removal of black as a liturgical color, or ridding crucifixes of any signs of physical distress.
Is the sense of the sacred suffering in our parishes? Is Mass about showing up and "taking" Holy Communion... or is it about accepting your place in the Body of Christ, which is His Church, and rendering to God His due worship, the corporate public worship of the Church, culminating and originating in the offering of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the Heavenly Father?
Is it about being present when Heaven touches Earth? Or is it about table settings?