Turning Eastward in Lincoln NE

The Southern Nebraska Register of the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska has a column by Bishop James Conley announcing a change in the cathedral liturgy this coming Advent: the priests will celebrate Mass not facing the people, but ad orientem. The bishop will do the same at Midnight Mass on Christmas.

One hopes that there can be peace in the church around this issue.

The history of the position of the celebrating priest is not entirely unambiguous. The very earliest history is shrouded in mystery, which allows people to make all sorts of claims in the absence of any available evidence.

The history in the twentieth century, and especially immediately after the Second Vatican Council, is also more ambiguous than you might have thought. The great reformer Josef Jungmann SJ, advisor to the Council, had some second thoughts after the altars were turned around. As I recall, the eminent liturgical scholar David Power, hardly a man of the right, once penned a piece for Antiphon (back when Francis Mannion was at the helm) in which he wrote favorably of ad orientem. As is well-known, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), re-opened the question and spoke positively of ad orientem. But with that pastoral discretion found in him but absent in his most zealous followers, Ratzinger advised against turning the altars back around and causing another rupture in people’s postconciliar liturgical experience. The so-called Benedictine candle arrangement was born as his compromise. At the same time, I always thought that Ratzinger’s polemic about the “self-enclosed circle” did not do justice to other people’s positive experiences and beliefs, and I have even wondered what he is so angry about.

My first experience of ad orientem was as organist in a Lutheran church in St. Cloud when I was an undergrad. (The Lutherans paid better and had better music, and their Sunday morning services didn’t conflict with the three evening Masses I was doing for St. John’s campus ministry.) I came to realize that they had their altar against the chancel wall precisely because they were rather low church and didn’t celebrate the Lord’s Supper very often. They weren’t into the liturgical renewal enough to change their inherited practice, unlike some other Lutherans who were trying to be, so to speak, “more Vatican II.”

Meanwhile, I was learning in theology classes at St. John’s a fairly black-and-white account of “bad pre-Vatican II, individualistic” and “good post-Vatican II, communal.” It struck me at the time that the Lutherans, with their altar against the wall, had a stronger sense of community (complete with people coming early or staying late for coffee hour and adult education between the two services) and much stronger congregational singing than I had ever encountered in the Catholic church. This complicated the narrative for me.

Then in grad school in Austria, I sometimes helped out in a little parish in the mountains where the tiny late medieval church had no room for a new altar and one had to celebrate at the old high altar at the apse wall. One couldn’t say the people were far removed from the ritual, for they were just a few feet behind me in the front pews. (The church seated about 25 or 30.) It felt to me like we were one community. But at the same time, it was a bit more awkward than I had expected – having to turn around to greet them, and not facing them (i.e., doing as the rubrics direct) for the dialog at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer. I came away thinking that ad orientem isn’t the silver bullet I had sort of hoped it might be after reading Power and re-reading Jungmann.

So: ambiguity, both in church history and in my own experience. This suggests to me a need for nuance.

Bishop Conley’s article is, for the most part, well-nuanced. There is this on the priest facing the people:

The people see the face of the priest as he prays, and he sees their faces. These positions can have important symbolism too. They can remind us that we are a community.

But the bishop might want to be a bit clearer about his history. His wording seems to suggest that the people looked “at Christ on the crucifix, on the altar, and in the tabernacle” since ancient times – but the tabernacle wasn’t moved to the center of the sanctuary behind the altar until after Trent. But overall, the bishop adopts an irenic tone.

Not so his most zealous followers. (He has the same problem as Benedict in this.) A certain Father James Dean gives us this comment at the website with the bishop’s article:

Actually, the “my sacrifice and yours” distinguishes the sacrifice that the priest is offering (which is the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, mystically present and represented to the Father in an unbloody manner) and the sacrifice of the people (which is the sacrifice of their lives in union with Christ’s sacrifice). The people do not offer the sacrifice of Mass, they, in their royal, priestly, baptismal dignity offer their own personal sacrifices with the perfect sacrifice of Christ, which alone gives their sacrifices salvific meaning and power (Col 1:24)!!

Well, no. The Latin doesn’t say “my sacrifice and yours.” Meum ac vestrum sacrificium literally is “my and your sacrifice,” which doesn’t imply two different sacrifices. One could argue for translating the difficult Latin idiomatically as “our sacrifice” (like the 1974 Sacramentary), which is closer to the meaning but doesn’t follow the Latin literally, or also as “this sacrifice, which is mine and yours,” as ICEL proposed and the bishops’ conferences approved. But since we now have “my sacrifice and yours,” which follows some but not all of the Latin, it is important to understand it in the meaning of the Latin – as one sacrifice.

But this, Fr. Dean? “The people do not offer the sacrifice of Mass…” That’s simply wrong. Just read articles 85-87 Mediator Dei, which Pius XII issued in 1947. Starting with this:

However, it must also be said that the faithful do offer the divine Victim, though in a different sense.

Well, there’s Fr. James Dean, and then there’s this, which the parishioners in Exeter-Milligan parishes got from their pastor: Ad Orientem. I guess God exists at the back wall, but not among the people. And regarding the Real Presence and Protestants it says that… oh, never mind. Where to begin?

Here’s where to end: by saying again that I hope there can be peace in the church around this issue.

 

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88 comments

  1. It has always been a mystery as to why Jungmann changed his mind, when he was previously so eloquent about the archaeological evidence for presiders facing the people (presider sitting centrally on a stone bench extending all around the back wall of the apse, with his ministers to right and left of him, and with free-standing altar in front of him).

  2. I would like to learn where the modern use of the term ad orientem comes from, i.e. “toward the apse” or “facing in the same direction as the people”.

    The older usage simply meant, “toward the east”. That’s how it appears in the ritus servandus of the 1962 MIssal (§ V.3). If the building happened to be constructed with the apse to the west and the narthex to the east, the celebrant could face ad orientem (east) and, at the very same time, face the people.

    Is the modern usage a coinage of Klaus Gamber? Or Joseph Ratzinger? When did it change? Where does it first show up?

  3. Now how are the interpreters for the deaf at Masses supposed to know what the priest is doing when??

    “Tradition” also meant that the handicapped were totally ignored in the Church, except as objects of charity, not real people!!

  4. “One hopes that there can be peace in the church around this issue.”

    As for me, I’d just prefer good scholarship, pastoral wisdom, and prudence.

    Post-conciliar developments seemed to be about presenting a better visibility, intelligibility, and openness. A focus on turning away from the people implies that the priest’s orientation is somehow essential to good liturgy. REality check: it’s not.

    Repeated polls, surveys, and the like among the laity have told us they/we want better preaching, better music, and a stronger sense of welcome at Mass.

    The direction the priest faces is an interesting little peccadillo that even bishops and the occasional pope can’t get quite right. What, are better homilies so darned difficult? Or maybe central Nebraska has nailed down liturgical success like they’ve rooted out child sexual abuse. The only thing left are the last liturgical frontiers of peacockery.

    1. @Lee Bacchi – comment #5:
      It’s sad and ridiculous that a bishop should implement a certain licit liturgical practice at his Cathedral for the season of advent? Really, Lee? It seems that some are only willing to trumpet the liturgical authority of bishops as long as those bishops’ actions jive with their personal preferences…

      I actually took the time to read through the comments section on Bishop Conley’s article. The majority of the comments were expressions of healthy enthusiasm from those affected by the policy. There were some far-out cranky traditionalist comments as well, along with a number of snide jabs from cranky commenters from the other end of the liturgical spectrum. Such as “Lincoln, Nebraska. Figures.” followed by “Maybe it is something in the water there?!?!?” I assume you were lamenting the lack of charity (and intelligent or constructive discussion) in nasty comments such as those. 🙂
      Or, in addition to lamenting the legitimate actions of a bishop in his own diocese, are you lamenting the fact that many people approve of those actions and (charitably) express great enthusiasm about them? You really are hard to please…

  5. I was interested, Father Anthony, in your “Lutheran” connection. Our congregation changed to a free-standing altar only 8 years ago. We experimented with a temporary free-standing altar for a few months, and then let the congregation decide. They voted overwhelmingly for a chancel renovation which included replacing the old “ad orientam” altar with a new permanent free-standing altar. Since the changeover is relatively recent, we are still receiving feedback from long time members and newer members that the free-standing altar has enhanced their sense of community, and their participation in the liturgy. It is a small church (150 maximum). Our worship remains largely traditional (ELW book liturgy) but our congregation is experiencing a real growth in younger members with children. There is generally “peace” in the ELCA about which kind of altar to use, but our recent experience of change has been very positive.

  6. I guess God’s “receiver” must be in the East then? Now He’ll get a better signal from the people of Lincoln? Utter nonsense, and as someone stated, the comments are even worse.

    I am so sick and tired of these bishops TINKERING with things. That’s ALL RM3 was – tinkering. Now, the Revised Grail Psalms have been revised, AGAIN. So all those psalm collections already printed – all those Missals printed with the revised Grail, have to be revised, again.

    And now, this guy institutes his personal preference for posture, for Lord knows what reason. Perhaps this man needs more work to do if all he’s coming up with is this. (his listed reasoning is just nuts)

    Obviously there is too much wiggle room in liturgical rubrics for these guys. Time to tighten up the rules to put an end to these real liturgical abuses.

    1. @Sean Whelan – comment #7:
      There is one easy solution to this….the 1962 missal is rather specific in it’s rubrics. One of the beautiful things about it, and one of my frustrations with the Ordinary Form’s missal: too many options.

  7. Todd Flowerday : Post-conciliar developments seemed to be about presenting a better visibility, intelligibility, and openness. A focus on turning away from the people implies that the priest’s orientation is somehow essential to good liturgy. REality check: it’s not.

    Correlation, not causation, but I submit that celebration versus populum – not incidentally so as before but as a deliberately normative practice – has coincided with a marked misunderstanding of what happens during the Eucharistic Prayer. Case in point: I have witnessed dozens of priests in the course of my lifetime make a point of establishing eye contact with the congregation during the Institution Narrative. Now, why in the world would they think it important to look me in the eye when they are supposed to be addressing God the Father? I highly suspect that softly normative versus populum celebration has contributed to this confusion.

    As for the three points you raise as having recommended versus populum celebration to begin with, I would push back:
    Visibility – what is this, close-up magic in which the show is better the more we can try yet fail to catch the magician in his trick? Especially given that the signs of the cross and other symbolic gestures (like rules for how to hold the host in cruciform manner after the fraction) have been eliminated, there is quite nearly nothing to see that cannot be seen at an elevation.
    Intelligibility – I have yet to worship in a modern American (or, for that matter, rather antiquated European) church where the celebrant’s voice was not amplified.
    Openness – An honest question: Open to what?

    1. @Aaron Sanders – comment #8:
      I’m not a fan of clergy eye contact, but if any part of the Eucharistic Prayer is storytelling and not addressing God, it would be the institution narrative. It could be that some clergy are being literal in their interpretation of the moment.

      Visibility has long been a Catholic desire. If it hadn’t been, big elevations and adoration would never have caught on. You are tussling with centuries of tradition on that one, my friend.

      Intelligibility may have been more of an issue in the 60’s than today.

      Open to grace: another human sense activated. Bread and wine a better beholding than the decorative rear of a vestment.

  8. Solution….put the altar by the narthex so the priest and the bishop on Christmas Eve can face east and the people…everyone wins. Thank you for your sensitivity #3 and the focusing comments of # 4’s third and fourth paragraph.

    My sense is that when we tell people that now every one will face ad orientem the majority will simply look dumbfounded …to the east. A nice touch in Advent but can we realistically assume this will stop there. The community will file into Church and don’t be surprised once the priest turns his back on the people to “lead” them in prayer…most people will start texting.

  9. I think that the presider facing the same direction as the assembly is a beautiful gesture when properly catechized so that the extremes (Dean vs “father has his back to us”) are avoided are avoided and the image of the presider leading the people in prayer and the entire assembly “hastening toward their heavenly home” and awaiting the dawning of the Sun of Justice. However, I think there runs a risk of blending rubrics when this posture is assumed. What I mean by this is in RM3 (and the Sacramentary) after the Insitution Narrative the rubrics state the bread and cup are “shown” (not elevated!!). At the Doxology, the bread and cup are elevated (implying higher than the showing). However, if the showing is done by the elements being raised over one’s head, as facing the same way as the assembly necessitates, then this distinction is lost.

  10. Based on the eschatological component which the bishop wishes to emphasize with this move, I’m wondering whether he plans on facing ad orientem during the Sundays in ordinary time after Pentecost as well. I believe that would add a greater dimension to this new take on progressive solmenity.

  11. Fr Ruff: …having to turn around to greet them, and not facing them (i.e., doing as the rubrics direct) for the dialog at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer.

    The rubrics don’t call for the priest to face the people for the dialogue.

    In both the GIRM (#146) and the rubric in the Ordo Missae, the priest is directed to face the people for the Orate, fratres, then he says the super oblata, then the Preface dialogue begins. Obviously, he will have to turn back to the altar to read or intone the super oblata, and will therefore be facing east with the congregation until he is directed to turn towards them again at the peace (cf. GIRM #154).

    @Paul Inwood (#1): It has always been a mystery as to why Jungmann changed his mind, when he was previously so eloquent about the archaeological evidence…

    Surely the point is that it’s not just about, or even primarily about, the archaeological evidence? Whither theology and sign-value? (IMO, Uwe Lang’s book Turning Towards the Lord is an excellent read with regard to this particular area.)

  12. Trust the Anglicans to take the via media. It was a common practice in some places (not sure about that now) where the liturgy of the word is presided facing East, and the liturgy of the table facing the people.

  13. Am I the only one who sees this, but what I see on the part of those who favor the presider turning away from the assembly is a complete lack of any kind of incarnational sense. We don’t want those sinful, imperfect human beings to be able to see each other while they’re worshiping God who is so obviously in some other place than here, among us.

    Am I totally off the mark here?

  14. I guess we can therefore assume that Christ, at the Last Supper, faced the wall and had his back to his Apostles. Wow, I learn something new every day. #the internetisindeedaninformationstupidhighway

    1. @Richard Rupnik – comment #19:
      And why would you assume that? Is the Mass supposed to be a dramatic reenacting of the Last Supper? Am I to assume from usual OF practice that Jesus stood at a separate table twenty feet away from everyone else and had a small group of musicians and lectors nearby? Perhaps he gave all the bread to a couple other people who then distributed it to everyone else once they had formed straight lines at communion stations?

      Historical research does indicate that Jesus likely reclined on the same side of the (probably U-shaped) table as everyone else, as it was common at the time to leave one side empty so food could easily be served.

    2. @Richard Rupnik – comment #19:

      I guess we can therefore assume that Christ, at the Last Supper, faced the wall and had his back to his Apostles. Wow, I learn something new every day.

      And the reverse of this is the old joke: What did Jesus say to his disciples at the Last Supper? (Think da Vinci) Answer: If you don’t get round this side of the table, you won’t be in the photo.

    3. @Richard Rupnik – comment #19:
      Am I incorrect that you’ve posited a false tautology here, Richard? Am I flummoxed as to why so much commentary about your errant query has resulted? Am I hooking my wagon to Mr. Osterman’s sensibilities in #30? Uh, yup to the latter two questions.
      Chris G., give Ben a break on the grammar. I don’t think teachers in the states even instruct punctuation, much less diagramming sentences.

  15. @Jim Blue (#18): in a word, yes.

    And I’d say that as long as ad orientem is perceived as “the presider turning away from the assembly”, rather than priest and people facing together towards the coming Lord in a common direction of worship and adoration, one is likely to continue to see what you currently see.

  16. I’ve always seen it as the priest being *with* the people when he “has his back to them” as opposed to being in front of them, facing them, and doing something for them as is found in most places. Everyone participating together.

    Mass facing the people unintentionally sets the priest apart as the special one doing something for a passive group. Especially since the main desire (and result of turning the altar around) is to see what the priest is doing up there.

    Of course everything works together at Mass to give an overall impression. I imagine long sanctuaries and “silent” Low Masses gave people the false impression that the priest had turned his back on them and was acting up there alone far more than the ad orientem posture itself did. Church design also makes it difficult for a priest who “faces the people” to not come off as an old fashioned “teacher” figure lecturing a largely passive class in a giant lecture hall.

  17. More on Fr. Dean’s claim that people in the pews do not offer the sacrifice of the Mass:
    Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy says in #48: “They (the faithful) “should give thanks to God; by OFFERING THE IMMACULATE VICTIM, NOT ONLY THROUGH THE HANDS OF THE PRIEST, BUT ALSO WITH HIM, they should learn to offer themselves too” (emphasis added).
    The GIRM, citing this and other church documents, says in #79f, “The oblation, by which, in this very memorial, the Church, in particular that gathered here and now, offers the unblemished sacrificial Victim in the Holy Spirit to the Father. The Church’s intention, indeed, is that the FAITHFUL NOT ONLY OFFER THIS UNBLEMISHED SACRIFICIAL VICTIM but also learn to offer their very selves.”

  18. A prediction:

    Come the end of Advent, the bishop will report that the “ad orientem” posture was so “enthusiastically received by all the people of the diocese” that he will continue it in the cathedral and encourage all pastors to “consider” it.

    1. @Eric Stoltz – comment #24:
      Eric – facetious? What if this happened and was actually true – would that change anything for those opposed to ad orientem? Would any of those opposed ever believe that any ordinary people could prefer ad orientem, or would they dismiss any and all positive reaction as ecclesiastical spin? I genuinely wonder about that…

      Personally I’ve never understood the harsh visceral reaction many have against ad orientem. Given that a Mass is celebrated in English, and amplified for all to hear, and that there is little to no special physical action going on at the times the priest faces east, what, exactly, are we being deprived of? The argument seems to be that one single man not facing us in the pews at certain times during the liturgy destroys any sense that we are a community celebrating together. I just don’t see that – this reaction seems to me to be entirely a case of ideology “read onto” a situation – liturgical eisegesis, if you will. I thought that a major part of the sense of communal celebration came from the fact that the gathered community could see each other, or at least have a sense (visceral, acoustical, spiritual) that all are in the same space (I don’t hold that 100% visual connection between all parts of the congregation is absolutely necessary in a liturgical space). But if the priest turns away momentarily, then community is broken? Surely not everything depends on me seeing his face at all times? Borders on clerical idolatry…
      Interestingly, one of the first places I experienced ad orientem was at a quite progressive parish (where much of the community gathered around the altar with hands held for the liturgy of the Eucharist). The priest began Mass sitting in the front pew – he merely stood up rather than processing in, faced the people for the greeting, then turned back forward. No doubt the community saw this as a striking demonstration that all were celebrating together with a humble cleric to lead them.

  19. Once again (we have had this so many times before), when priest is facing west and the people are facing east, they are all in fact facing in the same direction: towards the altar, the primary symbol of Christ in our midst.

    Those who prefer everyone to face east in expectation of the coming eschaton could be said to be diluting the assembly’s belief that Christ is truly present here and now.

    1. @Paul Inwood – comment #27:
      Paul,

      That’s a succinct and thoughtful defense of one and critique of the other. I don’t believe that Conley is saying versus populum is wrong, though, just that ad orientem can be helpful and beautiful. As far as your critique, it is certainly worthy of further discussion. But not sufficiently damning to consider ad orientem, for any reason and in any context, sad and ridiculous (as some of the other commenters here have put it).

      Perhaps a more balanced approach could be to say that both orientations have a certain beauty, history, and effect on our perception and experience of the liturgy, and that both can carry specific dangers. Versus populum can sometimes overemphasize the centrality and personality of the celebrant, while ad orientem can at times under-emphasize the centrality of the altar.

    2. @Paul Inwood – comment #27:
      Good point — SC pointed out the 4 ways in which Christ is present in the worshipping assembly here and now. Not that eschatology is irrelevant, but why not concentrate on the present presences as an anticipation and sign of the future, which really has very little to do with the actual direction east.

  20. It would be interesting to know whether Mass attendance, baptisms, and professions of faith are growing or shrinking in this diocese over the past several years, and particularly in this cathedral. Each of us has our preferences and biases, but the numbers don’t lie as indicators of whether a church is thriving or dying.

    1. @Scott Pluff – comment #28:
      Even if correlation and causation are the same and the numbers are accurate, and interpretation is unbiased and true, you will have to wait quite a while to see whether this Advent ad orientem experiment is killing or revitalizing the diocese of Lincoln!

  21. Richard Rupnik : I guess we can therefore assume that Christ, at the Last Supper, faced the wall and had his back to his Apostles. Wow, I learn something new every day. #the internetisindeedaninformationstupidhighway

    The last supper isn’t our supreme liturgical model. Let’s also assume we’ll ordain 12 men to the order of bishop, allow only them to be present, and while we’re at it, kill the priest the next day.

    Sure, sounds great. Let’s model the last supper in every way.

    Also, on a factual level, that is actually close to what happen. The jewish “rubrics” (not sure of the proper term but you get my drift) specify that they could not be served food from behind their backs, which most historians accept means that they all sat on the same side of the table. The same direction. Yes, facing some wall somewhere, wherever it was.

  22. Scott Pluff : It would be interesting to know whether Mass attendance, baptisms, and professions of faith are growing or shrinking in this diocese over the past several years, and particularly in this cathedral. Each of us has our preferences and biases, but the numbers don’t lie as indicators of whether a church is thriving or dying.

    I know my parish has grown, and continues to grow, after we added an EF to the Sunday schedule, and began celebrating both OF and EF ad orientem, with the encouragement of our great bishop, who frequently celebrates in that manner as well.

    1. @Ben Yanke – comment #31:
      This is encouraging, and I am glad to hear it. My next question would be whether your parish is growing by pulling away already-active Catholics from surrounding parishes or by reaching and attracting new members from the fallen-away and the unchurched. Have you seen evidence of this? Are you growing in adult baptisms and professions of faith?

      There is a theory that the classical timelessness of traditional styles of liturgy is the most effective evangelization, and I’m interested to see evidence of this.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #56:
        Is someone only a sheep stealer if his liturgy is the EF? Or would you, Todd, be a sheep stealer too if a person visiting your parish found your music program to be far more edifying than their old parish, or found the preaching or environment better? What if they switched to your parish because it seemed more welcoming?

        I can’t speak for Ben Yanke, but I’d say about a third or more of the people at the EF I attend are coming from “outside” the Church – meaning we “steal” them from the SSPX or other traditionalist groups. Those people are usually not the hardliners, mind you. The rest are a mix – people who preferred the Latin Mass but found their commitment to their faith too important for them to leave, people who left or were on the verge of leaving, people who like to be involved in more than one Mass, etc. We aren’t an EF-only parish, though, so it’s hard to say since we also get people who belong to the parish but find our time most convenient.

        I myself would likely not be a practicing Catholic today were it not for my interest in the Latin Mass, and I’ve met a surprisingly high number of people who are in the same boat.

      2. @Jack Wayne – comment #70:
        Good questions. When there are two or more Catholic communities within easy driving distance. I’ve found that movement happens more from a sense of alienation in one than a concerted effort of promotion by another.

        Evangelical Protestantism, of course, encourages switching a bit more than your typical parish #2. Does Ben’s community or yours tell people they are better off? I wouldn’t necessarily tell incoming new Catholics that in my parish. That’s more a matter of discernment.

        My pastor tends to view non-student switching with some skepticism. Homilies tend to move people back and forth a lot in my town. And as for the students, many prefer the other local parish for other reasons. We don’t attempt to dissuade them.

        The key question with Ben’s and your parishes are not the people who are attracted from within the Church–I would include Protestants as well as schismatics. But how do you do among the unchurched? Seekers? Non-believers? The curious? That is the basic Christian mission, the mandatum of Christ, no matter what form is followed.

      3. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #77:
        They happen, of course. He’s not always convinced the motives are well-considered. We have a few Catholics in town who seem to migrate in “protest” once something distasteful happens. If one wants children enrolled in the other parish’s K-5 school, they switch from ours. I can understand that. So does he.

        On the other hand, we baptize a child of a same-sex couple, and someone moves to the other parish. They don’t like the homily in the other parish, so they switch back. Somebody gets their feelings hurt in either parish, so they move.

        I’m not saying people don’t have heartfelt reactions to things. But some reasons, well …

      4. @Todd Flowerday – comment #76:
        It’s hard to answer some questions because, as I said before, my EF community is part of an otherwise OF parish so it is hard to gauge who might convert because of us, or because of the overall parish. I know some members of our group might present us as being “better,” but that obviously isn’t the official stance since that would mean the parish is putting down all of its other Masses (and there are some OF-only folks who think they are better, so it cuts both ways).

        I think if a study were done, it would need to be in EF only parishes. My parish has an overall strong preference towards the OF in how it uses its resources (for example, the OF music director/organist is paid while the EF Music director/organist is an unpaid volunteer even though they often do a similar amount of work). I also recall I was strongly discouraged from using the EF ritual when I was preparing to get married.

        There’s a lot of church switching in my town – but there are a lot of churches and some are mere blocks away from one another.

      5. @Jack Wayne – comment #82:
        To be honest, the questions were partially rhetorical. But I think a pastor, a staff, a parish council should be asking those kinds of questions: what people to we attract or repel, and why? How many of them are not active believers?

        Any decent church can plant itself in a growing suburb and claim growth. I think 3-5% of faith communities can claim it. The other 95, not so.

        Will turning eastward in the Cathedral of the Risen Christ inspire believers to be disciples and attract seekers and non-believers? Otherwise, what’s the point? To be fair and clear, I’d ask the same question of any major initiative in my own parish, liturgical or otherwise.

  23. I’ve never found this an issue that I could gin up much enthusiasm about one way or another. I think issues like the proximity of the altar to the people is more important for creating a sense of everyone’s participation in the offering of the Eucharist. I can see advantages to both practices (like if I were facing the same direction as everyone else it would be nice not having to worry about what my facial expression is).

  24. Jim Blue : Am I the only one who sees this, but what I see on the part of those who favor the presider turning away from the assembly is a complete lack of any kind of incarnational sense. We don’t want those sinful, imperfect human beings to be able to see each other while they’re worshiping God who is so obviously in some other place than here, among us. Am I totally off the mark here?

    In a word, yes. It has nothing to do with turning away. It has to do with the priest leading the congregation in prayer. Particularly during the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest is clearly talking to the Father, through christ, on behalf of us. There’s no reason for him to look at us…

    “To you, therefore, O most merciful Father, we make our humble petition, through Jesus Christ our Lord”

  25. Fritz Bauerschmidt : I’ve never found this an issue that I could gin up much enthusiasm about one way or another. I think issues like the proximity of the altar to the people is more important for creating a sense of everyone’s participation in the offering of the Eucharist. I can see advantages to both practices (like if I were facing the same direction as everyone else it would be nice not having to worry about what my facial expression is).

    I have found that concern echoed by many priests I know, both by my pastor, who does it very regularly, as well as from visiting priests whom I have served for. They really appreciate how it takes the focus off them and their personality, in the same way that vestments do. It hides them so that christ can speak more clearly through their words and actions. Nearly all of them have said it helps them pray much more easily.

  26. @Paul Inwood (#27): [W]hen [the] priest is facing west and the people are facing east, they are all in fact facing in the same direction: towards the altar, the primary symbol of Christ in our midst.

    Well, that much is (obviously) also true for the ad orientem position – a position that has the added eschatological symbolic value, and is in far better continuity with the tradition of the Church, West and East.

    If you were to ask someone whether priest and people were facing in a common direction or not at a Mass said ad orientem, then asked them the same question about versus populum, I’m not sure whether they would say there was a common direction in the versus populum setup. To my mind, the sign of a common direction is stronger and much more obvious when everyone is on the same side of the altar.

  27. Paul Inwood : Once again (we have had this so many times before), when priest is facing west and the people are facing east, they are all in fact facing in the same direction: towards the altar, the primary symbol of Christ in our midst. Those who prefer everyone to face east in expectation of the coming eschaton could be said to be diluting the assembly’s belief that Christ is truly present here and now.

    Move the free-standing altar to its traditional position and then priest and people all face in a common direction. Simple.

  28. Todd Flowerday :Visibility has long been a Catholic desire. If it hadn’t been, big elevations and adoration would never have caught on. You are tussling with centuries of tradition on that one, my friend.

    Certainly a degree of visibility was desired – people who rarely communed wanted at least a moment to look upon the Lord made present at the Mass. But from there I think the “centuries of tradition” argument actually cuts the other way. Despite the people’s desire to look upon the host, sated more or less in the 13th century, we saw no subsequent expansion of the demand to look upon the priest, or even to have access to gaze upon the host during the rest of its time upon the altar. Even when versus populum began to gain ground 7 centuries later, it was not because the people of God were demanding it but because a (relative) handful of researchers/activists were promoting it. I strongly suspect that the bulk of the lay faithful only began to desire versus populum celebrations after they were taught that they ought to desire them.

    1. @Aaron Sanders – comment #42:
      Perhaps not. We do know that elevations in the Middle Ages were extended by popular request. And sometimes extra money.

      We also know that the conciliar documents cited greater intelligibility and participation. I would submit that turning the priest around facilitated not only the unobstructed view of the elements, but also a better understanding of the clergy before better sound systems became common. As a spouse of one with a hearing disability, I know that even from a distance, being able to see a person’s face helps with understanding what they say.

      Additionally, the non-verbal communication of gesture and movement contribute to what is communicated. In my parish, people get a side view from their antiphonal seating. But they still get to see more than if the priest is a faceless vestment.

      I suspect people welcomed the change, but they still rolled their eyes when the cleric did something silly.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #50:
        Todd, you highlight what seems to me to be a cognitive disconnect in this discussion. You, like most liturgists I’ve known, disapprove of the over-extended elevations and accompanying practice of “visual communion” in the Middle Ages. Yet in the next paragraph you say that versus populum “facilitated the unobstructed view of the elements.” Is that what versus populum is about, and why it is important? So that we can get a better view of hosts and chalice during the institution narrative? On one hand liturgists tend to worry about an overly visual approach to liturgy (as Jungmann said, people attending the Mass as “mute spectators”). Then some of them turn right around and insist that everyone must be able to see everything at all times. It strikes me as just two sides of the same coin of unhealthy (or at least, unnecessary) visual fixation in the liturgy.

        I can understand the benefit of versus populum as an emphasizing of Christ’s presence on the altar, and in the gathered assembly. I’m not as impressed with the argument that versus populum allows people an unobstructed view of the elements. Aren’t most of those present about to receive those elements momentarily anyway, which is much more important than gazing at them?

        Not to mention, the elements aren’t particularly exciting or symbolic to look at – it is their ritual/liturgical context that is engrossing. As one liturgist said (name escapes me now), “I can believe it’s the body of Christ, but I can’t believe it’s bread!”

      2. @Jared Ostermann – comment #51:
        It could be cognitive disconnect on my part, or even on yours. I don’t get the idea you are perceiving my points, or that you want to. I know that people appreciate visibility. We live in a visual-oriented culture. For churches, it takes precedence over good acoustics and audibility, much to my lament as a music minister.

        When I suggest people wanted visibility in 1370’s or 1970’s, I am reporting a conclusion drawn from my reading of history and what people in the 1970’s said or seemed to want, given my memory of their input.

        I think a visual “fixation” is not a wholly bad thing in the spiritual life. Icons and paintings. The visual imagination as used in Ignatian spirituality. Things like that.

        It might be that traditional-leaning Catholics are discomfited by my suggestion that turning the priest around was a nod to traditional aspirations: more visibility of the Lord. Their problem; not mine.

        As for your second paragraph, I think many Catholics look to the whole of the Eucharistic experience. Not just the moment of reception. I think many things are important: not just tasting and consuming, but singing, listening, watching, moving, and especially changing.

        Thanks for the response, Jared. We seem to be getting somewhere.

      3. @Todd Flowerday – comment #55:
        Todd – I certainly agree that visibility is important to people today and to the spiritual and liturgical tradition. It was the specificity of your comment that I found strange – that versus populum renders the elements more visible. It does, but I wouldn’t rate that as one of the most important aspects of this orientation.

        And generally speaking, there is a huge difference between a priest behind a rood screen (or even mostly enclosed by sanctuary walls as was the case at Notre Dame for centuries), and a priest in a modern church facing ad orientem (with no physical barrier between him and congregation, most of his actions visible, and his voice amplified in English for all to hear). Even if there isn’t as much visibility as you would like in a modern ad orientem situation, I would still argue that there is quite a bit. In other words, we are talking about a spectrum of visibility rather than a contrast between visibility and the lack thereof. Thus, it does not make sense to me to argue that visibility is good and important, therefore: versus populum is better. I’m not sure that you are arguing that personally, but I certainly hear that a lot.

      4. @Jared Ostermann – comment #58:
        I wouldn’t rate visibility as high, personally. But I respect that others might. I also don’t rate face-to-face with the priest as high, but I know others do.

        If I were to make a personal argument, it would be for antiphonal seating, or people arrayed in the round, and thus render the orientation of the priest irrelevant. But not all churches are set up like that.

        Proximity is also a good value for many Catholics. I could see ad orientem going down more smoothly if the priest were to pray from the altar rail, or near it, or the altar were placed near it. Bishop Conley promoted “togetherness,” which I don’t see reflected in Redemptionis Sacramentum, nor in much of the architecture of many churches, even modern ones.

        And lastly, I think there is a matter of prudence. Is this the right initiative for this time and place in the Church, in the US, in Lincoln’s cathedral parish? Does it unite or divide? Does it lift up one segment to crow, as we’ve seen in the commentariat on the diocesan web page? Are there more pressing matters which merit deeper attention?

        Were Bishop Conley to suggest, during Eastertide, that all Catholics consider receiving Communion under both forms, especially those who never have–would that tend to unite or divide his flock? Would the contingents of joy and dismay be flipped? Or do you think his Advent initiative would have paved the way for such experimentation?

  29. The most appropriate time for priests to be facing in the same direction as their people is the penitential rite. That part I get. Having presided in both directions, I find that for the rest of the Mass it is easier for me to pray with the people when we are facing each other and it is clear that our prayer, even though uttered by me, is to be shared.

  30. What I mean by this is in RM3 (and the Sacramentary) after the Insitution Narrative the rubrics state the bread and cup are “shown” (not elevated!!). At the Doxology, the bread and cup are elevated (implying higher than the showing).

    The “shows” at the consecration is taken over from the previous editions (e.g. 1962) of the missal, but isn’t meant to exclude elevation, just as those previous books did not. So while the modern “distinction” has been latched onto by some, I don’t think it holds water:
    (1962 consecration) Tune se erigens, quantum commode potest, elevat in ahum hostiam, et intentis in earn oculis (quod et in elevatione calicis facit) populo reverenter ostendit adorandam.
    (1962 Per ipsum . . .) Deinde tenens manu dextera hostiam super calicem, sinistra calicem, elevat eum aliquantulum simul cum hostia, dicens
    : omnis honor et gloria, et statim utrumque deponens, hostiam collocat super corporale.

    1. @Aaron Sanders – comment #44:

      The “shows” at the consecration is taken over from the previous editions (e.g. 1962) of the missal, but isn’t meant to exclude elevation, just as those previous books did not. So while the modern “distinction” has been latched onto by some, I don’t think it holds water

      If you were to read up on the history of elevating the elements after the words of institution, you would find that it is first encountered in the Missal of 1474, as a result of a peculiar Parisian practice that had not been found elsewhere in the Church. Despite that, Pius V in 1570 persisted in saying “showing”…

  31. Jim McKay : @Aaron Sanders – comment #42: When was the last time you saw a rood screen used?

    As these survivals were more peculiarly British, I’ve never seen one. But the LMS of England and Wales still celebrates Masses behind rood screens where these are in place. Since visual barriers had fallen out of general Western use well before the introduction of the elevations, this fits just fine into that same continuum of development – the people did indeed push for greater visual access, until they didn’t. Joe Schmo thought he’d reached a good enough balance long before the select reformers began agitating for versus populum.

    That being said, visual obstructions are not as Western (though they were used in certain areas in early days) as Eastern/Byzantine. Whereas the Byzantines accentuated mystery by removing the action from view (as they still do to this day, celebrating ad orientem for that matter), we Westerners chose to remove it from our hearing – enter the “silent canon.” I can’t speak for Alexandrians, Armenians, or Syrians (east and west), but from our two most prominent and populous ritual families it would appear that the attempt to make the whole of the Action accessible to all the senses goes against the instincts of the Apostolic churches.

    1. @Aaron Sanders – comment #46:

      As these survivals were more peculiarly British, I’ve never seen one.

      I’m not sure where rood screens got into the discussion, but as a data point they are to be found in other parts of Europe too. The Cathedral at Albi, France, is the first one that springs to mind. A brief glance at wikipedia (!) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rood_screen gives Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Perhaps the British weren’t so peculiar after all.

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #64:

        I asked about Rood screens after he suggested that after the 13th century “we saw no subsequent expansion of the demand to look upon the priest.” (#42)

        My understanding was quite different from that, and the easiest way to suggest it was to point to the current lack of rood screens. The article you pointed to puts it as:

        “in Catholic countries they were generally removed during the Counter-reformation, when the retention of any visual barrier between the laity and the high altar was widely seen as inconsistent with the decrees of the Council of Trent.”

        Perhaps there is a way to reconcile with what he has said. I honestly can’t tell when he thinks elevations were introduced and rood screens removed, so I cannot judge. I was just pointing out that the impulse to visibility took hold in Catholic churches long before the 20th century, and certainly was not satisfied by elevations.

        The Wikipedia article suggests Brittany as the most likely place to find rood screens in use.

      2. @Jim McKay – comment #65:
        On this I humbly take the correction. I had, like a 19th century scholar, conflated rood screens with the earlier colonnaded screens that went out of fashion around the 10th century – and thereby assumed that rood screens were holdouts of an earlier tendency, not, as I see now, in fact a newly vigorous impulse. So what we have running instead are developments in parallel: the desire for greater visibility *of a certain type* (elevations) juxtaposed against a renewed interest in screening. Just as the elevation is really picking up steam (it did take a few centuries to gain universal acceptance after all), we have people saying, “you know what would also be great? more bars!”

      3. @Paul Inwood – comment #64:
        The *survivals* are what are peculiarly British (and, as your reference mentions, Scandinavian); you’ll note that most of the screens were removed in Catholic countries. I thus stand by this one.

  32. I often wonder how the classical Anglican position of celebrating the communion service at the north end of the holy table works out. I understand that it still finds a home in the Church of Ireland. I do remember reading in an Irish ceremonial that the practice is awkward, but the author felt it his duty to describe it since it hearkens back to the early days of the Irish Anglican Church.

    What I find interesting from old prints is that the sacred elements are the focus of the congregation while the priest is secondary. An example of real Anglican patrimony, IMHO!

  33. I really appreciate as orientem liturgies. I’ve seen them done a lot more frequently at Anglican Churches. I’m not opposed to versus populum masses in modern buildings where this arrangement is what was original. I don’t really like VP when you are in older buildings that still have elaborate high altars, and just smaller freestanding altars in front. I also think that with modern amplification that ad orientem is a big deal. I’ve seen it done in several Episcopal Churches, and I’ve seen it work well. But in the end, I’m ok with both ways. I don’t like all of the hate about eastward facing altars…is it really that big of a deal? Why can’t we have it both ways and it be ok?

  34. Jack Wayne : @Richard Rupnik – comment #19:Historical research does indicate that Jesus likely reclined on the same side of the (probably U-shaped) table as everyone else, as it was common at the time to leave one side empty so food could easily be served.

    So you’re saying that it is the servant who faces the people assembled? Perhaps if it was taught that way it would make more sense given the responsibility of the priest.

    1. Sean Keeler :

      Jack Wayne : @Richard Rupnik – comment #19:Historical research does indicate that Jesus likely reclined on the same side of the (probably U-shaped) table as everyone else, as it was common at the time to leave one side empty so food could easily be served.

      ### So you’re saying that it is the servant who faces the people assembled? Perhaps if it was taught that way it would make more sense given the responsibility of the priest.

      Perhaps you could clarify? I’m not sure what you are getting at.

      1. @Jack Wayne – comment #71:
        Perhaps you could clarify? I’m not sure what you are getting at.

        I think it might be a valid idea to think of the priest at Mass as the servant of the people, rather than the presider over them.

      1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #62:
        Charles, thanks for commenting here.

        I don’t think it’s fundamentalist in this case, when it’s such an important command directly from Our Lord. In the 11th century (I think it was), the pope wrote a very strong letter to a Benedictine abbot because he heard they were doing intinction. This is absolutely forbidden, he said, and it is required – he was very emphatic – that the communicant take and drink as Our Lord said. Of course this was when Communion was still always under both forms in the West, although going to Communion at all was rare for laity.
        awr

      2. @Charles Culbreth – comment #62:
        I don’t know. I’ve never been there.

        If you would like to distinguish between a literal and a literalist interpretation of ‘Take and drink.’ I’d be happy to hear what you have to say.

  35. I’m not so concerned about what’s going on at the Cathedral in Lincoln, or the bishop’s pretty reasonable explanation. But has anyone looked at the link regarding that parish church in Exeter? “Ad Deum?” The Holy Mass being a prayer to Christ on the crucifix or in the tabernacle? Really?

    Ad Orientem…I can assent to that on one level because I’m a big fan of eschatology—but I’m even a bigger fan of a coherent Christology! These arguments obfuscate the central reality of the liturgy: that Christ the High Priest is offering the eternal sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father and interceding for the life of the world with his own redemptive sacrifice on the Cross. The baptized are united with him in this oblation to the Father through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. That reality can be expressed versus populum as well as ad orientem. That expression (intent of the priest celebrant, architect, or whomever), however, needs to be met by the reception of the people (assuming the people are present!), the ars celebrandi—the interior capacity of those celebrating the liturgy to receive and live the mysteries celebrated in the sacred rites.

    1. @Ed Nash – comment #68:

      On a bus, the driver being the presider. I think the analogy is apt. We’re all going the same way, led by the one at the wheel, the destination straight ahead.

    2. @Ed Nash – comment #68:

      The word “presider” naturally paints a different picture than other words we might use — officiant, celebrant, etc. The image I have in mind with ad orientem, perhaps, is a shepherd (Latin – pastor) leading his flock to a destination. That probably does not match most of “our” culture, but it’s one closely tied to Jesus, and by extension to the episcopacy and the priesthood. Its echo remains today in the title “pastor,” notably.

      It could be the military service member in me talking, but it’s never much offended me when marching in formation that the unit commanders (leadership, if you will) are out in front, facing forward as they lead us along, rather than facing me. After all, they risk tripping if they’re trying to lead while facing me. 😉

      Even the person calling cadence usually stands to the side or ( far less often) in back, rather than in full view of the unit.

      Much like the pastoral image, though, the unit formation is not one most people readily identify with these days. We have instead images of bosses looking at us from behind a desk, shows being coordinated and put on by a host, etc.

      Mostly, though, I go to Church to get what I cannot find elsewhere. I have people looking me in the eye all day every day, and I can get that attention anywhere. I can only receive Christ’s Body and Blood in Church, exceptional cases aside.

      I admit it would vex me if the person delivering a sermon or reading lessons weren’t facing the congregation, but they’re explicitly addressing the congregation then, rather than leading us along toward our destination or addressing prayers to God.

      I go to masses celebrated versus populum when there are no options for ad orientem available, but that’s with the understanding that I’m willing to drive an hour for the latter if I have to do so.

      1. @Shaughn Casey – comment #74:
        It could be the military service member in me talking…

        I had the exact same response to the earlier comment. As a unit commander, not only are you marching along without seeing your unit, but you’re hoping like crazy that 1) they really are still behind you and 2) you haven’t screwed everything up!

        That’s as good a demonstration of faith as you’re likely to encounter.

  36. One aspect that is missing from this discussion is human disposition. I would say that many people, especially in an eye contact culture, want to see the priest’s face and actions. Ad orientem is, for some, a gesture of rejection, as if individual persons and the assembly are not worthy of the celebrant’s attention as primarily indicated by eye contact and facial gesture. As Deacon Fritz notes at #34, ad orientem might relieve some of the performance pressure on the clergy. However, this might be at the expense of the affective needs of the faithful.

    I don’t know if this phenomenon is related to introversion and extroversion. I suspect that the aforementioned sentiment is not entirely dependent on these two variables. Perhaps the intersection of these phenomena merit further study.

    I used to think that the first Consilium instruction forced versus populum on a Roman Rite which greatly preferred the then status quo. I now realize that reception of versus populum was, and is, a highly individual and personal sentiment. It’s interesting that some people who have tagged along with me to the EF comment afterwards that the biggest stumbling block for them is ad orientem, and not Latin. I’ve never been able to respond to that statement well.

  37. It occurs to me that one message of the priest facing away from the people is that the people are irrelevant in the communication between God and the community. Most every Christian knows God is everywhere. Facing a crucifix or reredos is not really required, in the sense of getting the message to the Divine.

    Do the expressions and mannerisms of a priest communicate something to the people in terms of what or how they should be expressing communication to God? I wonder if part of the near-universal acceptance of the priest facing the people was to assist the assembly in taking their part in the responses and gestures of the new Mass.

    So often it seems to me that arguments for “tradition” can get unhinged from actual tradition. Things also get forgotten in the intervening years.

    The priest facing the people was a good, nearly universally accepted practice. But if Bishop Conley is facing liturgical east this Advent, I hope he has the good grace to turn off his mic when it’s the people’s turn to pray and respond.

  38. Jack Wayne : @Todd Flowerday – comment #56: Is someone only a sheep stealer if his liturgy is the EF? Or would you, Todd, be a sheep stealer too if a person visiting your parish found your music program to be far more edifying than their old parish, or found the preaching or environment better? What if they switched to your parish because it seemed more welcoming? I can’t speak for Ben Yanke, but I’d say about a third or more of the people at the EF I attend are coming from “outside” the Church – meaning we “steal” them from the SSPX or other traditionalist groups.

    While I can’t speak for you, I’d think it’s much lower around here, more like 10-20%. It is always unfortunate to see people on the edge like that. Of course, I love the EF, but I would never, ever, consider leaving the church over an issue like that. I’d suffer through crappy lefty liturgy any day to attend my obligation and get to Mass to worship God.

    It is truly unfortunate.

  39. To change the direction of this discussion slightly, it seems pretty clear that the change from celebrating facing the people at a freestanding altar in the first millennium to celebrating at an altar attached to a reredos is connected with the advent of the tabernacle into churches in the 10th-12th centuries.

  40. A source familiar with the parish church in Exeter, NE, reports that the people face West in this church…so “ad orientem” would literally mean the priest facing the people as well. I guess “ad Deum” (Jesus in the tabernacle) trumps geography and justifies celebrating “ad occidentem.” 0y!

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