Cardinal Sarah asks priests to start celebrating Mass facing east this Advent

From Catholic Herald:Cardinal Sarah asks priests to start celebrating Mass facing east this Advent.” And that people kneel for the consecration and reception of Communion.

I wonder how much confusion this will cause, before it’s clarified that this is only the private opinion of the cardinal prefect?

I also wonder what Pope Francis’s practice will be at daily Mass in St. Martha’s chapel, come Advent.

148 comments

  1. I think it’s a good idea. But then again I think it’s a good idea that women don’t drive, both, or work outside the house.

    See the point?

  2. The most interesting part is the following: In his talk, Cardinal Sarah also said that Pope Francis had asked him to begin a study of “the reform of the reform”, that is of adapting the liturgical reforms that followed the Second Vatican Council. The cardinal said the study would seek “to enrich the two forms of the Roman rite”.

    It mentions enriching both forms of the Roman Rite. And, while Summorum Pontificum suggested that the interplay between the two forms would have this effect, this will be a balloon that could well influence the negotiations with the SSPX — and not in a good way.

    Specifically, the laity that follow them will latch onto this and see it as a trial balloon of the 1965 and 67 Tres abhinc annos revisions. To me, it looks like a proposal that could do damage to what the PCED is engaged in.

    The ironic thing is, I think it is much more likely that the Cardinal intends to issue propers for new Saints for the Extraordinary form, and is unlikely to change it in other ways at this time.

  3. Is this (a) Cardinal Sarah’s personal preference and a kind of request or (b) a statement with some authority to be followed by all priests? One wonders what Pope Francis will do at the Casa Santa Marta.

  4. I like kneeling to receive communion. But then two weeks ago I sprained my knee. Will being unable to kneel invalidate my reception? If not, what’s the point?

    There are lots of elderly people in my (hopefully temporary) straights.

    1. @jeff armbruster:
      Well, at Holy Rosary, the Dominican Parish in Portland —where the music is exquisite, the Liturgy correct and sermons are to die for— we have a Communion rail. Persons who cannot or will not kneel simply stand at the rail next to the others kneeling and receive communion either in the hand or on the tongue. It is very non-problematical for everyone, much quicker, and imho much more devout.

  5. What is the message? Is the message that the priest facing “east” (it is not east in every church) is better and more sacred?

    1. @Bill Kish:

      The message appears to be this:

      “The liturgy is not about you and I… It is not where we celebrate our own identity or achievements or exalt or promote our own culture and local religious customs. The liturgy is first and foremost about God and what He has done for us.”

      It’s an important message.

      Ironically however, the Cardinal doesn’t seem to get his own message, putting his own particular liturgical views and understandings front and center, and then wanting to impose them on others.

      Maybe someone ought to tell him, once and for all: “Stop trying to make Ad Orientem happen. IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!”

      1. @Fr Stephen Petrica #35:

        I meant Ad Orientem becoming the norm, as in: Pope Francis is never going to issue a decree that asks priests to celebrate mass ad orientem.

        If he does, I will, of course, eat my words.

        Until then, Cardinal Sarah can say whatever he wishes to whichever audiences he chooses, but his words will just be that: his words that have no binding power whatsoever.

        And, as Philip Sandstrom #17 noted, in this case, it looks like Sarah was just preaching to his choir.

        ETA: BTW, “It’s not going to happen” is a meme from Mean Girls, which I gather you are not familiar with, Father? 🙂

      2. @Elisabeth Ahn:
        I do not know whether it is going to happen or not, but in the communities where mass is celebrated ad orientem, in France, my country, there are 5 times more vocations than in the other communities.

        I do not mean that the orientation of the priest is in itself the cause of the fecundity of those communities but it certainly contributes to the atmosphere that promotes those vocations.

    2. @Bill Kish:
      Liturgical east is not necessarily geographical east. The idea behind Cardinal Sarah’s call is : let the Lord be at the center of our celebration and not the community nor the celebrant. Let the personality of the celebrant disappear and let us look all in the same direction : towards the coming Lord.

  6. Talk about re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

    It would seem that a prerequisite for celebrating mass with the people is that said people walk through the doors of the church before it starts. If a priest faces liturgical east and nobody is there to witness it, did it really happen?

  7. Those who remember the pre-Vatican II liturgy -when the priest celebrated ad orientem – will recall the near total lack of congregational participation. Versus populum had the effect of increasing full, active and conscious participation. Vernacular language also helped. Versus populum also beautifully signified the aspect of the mass as meal, an aspect much neglected for centuries. Meal/sacrifice is not either/or but both/and, and indeed sacrifice cannot be understood without realizing that the mass is a meal because it is a sacrifice. What will we lose if we go back to ad orientem? In my opinion, it is a return to a deficient way of celebrating and an impoverished theology of the Eucharist.

    1. @Mark Woodruff:
      Have you ever experienced an ad orientem Mass of Vatican II? I have, and it included Gregorian chant, and there was better participation than I have ever seen at a versus populum Mass. Yes, the whole congregation would sing the even the entire Gloria and Credo in Latin. It’s just not that hard.

      1. @Diana Silva:
        Incidental, specific examples or experiences typically do not extrapolate to statements about the general case. Statements like “In my experience . . .” or “In my parish . . .” and the like contribute well to a compilation of anecdotes, incidents, examples. Contingent, yes. Necessary, maybe, maybe not.

    2. @Mark Woodruff:
      Yes, I remember the pre-Vatican II liturgy very well, and I recall nothing like “the near total lack of congregational participation.” In fact, I vehemently deny the myth of people fingering their rosaries during Mass, etc. etc. This might have been true of inner city ethnic parishes, but in the Western Suburbs of Chicago when people came to Mass, they came with their missals, and they followed them assiduously, praying with the priest albeit silently. Specifically I remember(and miss) at the “incarnatus est” the whole congregation went down on one knee en masse. It was thunderous. It was glorious. Was that full active participation or what? At the the elevation before Communion, the whole congregation recited the “Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum sed tantum dic verbo et sanibitur anima mea” three times out loud. Otherwise, how would I remember it so well? Moreover, regarding full, active participation, the Church was FULL. If you came late to any but a very early Mass, you could not get a seat. The usher would go up and down the aisles asking people to squeeze in so that late comers would have a seat. More than that, if you made a brief thanksgiving after Mass and looked over your shoulder on the way out, you would see a number of people throughout the Church kneeling, their heads buried in their hands communing with their God. That kind of devout piety was readily observable throughout the Mass, especially during the canon. Does this kind of interior, devout communion with God not rise to the level of “full, active and conscious participation” hmmm? Better we should hold hands and sing, “Let us build the city of God” or better yet, “Come play in the forest, come dance in the fields” than which nothing is more vastly mindless, vapid, insipid, cloying, saccharine compared with the liturgical treasures we were conned into discarding to achieve the vaunted “full, active and conscious participation” of the few who come…

      1. @Lee Gilbert:
        Two problems with this rosy view of things before Vatican II:
        1. There are many reasons why people went to church then and don’t now, most of them having nothing to do with the liturgical reform. Nostalgia sometimes blinds people to very large cultural forces that are the real cause, apart from liturgical reforms.
        2. The last ecumenical Council disagreed with your evaluation. The fathers of Vatican II knew all about then-progressive celebrations of the Tridentine Mass with heroic efforts, including some successes, to involve people at Mass. And they made a judgment: that form of Mass needed reforming because it was not adequate. The bishops who led the charge for liturgical reform – from central Europe – were the ones most familiar with successful active participation at Tridentine Mass. At still they rejected it and called for something different. You can idealize how great it was before Vatican iI, but the official position of the church really is, “Been there, done that, no going back.” At least for those who accept Vatican II.
        awr

      2. @Anthony Ruff, OSB:
        Regarding the large cultural forces at work to draw people off from the Church, it was actually a very small cultural force with a 21 in screen endlessly secularizing us, walking down both our morals and our devotion and to great effect. Against this no one said or is saying ANYTHING. The superior moral imperative of fitting in trumps all. This started in the mid-fifties and by the early sixties the “vocations crisis” was already underway. I very clearly remember the assistant pastor bawling out the congregation ( as priests used to do) for this in the early sixties.

        Regarding your second point, I reported a number of facts which you characterize as an “evaluation” or a “rosy view.” I can see where this would be irritating when practically the entire rhetorical thrust against the pre-Vatican II liturgy is premised on a congregation mindlessly reciting the Rosary and only present at all because missing Mass on Sunday was a mortal sin. How mindless, inattentive and uninformed we were then in the view of people who haven’t the slightest notion what they are talking about.! Yet in fact the bulk of the congregation had been through eight years of Catholic grammar school and knew very well what the Mass was about, were present prayerfully and attentively. Moreover, as a people we lived very disciplined, holy lives, kept truly sacrificial Lents and ember days, kept the Friday abstinence strictly, kept a Communion fast from food AND water from midnight till reception. As a result, grace abounded. Perhaps two or three times a year the Lord showed up in a very big way at Sunday Mass, usually as the result of a powerful sermon. In other words, the presence of God was nearly palpable. This of course is incommunicable, but it was all but Shekinah glory. Of this, very few people in the Church now can say, “Been there, done that.” I can see where you would characterize such glorious facts as idealization, but it was only reportage

      3. @Lee Gilbert:
        You should talk to my mother, all my aunts and uncles, and all the people of that generation from my home parish who have ever reported to me what it was like at Mass before Vatican II. None of them share your recollection of it. This too is a fact. So let’s leave it that: memories and evaluations differ.
        awr

      4. @Lee Gilbert:
        and others who have commented on the experience of Mass before Vatican II …

        Given that we are talking about the experiences of millions of Catholics back then and millions more today, we can be sure that no one way of celebrating Mass is the most meaningful to everyone.

        However good our intentions, we are all susceptible to faulty memories and biased recollections, both in ourselves and in others. As I have suggested before, survey research in the years immediately following the Council can help all of us to better understand the realities of American Catholics’ experiences at that time.

        A previous post – five years ago here at PrayTell – may be worth revisiting so that our discussion can be more well-informed: http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2011/04/15/what-us-catholics-thought-of-vatican-ii-in-1967/

      5. @Lee Gilbert:
        What you describe may have been true in the western suburbs of Chicago, but I was in the northern suburbs at that time, and the thunks of the rosary beads against the wooden pew backs was positively deafening, especially at the early Masses. You may have been in a parish with a pastor who had been influenced by the Liturgical Movement and was making the best he could out of a bad thing.

      6. @Lee Gilbert:
        Regarding: “This might have been true of inner city ethnic parishes, but in the Western Suburbs of Chicago when people came to Mass, they came with their missals, and they followed them assiduously, praying with the priest albeit silently.”
        – As I recall, these missals were bilingual, Latin / English (with an Hebrew, or Greek word used). Though I am aware that missals in Latin / Polish, and Latin / German were available. I do not recall any missals for the laity that were in Latin / Spanish.
        – Unlike Chicago and a few other large cities that could be called ‘catholic enclaves’ where thanks to the parochial school systems, many laity had an elementary reading knowledge of Latin, for most places in the USA this was not so. Thus, if missals were used, they were used solely for the not-Latin sections thus the missal became more of a privately used prayer book. As a result, vocalizing responses in Latin was not the norm, though after Vatican II there was a period in a lot of places where mass cards with responses in Latin were made available to be used when prompted.
        – Let us also recall that the rites for the other sacraments were also in Latin, though pastors did interject pastoral expository reflections, using the modern language of the congregants during these rites.
        – In short, Latin was incomprehensible for most of USA and a consequence was few could explain how language and ritual were articulated together as an expression of the faith.

      7. @Lee Gilbert:
        During a presidential visit to Minnesota in October 1962, Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.) and his wife, Abigail, took President John Kennedy to Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Abigail McCarthy remembered:
        “He [President Kennedy] teased me about the missal I was carrying and said, ‘That seems to be the thing now—Teddy carries one around that he can hardly lift with both hands.’ . . . Once in the pew, the president started when the congregation broke out into a strong-voiced Missa recitata and said, ‘God, nobody briefed me on this.’ Out of deference to the president, who did not know the responses, Gene also stood mute through the service.” (“Private Faces / Public Places,” Doubleday 1972, p. 242)

  8. I wish an open discussion of liturgical postures could be separated from ideologically predetermined positions. I’m guilty of this too. But I wish “progressive” liturgists noted more clearly some of the positive sign value of ad oriented prayer while “traditionalists” noted more clearly some of its problems. Then there could be a discussion of how to move forward with or without changes. The same could be said about holding hands during the Our Father, kneeling for communion, the laity raising hands during blessings, etc.

    1. @Steven Surrency:

      I wish an open discussion of liturgical postures could be separated from ideologically predetermined positions… I wish “progressive” liturgists noted more clearly some of the positive sign value of ad oriented prayer while “traditionalists” noted more clearly some of its problems. Then there could be a discussion of how to move forward with or without changes.

      Yes.

      Now I really wish Cardinal Sarah had framed his talk in this way.

    2. @Steven Surrency:
      One virtue is that it suggests a pilgrimage: a community heading to a common destination and the priest is leading that. Does that image serve well when a community has gathered for the Eucharist, which is more like a pilgrimage station than part of the active walk?

      Since I think the radial focus of Christ at the center of a liturgy satisfies a common focus. Ideally less focus on the orientation of the priest would allow more for the Lord.

      1. I fully agree with your comment. Last time I attended a ceremony at a War Memorial we were all facing the monument while the wreath was laid, the Last Post played and other honors rendered to the fallen soldiers. Nobody felt frustrated that who presided the ceremony was not facing us but was facing the monument. We were not the focus, the fallen soldiers represented by the monument were.

      2. @Jean-Luc Dalmasso:
        A ceremony is much different than a mass that is celebrated daily. A Ceremony witnessed by participants that are not present day in and day out, is much different than a celebration of the mass by all present day in and day out–by parishioners who are invested in many ways in the community that gathers to celebrate. Standard practices acceptable for a ceremony is not acceptable for the celebration of the Eucharist.

  9. I once attended Mass where the celebrant celebrated the Liturgy of the Eucharist facing the altar. The difference was profound. Our natural focus was not on the man/celebrant, but rather on the divine action taking place.

  10. Upon reading the article in the Catholic Herald, it should be prominently noted that this talk was given at a Meeting of a group of Traditionalists who would strongly agree with his proposals and for ‘the reform of the reform” as the Roman Rite ideal. I think that should be taken into account when commenting on what the Cardinal said and the audience reaction too.

  11. “… priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction – eastwards or at least towards the apse – to the Lord who comes”.
    Yes, the Lord comes – the eschatological dimension is important.
    But the Lord has already come. The Lord is already among us. The gathered people are the living Body of Christ, gathered around the table of the Lord. This is what the Lord has done. This is what we celebrate.
    Ad orientem obscures this vital insight.

  12. #18 – +2 from me as well.
    The language about liturgical praxis that somehow sets up God and the worshiping assembly in a dichotomy is basing the liturgy on a false dichotomy. When we offer God the Father the sacrifice of Christ yet again through the power of the Holy Spirit, it because there is a both/and at work, not an either/or.

  13. I think that what this means is that if some priests take the initiative of doing it, they cannot be confident that Cardinal Sarah will back them and turn a deaf ear to complaints that might reach him. It’s not an obligation, but an implicit promise that they should feel free to do it without fear of being called to order.

    But if a priest started doing that, what would the bishop say? Is Cardinal Sarah suggesting that if there is a disagreement between a priest and his bishop, he would side with the priest? Or is he just suggesting that, where the bishop is sympathetic to the Reform of the Reform, nobody will get in the way of an East-facing Mass? The latter seems more likely, and perhaps is what is meant by “prudence” and “wherever possible”.

    So, in every diocese where the bishop favors it, every priest that favors it will be free to celebrate Mass facing East; and Cardinal Sarah is perhaps suggesting that this could have more of an impact if it’s a concerted effort that happens all at once starting this Advent.

  14. Vic Romero : @Diana Silva: Incidental, specific examples or experiences typically do not extrapolate to statements about the general case. Statements like “In my experience . . .” or “In my parish . . .” and the like contribute well to a compilation of anecdotes, incidents, examples. Contingent, yes. Necessary, maybe, maybe not.

    It’s the specific experiences that most powerfully illustrate (for the one who had the experiences) the disconnect between the experience and the pronouncements about how the experience should have been interpreted. If ad orientem liturgy is supposed to have been non-participatory, how odd that supposition seems when one is in the midst of an ad orientem liturgy that is supremely participatory, with full singing of the ordinary, responses, and hymns, and everyone focused on the altar and the Blessed Sacrament?

    1. @Scott Knitter:
      You are exactly right, Scott. Personal anecdotes are powerful. Still, they don’t rise to the level of statements of general principles. They may. They may not. That’s what coefficients of correlation are about. And data points. And curves.

  15. I have seen “progressive” implementations that bring in an “ad orientam” orientation. Specifically, the presider’s chair: I have seen it placed outside the sanctuary, in the first row of seats, such that when the presider is seated (as during the proclamations of the readings), he is seated with the assembly. This tends to emphasize that the priest is not “special” and hovering over every stage of the proceedings as the leader, but rather part of the assembly listening to the proclamation of God’s word. It tends to bring the priest back to the assembly. I suppose this goes to the meaning of the presider’s role and even his chair, and perhaps is worthy of consideration.

    I’ve also heard it pointed out that dining customs that would have prevailed during the time and place of the Last Supper were that the host and his guests would all be arrayed in a row along a single side of the table (rather than gathered around all four sides of the table). I am not sure what it would mean to try to realize that in a Eucharistic celebration, but there may be a point of historical reference to it.

    1. @Jim Pauwels:
      The priest is not special, is he? Who else can by the power of Jesus’ words transform bread into the Lord’s flesh?

      The Lord did not celebrate the Last Supper at a table; he and the apostles were lying down.

  16. Many a parish will pursue more “solemn” or “high” liturgy during the seasons of Advent or Lent, to bring attention to the fact that these seasons are a bit different in their nature than the rest of the Church year, with both being characterized at least in part by anticipation of things to come. It might be as simple as using only Eucharistic Prayer I the entire season, or, as Card Sarah has suggested, kneeling for communion or facing the altar as a congregation.

    I don’t see the harm in connecting people, if only briefly or in a small, symbolic way, to the liturgy of their parents, their grandparents, and 90% or so of the saints on the calendar.

  17. To me the ad orientem stance to the versus populum stance is like texting a conversation or speaking a conversation.

    Is there a difference? Yes.
    Is there a time and place for each? Yes.
    Is the connection (a limbic connection) different? Yes.
    Is there a reason for each? Yes.
    Will people who support one go to that one and participate? Probably.

    Is one holier than the other? Please dear God no.
    Does participating in one make one holier over participating in the other? Cmon.
    Does the Trinitarian God (or any of the three persons) have a preference for either? That presumption is dangerous.
    Can we at least admit that?

    #7 Jim P…I think about your first sentence all the time.

  18. O pleeeeese!
    The cardinal worries about which way the priest should face when he should be worrying about the reality of having a priest at all.
    As vocations crumble, we ignore the problem, won’t even discuss options that might be available and castigate those who ask the significant questions.
    The voice of the laity is ignored. but it will be alright without the celebrant provided we are facing East.
    A reality check is urgently needed

    1. @Chris McDonnell:

      “The cardinal worries about which way the priest should face when he should be worrying about the reality of having a priest at all.”

      Quite so. But if I’m not mistaken, Benedict XVI believed that this sort of liturgical reform as having the priest face “ad orientam” would bring about a renewal of the church, such that people would return to the pews, vocations would get a new shot of life, etc.

      For myself, I am certain that holy and life-giving liturgical celebration is required. But in my view, the program of evangelization that is needed to renew the church is much broader and wider, and in a sense “precedes” the liturgy. I happen to think we’re at the send-out-72-disciples-in-pairs stage at present.

    2. @Chris McDonnell:
      The “reality check” shows that the shortage of vocations is not the lot of every diocese in America. And as a matter of fact the dioceses where seminaries are full are all from the same liturgical ad orientem sensitivity.

  19. Did he really say “The liturgy is not about you and I?”
    Thank heavens he is not in charge of translating the liturgy into English.
    Oh!

  20. Since both ad orientem and versus populum are both acceptable ways of offering the Mass, would it really be so bad if every parish had one ad orientem Mass? I’d wager 99% of postV2 Catholics have never seen one.

  21. The earth is becoming flatter every day. Someone should start a society to promote it…….

  22. One of my most illuminating liturgical conversations was with an older woman who remembered that when she was in the 8th grade in New Jersey, the tradition was that an 8th grade girl was to lead the congregation in praying the Rosary outloud during Mass.

    I literally couldn’t take it in. I asked over and over “You don’t mean before Mass or after Mass or silently by yourself. Are you saying the congregation prayed the Rosary OUTLOUD together in the main body of the sanctuary while the priest was celebrating Mass in Latin on the altar?” And she kept assuring that was exactly what she meant.

    As she put it, since she was the only 8th grade girl who showed up, she always had to lead the Rosary.

  23. In response to Jay Edward, they probably don’t care that they haven’t seen one. Besides, there are plenty of YouTube and movie examples should they care to see what it is all about.

    1. @Reyanna Rice:

      I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to make one option mandatory everywhere. Why is one valid option treated as something unthinkable?

      I do think having the priest facing the same direction would cut back on the temptation to crack jokes, improvise, and turn Mass into the priest show.

      1. @Jay Edward:
        “I do think having the priest facing the same direction would cut back on the temptation to crack jokes, improvise, and turn Mass into the priest show.”

        While I am very sympathetic to this specific concern, I am also aware that rationalized egoism can be displayed in other ways in other orientations.

  24. Anyone noticing that Francis does not follow any of the diktats of his Prefect?

    Anyone confident that the the vast majority of pastorally-minded priests will simply ignore this effusion?

    Sarah is simply doing what Arinze did: stating his personal preferences. That’s all they are. One wishes that some people would rejoin the Church on the ground.

    Am I the only one singing in my head “Que sera, Sarah!” ?

  25. Wasn’t it Cardinal Sarah who sat on Pope Francis’ instruction to open up the Mandatum to women for more than a year? Perhaps his Advent proposal can left to gather dust for a few years.

  26. I am sympathetic to both those in favor of ad oriented and those opposed. What discourages me is how negative comments about the old rite (Extraordinary Form) get brought into the argument in an unnuanced way. Praying an English Novus Ordo mass aloud is not automatically comparable to praying the old rite silently while people pray the rosary. It is also not some sort of magic pill that will restore Eucharisric devotion.

  27. This is totally absurd. Sarah knows nothing about Liturgy and should have never been made Prefect.

    1. @Mike Burns: I agree and it illustrates the pope’s sloppy management style. Sarah’s the most thoroughly clueless head of the congregation of Divine Worship, perhaps on record.

  28. Ad Orientem in the reformed rite of the Eucharist cannot possibly be compared to its use in the older form. For one, the priest is not silent during the cannon and with modern amplification the communication between priest and people would not suffer. Not to mention its in the vernacular. Someone could argue that the priest is not looking at them and this causes communication to suffer. But, one is supposed to look at the one he or she is talking to. The point being that the priest isn’t talking to the congregation at that time, but to the Lord. Facing opposit the people could actually communicate this more effectively to the people. It seems the sign value is important here. To some it’s a sign of return to a worse liturgical experience. To others it’s a sign of the whole of the people turning its focus on the Lord. It’s also in complete conformity with the Second Vatican Council’s call to return to the sources and renew. Some want everything else to better reflect the sacred liturgy from the first one thousand years, but not this; how ironic.

    1. @Steve Hartley:
      I’ll second this – ad orientem in the OF is somewhat different from in the EF. In the EF, the entire Mass is celebrated at the altar. In the ad orientem OF Masses I have attended, the Liturgy of the Word and the conclusion of Mass are exactly the same, with the priest at the chair/ambo. It isn’t until the offertory that the priest goes to the altar. I should also note that only one of the ad orientem Masses I’ve attended in the OF was in Latin with communion kneeling – the others were vernacular with standing.

      People’s memories of the Mass from the 50s or before really can’t be applied to what an ad orientem OF would be like should they attend one. Those memories can’t be applied to current celebrations of the EF either, as I’ve never been to an EF that wasn’t at least equal in participation to any typical OF. I know someone will chime to say the EF has a more intentional community of worshippers than a typical OF, but I would argue that the OF in most western countries has an even more intentional community when compared to a typical celebration of the EF in the 50s or before. Indeed, the OF of today in many places enjoys a far more intentional group of worshippers than the Mass has ever had save for the early Church. Fewer people than ever before attend out of pure “obligation” or fear of Hell – most people stay home instead. People like to go on about how cultural issues have led to the massive decline in Mass attendance and vocations since the Second Vatican Council (largely letting the reform off the hook), but won’t concede that much of the EF’s lack of participation before the council had to do with the fact that church attendance was generally expected of people regardless of how devout they were. Make the majority of Catholics today attend Mass every single Sunday, and I bet you’ll see “active participation” drop like a lead balloon.

      1. @Jack Wayne:
        “People. . . won’t concede that much of the EF’s lack of participation before the council had to do with the fact that church attendance was generally expected of people regardless of how devout they were.” Again, the recurrent incorrect premise that the congregations of pre-Vatican II did not participate in the Mass. It is maddening. One way of settling this matter, I think, would be to obtain records if they exist for sales of St. Joseph Missal, the St. Andrew’s Missal and the like for the pre-Vatican II years. Going into Mass practically everyone had a missal in hand precisely so that they could participate in the Mass. Conversely, I have been at EF Masses particularly in my daughter’s convent where all the readings are in Latin and it is well-nigh unendurable, since I no longer have a missal to take with me. Similarly, it would have been unendurable for the pre-Vatican II congregations to attend without a missal, nor did they. It may be true that exterior participation was far less, at least in terms of vocalized responses, but at least in my opinion interior participation was far greater. That said, one thing that is very noticeable at many EF Masses is how long they take, whereas even Sunday Masses pre-Vatican II were limited to 45 minutes by and large since the Masses typically were on the hour, 8, 9, 10, 11 etc. The fifteen minute interval allowed the parking lot to empty and refill. So that was not good and led to the priests rushing through Mass, which they could since it was all in Latin. Had it been in English, it would have been scandalous. You can see incredible speed if you view Cdl Cushing’s celebration of the funeral Mass for Pres Kennedy. Not good, but this is not a reflection on the Latin Mass per se, but on the way it was celebrated. And this, ironically, was to accommodate the hordes of Catholics who attended Mass then.

      2. @Jack Wayne:
        Also, It is true that fear of committing mortal sin by missing Mass did bring many people to Church, nor was this a bad thing, since once there they received many graces. The precept built Catholic discipline into many people, so that what one did out of compulsion in the beginning became a salutary habit. To think, then, that the entire congregation was there solely because the alternative was eternal damnation is a big mistake. We were a disciplined people, by and large, who enjoyed the fruits of that discipline. We were not “out of grace” (to use Newman’s term) as we are now.

  29. Bill Kish : What is the message? Is the message that the priest facing “east” (it is not east in every church) is better and more sacred?

    Yup. Because that’s what the church has always believed, more or lesss from the beginning.

    1. @Ben Yanke:
      No, this has not the way it has been, more or less from the beginning. Were you in the Upper Room to know that Jesus was facing east?? The early celebrations of the Eucharist were in people’s homes. I doubt they were all facing east together. So your “more or less from the beginning” is a lot less than you think. Please give citations for your “more or less from the beginning”.

      1. @ Reyanna,
        I have quotes spanning the first 800 years of Christianity (from the likes of Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and John of Damascus), the earliest being from the second century, and reflecting the practices of Jerusalem, Ephesus, Rome, Alexandria, Turkey, Nyssa and Damascus. Many of the fathers claim turning to the east in prayer is of apostolic origin; and the way they give differing complementary explanations for this practice attests to its antiquity. For lack of space I can only give a short quote: Basil the Great (330-379); “Of the practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these…have the same force. And these no one will gainsay;—no one…who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching…Thus we all look to the East at our prayers…seeking…Paradise…in the East. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3203.htm

    2. @Ben Yanke:
      This and some other comments claim that facing east is a practice from the beginning of the church. A recent article in Worship magazine shows that the practice was diverse and mixed.

      The New Testament indicates that Eucharist was celebrated in the context of a real meal with real other food. This is the earliest tradition. No one claims that everyone faced East at these meals with Eucharist.

      awr

  30. Jack Wayne : @Steve Hartley: I’ll second this – ad orientem in the OF is somewhat different from in the EF. In the EF, the entire Mass is celebrated at the altar. In the ad orientem OF Masses I have attended, the Liturgy of the Word and the conclusion of Mass are exactly the same, with the priest at the chair/ambo. It isn’t until the offertory that the priest goes to the altar. I should also note that only one of the ad orientem Masses I’ve attended in the OF was in Latin with communion kneeling – the others were vernacular with standing.

    Just for factual accuracy, that’s not entirely true, bishops would almost always celebrate a large portion from either the throne or faldstool (unless it’s a low Mass). In particular the first half of the Mass would usually be done away from the altar.

  31. (addendum to #55 b/c I can’t seem to edit and submitted prematurely)

    So one could argue that the fullness of the liturgy would be celebrated at the chair, whereas the more stripped down versions would be from the altar. Perhaps a distinction without a difference, but just to lay it out there on a factual level…

  32. Is there any way to talk about this without insulting Cardinal Sarah?

    That would be nice, and might even lend credibility and class to the arguments some of us against his ideas.

    I have attended precisely one (1) mass that was celebrated ad orientum.
    It was with a fledgling ordinariate community, and it was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. And it was the first time I ever used a communion rail. Talk about an attentive, fully participating congregation! This was 2 months ago. I’ll be going back.

    1. @Agman Austerhauser:
      1. One can disagree with Cardinal Sarah without insulting him. People who dish out ad hominems deserve as much respect as they give.

      2. Anecdotes of personal experiences are good to read about. They are just that. Anecdotes. Data points. Many, many data points may converge to show a pattern, a trend, a curve or function. Then again, they may not.

  33. I am concerned with Cdl. Sarah’s recommendation that all receive the Eucharist kneeling. The posture of standing widely adopted after the Council is certainly a long-standing tradition in the apostolic East. This practice is as venerable as the kneeling Communion is in the West.

    I would hope that the clergy make every effort to ensure that all who wish to communicate at a Mass have the opportunity. For many reasons which are personal and not subject to public examination, many Catholics prefer not to kneel for Communion. These communicants must be given the option to stand and receive in the hand, if desired. I am convinced that forcing all communicants to kneel is unethical at best, even if I am a layman who arguably should not judge the determinations of clerics. I will anyway. Fencing the Eucharist by forcing one posture on all communicants sends the message that only certain people are worthy of God’s grace. This is a very slippery slope to slide down.

  34. On another point, I can’t kneel for Communion without help getting up. Period. We have a lady who hurls herself at the feet of the priest, receives orally and then flops off to the side, still kneeling but now in a crouch where the people further back in line who couldn’t see her flop can stumble over her when they get there. She has a sweet smile for the stumbler whenever that happens. I presume she would be Cardinal Sarah’s ideal.

    1. @tom_blackburn@juno.com:
      We have few odd balls like that too, who crouch and slither and make it difficult for one elderly priest to reach them (and they refuse to receive on the hand or from an EM). When I hear statements like Cardinal Sarah’s, I fear that it gives permission for more of this type of excess and feigned unworthiness that is so disruptive. I’ve always believed that Christ intended healthy human interaction and behavior to be part of the Eucharistic meal.

  35. What I don’t understand about facing East is that, if Catholics do it in churches around the world, since the earth is round it’s just making a really really big circle where each person is looking to the person Eats of them, so where is God supposed to be and why should we be facing East? Or does that mean “towards Jerusalem”, in the same way that Moslems are supposed to all face towards Mecca when they pray?

    1. @Claire Mathieu:
      Thank you for your real response in such honest down to earth language. I recall being at a stadium waiting to be picked up by a very dear friend ( who is also a priest) and he says i will pick you up at the west entrance. Silence by me??…and he says look up where the sun is…it was the afternoon…ok will do. My point is that many in the pew, and we are in fact important participants in the celebration, do not live our lives by directional (N, E, S, W etc.) orientation. It is not lost on most of us laity that the Trinitarian God is at center stage at Mass whatever the orientation of the Altar or priest. God-Prayer– always at the center of my life and heart. I was at a church in LA this summer in what is referred to as Koreatown. “Common Posture” was rather flexible at the Liturgy of the Eucharist and no one was being the liturgical police.

  36. On kneeling for communion, as with kneeling at other portions or standing, the axiom should be “Do what you can.” Some of the lessons during Holy Week can get a bit long, and not everyone can stand the whole time. I doubt anyone thinks less of a person who gets wobbly and has to sit down. Likewise, if a person can’t reasonably kneel, then they ought not, just as if a person can’t reasonably fast, they ought not. The reality of physical limitation ought not be an argument to get rid of something (that stinks of Bucer’s methodology for reforming the liturgy), but rather, it should be an argument for grace and understanding for the folks who, for whatever reason, cannot do the thing under discussion.

  37. Reyanna Rice : @Ben Yanke: No, this has not the way it has been, more or less from the beginning. Were you in the Upper Room to know that Jesus was facing east?? The early celebrations of the Eucharist were in people’s homes. I doubt they were all facing east together. So your “more or less from the beginning” is a lot less than you think. Please give citations for your “more or less from the beginning”.

    Yup, at a passover meal, christ would have been facing the same direction. And as Pope Benedict said, Christians have worshiped facing the same direction from the beginning…

    1. @Ben Yanke:

      Ben: “Yup, at a passover meal, christ would have been facing the same direction. And as Pope Benedict said, Christians have worshiped facing the same direction from the beginning…”

      Our Lord most likely reclined with his disciples in the triclinium / συμπόσιον format (both are neuter? hmm) Anyway, the Hellenistic / Roman dinner was not organized by geographical orientation but by the relative social status of diners. Dining is a pervasive topic in Roman literature, as social eating is found in all cultures and time periods. I would tell you what novels to read, but it’s not homeschool curriculum prime-time. Sign up for a college seminar on the Roman Novel for the real in-depth.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo:
        http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/reclining-and-dining-and-drinking-in-ancient-rome/

        (Understanding that AD 1st Century Palestinian Jews didn’t necessarily follow elite Roman and Greek practice in the ways illustrated, it’s clear there is some overlap in practice.)

        The 5th century mosaic from Ravenna I linked earlier in this conversation is not a literal presentation of the Last Supper, but more iconographically stylized, as Jesus is presented at the left end rather than next in (between John and Judas – Peter perhaps being at the opposite end).

  38. tom_blackburn@juno.com : On another point, I can’t kneel for Communion without help getting up. Period. We have a lady who hurls herself at the feet of the priest, receives orally and then flops off to the side, still kneeling but now in a crouch where the people further back in line who couldn’t see her flop can stumble over her when they get there. She has a sweet smile for the stumbler whenever that happens. I presume she would be Cardinal Sarah’s ideal.

    The straw man is strong with this one…. I’m sue Cardinal Sarah’s ideal would be that those who wish to kneel but can’t easily do so, following the longstanding traditions of the church, be given a way to do so easily, like a kneeler.

  39. Robin Jensen has an article in a recent Worship that invalidates the claim that the Church has always and everywhere practiced ad orientem from the beginning. I am not sure if her article was earlier this year or late last year.

  40. Ben Yanke :as Pope Benedict said, Christians have worshiped facing the same direction from the beginning…

    I don’t think a bare invocation of authority will do on this one.

    There are several churches in Rome that are not oriented and in which celebration toward the apse is impossible because of the martyr’s confessio over which the altar is built. San Giorgio in Velabro, Santa Sabina, and St. Paul Outside the Walls are examples. You can look them up on Google Earth to see their orientation, in case you don’t believe me. Which leads me to think that people back in the day were not as concerned about orientation as some modern folks claim.

    At the same time, I also don’t think that the sense of intimacy that some today find in versus populum celebration was much of a concern either, certainly not after the 4th century.

    Folks on both sides of this question need to be really careful about projecting modern concerns onto the past.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt #78:

      There are several churches in Rome that are not oriented and in which celebration toward the apse is impossible…

      Cardinal Napier also had some interesting questions re. St. Peter’s ( https://twitter.com/CardinalNapier):

      “When the Pope celebrates Mass using the high altar in St Peter’s he faces EAST but most of the Congregation faces West… Will he or the Congregation change the direction they face? Or will that altar be removed in favour of the Altar of the Chair?”

      Will he? Or Will it?

      Almost surely, no and no.

  41. I am the organist at a Catholic Cathedral, and have been a lifelong Catholic. However, for many years, I had been involved in music in the Episcopal Church and still typically attend the Association of Anglican Musicians conference and Episcopal services. Most Episcopal Churches face the people, but there are several “Anglo-Catholic” places (and some that are not particularly Anglo-Catholic”) that have Eastward facing altars. With modern amplification, the congregation can easily participate in the liturgy, and in fact, some of these eastward facing Anglican places have some of the best congregational participation that I’ve encountered (in some ways, worshiping the worship). Also, almost all Episcopal Churches use an altar rail and the congregants receive Communion kneeling without much of a fuss. Also, many of these Churches that are eastward facing are also very progressive on Social Justice issues and other things. Facing east and kneeling for communion at the altar rail don’t really seem to be an issue.

    I really don’t understand why this is such a divisive issue. I have no personal problem with eastward facing masses or masses facing the people. In fact, some variety can be a good thing. To each his own.

    1. @Beau Baldwin:

      This is a sentiment that I share, and that I wish got more discussion. Why is is that in the Catholic context ad orientem is a shibboleth for liturgical ideology, whereas in the ECUSA/ELCW you can find progressive social justice congregations with women celebrants that have altar rails and incense and ad orientem?

      For me, the question of why is this so divisive in the Roman Catholic Church is more fundamental and more important than arguing over the merits of one option or the other.

  42. Ah, just what we needed to add a little drama to our lives: Liturgy Wars Revisited……..coming perhaps to a parish near you. A prediction: No priest will be forced to “face east”, and except in parishes where the “little monsters” preside, no communicant will be forced to kneel for Communion. Standing is the USCCB directive, remember?

    1. @Jack Feehily:
      Or as the church historian Pelikan said well:
      Tradition is the living faith of the dead; not the dead faith of the living. Appears that Sarah and company fulfill what Pelikan defined as the difference between *traditionalism* and *tradition*. Sarah inevitably skews to traditionalism – practices that are culturally adapted rather than core, central beliefs.

  43. Pseudo-Justin Martyr (100-165)

    “Question: If God, the Lord of nature and of the universe, determined everything in creation according to the manner of the circle — wherefore David, too, has commanded us to “bless the Lord…in all places of his dominion”, and the Apostles has charged us to do the same, “in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands [to God]” — then why do we send hymns and prayers up to God while looking toward the sunrise, as though we considered that direction as an honorable work and as a divine dwelling place? And who taught the Christians this custom? Answer: Since we usually appoint what is more honorable to the glory of God, and since according to men’s way of thinking the sunrise is more honorable than the other directions in creation, therefore we all bow to the east when we pray. Just as we seal those persons who need it [with a blessing] in Christ’s name using the right hand, although it differs from the latter by convention and not by nature, even so the east, as the more honorable direction in creation, is appointed for the worship of God. Besides, the fact that we say our prayers facing toward the east in no way contradicts the word of the prophet or of the Apostle. For “in every place” the east is available for the one who prays. And since we worship [turned] in that direction in which we are facing, but it is impossible during prayer to look in all four directions creation, therefore we perform our acts of worship while looking in one direction of creation: neither because it alone is God’s work, nor because it has been designated the dwelling place of God, but because it has been designated the place of the worship that we offer to God. The Church, moreover, received the custom of praying from the same ones from whom she also received the custom of where to pray, that is, from the holy apostles.” (“Questions and Responses,” Question 118).

  44. Clement of Alexandria (150-215)

    “Therefore the most ancient temples also faced toward the west, so that those who stood opposite the images of the gods were taught to turn toward the east.” (Stomata VII, 43, 7).

    Origen (185-254)

    “So much for what seem to me to have been necessary observations in considering the place of prayer and in setting forth its special virtue in respect to place in the case of the meetings of saintly men who come together reverently in churches. A few words may now be added in reference to the direction in which one ought to look in prayer. Of the four directions, the North, South, East, and West, who would not at once admit that the East clearly indicates the duty of praying with the face turned towards it with the symbolic suggestion that the soul is looking upon the dawn of the true light? Should anyone, however, prefer to direct his intercessions according to the aperture of the house, whichever way the doors of the house may face, saying that the sight of heaven appeals to one with a certain attraction greater than the view of the wall, and the eastward part of the house having no opening, we may say to him that since it is by human arrangement that houses are open in this or that direction but by nature that the East is preferred to all the other directions, the natural is to be set before the artificial. Besides, on that view why should one who wished to pray when in the open country pray to the East in preference to the West? If, in the one case it is reasonable to prefer the East, why should the same not be done in every case? Enough on that subject.” (On Prayer) http://www.ccel.org/ccel/origen/prayer.xxi.html?highlight=east#highlight

  45. What I’ve read would seemingly support that idea that the early Christians might have celebrated Mass either way. What I find odd is how the practice of vs populum in the early Church somehow justifies making it the universal practice today, while the practice of ad orientem in the early Church followed by its near universal adoption by the entire Church fairly early on (making it the almost exclusive practice of the Church for the vast majority of her existence) somehow ISN’T enough to justify the practice today. Instead, it is decried as a step backward or wrongly seen as contrary to Vatican II.

    Also, while I’m willing to accept the findings of most scholars in regards to vs populum in the Early Church, it seems to not have as many concrete examples as ad orientem before the Roman Basilicas were built (and even then, there is seemingly no evidence of vs populum for its own sake, as those churches are oriented towards the east). All the diagrams I have seen of the oldest known house church (mid 200s) depict an eastward altar, and early writing (quoted by others in this thread) attests to eastward prayer. Perhaps the article in Worship better clears this up.

    1. @Ben Yanke:
      Which means what? Sorry, Pelikan would not agree with your opinion. In fact, as VII demonstrated with ressourcement, cultural adaptations and accretions all too often subsume and distract from the core, central tradition.
      Some of us here might respect that ad orientem has some type of cultural history but it is also an accretion.

  46. Paul Inwood is right … this is about Sarah’s personal preference nothing more … it really does, will not, and should not – carry any weight in terms of actual practice taking a dramatic and absolute shift. If it does, then I will seriously consider becoming a druid.

  47. Jack Wayne : All the diagrams I have seen of the oldest known house church (mid 200s) depict an eastward altar, and early writing (quoted by others in this thread) attests to eastward prayer. Perhaps the article in Worship better clears this up.

    It is true that there are remains of a platform at the east end of the house church at Dura Europos (which is what I presume you are referring to), but that does not really settle the question of which way the celebrant faced.

    The sad fact is, we have precious little archeological evidence for places of Christian worship prior to the 4th century, so it is really difficult to draw any conclusions on this basis.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt:
      What you’ve said makes me ask, “What is the evidence for celebrating the Eucharist toward the people?” If even in the earliest house church we know of the altar is against the eastern wall and in the earliest church orders ( like the Didiscalia 250 AD, quoted below) we have the instruction to face east at prayer, and the near universal uses of this custom, it seems to me the burden of proof is on the opposing side. Not to mention, Jewish orientation toward the Temple at prayer and the wide spread practice of facing east at the ancient Christian churches of the pre-Nicean era. I don’t think the early Christians woke up one day and just decided to turn east. Here is the Didiscalia, “Now, in your gatherings, in the holy Church, convene yourselves modestly in places of the brethren, as you will, in a manner pleasing and ordered with care. Let the place of the priests be separated in a part of the house that faces east. In the midst of them is placed the bishop’s chair, and with him let the priests be seated. Likewise, and in another section let the lay men be seated facing east. For thus it is proper: that the priests sit with the bishop in a part of the house to the east and after them the lay men and the lay women, and  when you stand to pray, the ecclesial leaders rise first, and after them the lay men, and again, then the women. Now, you ought to face towards the east to pray for, as you know, scripture has it, Give praise to God who ascends above the highest heavens to the east.” (Didiscalia, 250 AD)

  48. When the liturgical rubrics changed in the 60’s it was rough for me but someone explained they were trying to make the mass more like it was in the very early church when people gathered in home churches together in a circular community and the priest came from the community. The changes also made for more participation of the laity and what a blessing that was to be able to take part by being a lector or Eucharistic Minister. It really became “the work of the people” which is the definition of liturgy. I felt to be on “holy ground”. I have grown so much to love this design for to me it best exemplifies “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” However, now I feel the pendulum once again swinging backwards and we seem to be powerless to stop it. I cherish the Eucharist so I will be there holding back the tears. I wonder what Jesus thinks…?

  49. Perhaps the Classical Anglican use of the north end of the altar can offer a different perspective. The use of the north end has some benefits. The sacred elements may be clearly seen by the congregation along with the manual actions of the priest. The Officiant is subordinated to the liturgy and is no longer the big talking face.

    This was until recently the usual way of celebrating the Holy Eucharist in the Church Of Ireland, and may still be found in some of her more conservative parishes. I’ve seen Internet pictures of this use on an elaborate altar in Bangor Cathedral, but this may have been for reenactment purposes.

    My Irish ceremonial does stress that this may be an awkward position for those accustomed to either the eastward or westward positions.

  50. JOSEPH A. JUNGMANN, S.J. (1950).
    The Mass of the Roman Rite:
    ITS ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT
    (Missarum Sollemnia).
    Translated by FRANCIS A. BRUNNER, C. SS. R.

    p. 72

    8. “Roman Stational Services in the Seventh Century”

    . . . Then begins the canon,
    taking the word in the comprehensive meaning it then had.
    Each one has taken his appointed place.
    Normally that would mean that the pope,
    coming from his cathedra,
    would stand behind the altar facing the people
    -for the church usually was not oriented in our sense,
    but “occidented,”
    the entrance towards the East.
    . . .

    1. @Vic Romero #96:

      … for the church usually was not oriented in our sense,
      but “occidented,”
      the entrance towards the East.

      Love this — thank you!

      Plus, what Father Jack said @ #97 (except maybe for the last sentence, since I’m never not curious about “how many angels can..” kinds of questions).

    2. @Vic Romero:
      Sorry to burst your bubble, but Jungmann and other scholars of the liturgy later recanted their earlier position which didn’t get much press. Here is a quote from Cardinal Ratzinger’s, “the Spirit of the Liturgy,” as he quotes Boyer,
      “Once again let me quote Bouyer:
      Never and nowhere before (that is, before the sixteenth century) is there any indication of the slightest importance being attached, or even attention given, to the question of whether the priest should celebrate with the people behind him or in front of him. Professor Cyril Vogel has proved that, “if anything was stressed, it was that the priest should recite the Eucharistic Prayer, like all other prayers, turned towards the East Even when the orientation of the church allowed the priest to pray facing the people, we must not forget that it was not just the priest who turned to the East, but the whole congregation with him” (p. 56).

      1. @Steve Hartley #99:

        If this is a question that is so unquestionably settled, as you seem to think, why do you think Ratzinger when he became pope didn’t make it into a liturgical law that every priest has to follow? He never shied away from making challenging and controversial (and unpopular) liturgical decisions — remember Summorum Pontificum?

      2. @Steve Hartley:

        Jungmann’s rigorous scholarship is evident in his work.
        You don’t really expect me to believe you when you say “Jungmann and other scholars of the liturgy later recanted their earlier position which didn’t get much press” without supporting documentation, do you. Just you–or anyone for that matter–saying so does not make it true, does it?
        I am only talking about Jungmann, not Bouyer or Vogel or anybody else. Just Jungmann. Your post discredits Jungmann and mentions Vogel in the quote. Apples and bananas?

      3. @Steve Hartley:
        “bubble” ?
        No bubble here. Just presenting evidence. No editorializing. Letting the evidence speak for itself.

        “recant”?

        Such colorful language. Doesn’t lead to emotion-free discussion.

  51. Jesus did not offer “the first Mass” at an altar, Nor did the “second Mass” at Emmaus require an altar. As time went on in the early Church the Holy Spirit must have revealed more fully the connection between the “Supper of the Lord” and the sacrifice offered at Calvary. The Jewish disciples connected sacrifices with altars and in time conceived of the cross as an altar of sacrifice. The gentile Christians had known of gods who were far removed from them, who existed in the heavens. While the Jews also knew of a transcendent God who was “totally other”, they had encountered in Jesus one who promised to be in their midst each and every time they gathered in his name. The first house churches and even the later public worship spaces were hardly temple like structures. The numbers of believers were still relatively small, thus their experience of worship would have been intimate. Along comes the “Church Fathers” whose intellectual prowess and great faith inspired them to develop various understandings of the elements of Christian worship. We should give them a fair hearing, but then remember that we are not living in 3rd or 4th century Rome or Byzantium. That the Tridentine Mass of much later development was understood as the ultimate expression of worshiping God in spirit and in truth, its external forms, rubrics, and even its prayers should never have been absolutized. The Church of the 20th and 21st centuries is empowered to provide rites which enable people of all kinds to learn how to offer a sacrifice of praise which re-members the sacrifice of calvary while lifting our hearts and minds to take in God’s Word and put it into practice especially by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Talk of east and west, much less of maniples and lacy albs, is anachronistic. The world is waiting for evidence that there truly is a God who sent Jesus among us not to condemn us but to make possible the fullness of life. So, I am not among those who have any curiosity as to how many angels can dance on the head of…

  52. I am troubled by Cardinal Sarah’s claim that celebrating Ad Orientem will put God back into the center of the Liturgy. Where is God now? This comment illustrates a very poor understanding of the trinitarian nature of the Liturgy. The love fest of the trinity is always acting in the Liturgy. We don’t have the power to put God anywhere in the Liturgy. God-Father,Son, and Spirit is acting to both transform us and the world.

  53. Thank you, Fr. Jack Feelily and Mike Burns for your insights. They resonate with me and express more of what I am thinking and feeling in this controversy. In your words I hear the voice of the Shepherd.

  54. The most recent General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) 2003 has at 299.
    The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. The altar should, moreover, be so placed as to be truly the center toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns..

    This is a slight departure from the 1973 GIRM which states at 262
    The main altar should be free standing, away from any wall, so that the priest can walk all round it and can celebrate facing the people. It should be in a position such that the entire congregation will naturally focus their attention on it.

    I think this gives clarity to the situation and would hope that there is no further amendment to 299.

  55. Robin Jensen’s article is in the March 2015 issue of Worship, She uses archeological as well as textual evidence to demonstrate her thesis.

  56. Really surprised that, unless I missed something further up the thread, no one has yet mentioned GIRM:

    299. The altar should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.

    1. @Paul Inwood:

      At the risk of my own vulnerability, I have to ask: What is desirable here wherever possible? “That it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated facing the people,” or “that Mass can be celebrated facing the people,” or “facing the people”?

      The second option doesn’t categorically rule out worship ad orientem, but simply an altar affixed to the wall. That interpretation should theoretically be the most consensus building, as it allows for both means of worship and recommends a practical way to allow for both.

    2. @Paul Inwood:
      Paul — Some folks on the NCR version of this story claim that the GIRM also says in a few places: “The priest turns and faces the people,” and says . . . They are using that as proof that ad orientem is already liturgical law. I do not believe, that, but that is what they are saying.

      1. @Lee Bacchi: #25
        Not the GIRM but the rubrics for the Order of the Mass:

        127. The Priest, turned towards the people, extending and then joining his hands, adds:
        The peace of the Lord be with you.

        132. The Priest genuflects, takes the host and, holding it slightly raised above the paten or above the chalice, while facing the people, says aloud:
        Behold the Lamb of God,
        behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
        Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.

        133. The Priest, facing the altar, says quietly:
        May the Body of Christ
        keep me safe for eternal life.

        Additionally, in a letter dated April 10, 2000 (Prot. N. 564/00/L) The Congregation of Worship stated:

        “With respect to your question regarding the positions of the priest celebrant permitted by liturgical law, this Discastery wishes to state the Holy Mass may be celebrated versus populum or versus absidem. Both positions are in accord with liturgical law; both are to be considered correct.

        “It could be that in some circumstances, because of the sensibilities of the faithful, celebration of Holy Mass versus populum would be indicated, however, it should be borne in mind that there is no preference expressed in the liturgical legislation for either position. As both positions enjoy the favor of law, the legislation may no be invoked to say that one position or the other accords more closely with the mind of the Church.”

      2. @Fr. Anthony Forte:
        To add to your silliness and from another frequent commenter at PrayTell – this is the height of skewing interpretations to fit a round peg into a square hole:

        http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2015/11/the-normativity-of-ad-orientem-worship.html

        Also, have noted that no one has posted any documentation on the claim that Jungmann *recanted* his versus populum stance. The only item I could find was this Jungmann quote:

        The claim that the altar of the early Church was always designed to celebrate facing the people, a claim made often and repeatedly, turns out to be nothing but a fairy tale.
        —Josef Jungmann, S.J.

        Now we know that anyone can find documentation and historical research that indicates that early christian communities did both. But, the above quote, taken out of context, is a long way from a *recantation*. Just more revisionist history.

      3. @Bill deHaas: #32

        Rather than showing it to be silly the New Liturgical Movement article you reference shows that the rubrics do indeed assume the historical orientation at the altar. If not, why would the rubrics distinguish between “facing the people” and “facing the altar?”

        What can also not be denied is that the Congregation of Worship has stated at least twice that Mass ad orientem (or ad absidem) is lawful. It is time that this truth be recognized.

      4. @Fr. Anthony Forte:
        Sorry, just because it is lawful or permitted doesn’t mean it makes good pastoral or liturgical sense.
        What is also missing in these almost 200 comments is any consideration of ecclesiology and eucharistic theology – that impacts whatever your pastoral/liturgical decisions might be. IMO, VII and SC’s ecclesiology and eucharistic theology relegate *ad orientem* to an *accident* that may be permitted but is not the norm; much less to be pursued.

    3. @Paul Inwood: #5

      The Congregation has already addressed this in a response of September 25, 2000 (Prot. No. 2036/00/L):

      Quaesitum

      The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments has been asked whether the expression in n.299 of the Institutio Missali Romani constitutes a norm according to which the position of the priest versus absidem is to be considered excluded.

      The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments, re mature perpensa et habita ratione [after mature reflection] and in the light of liturgical precedents, responds:

      Negative et ad mentem. [Negatively, and in accordance with the following explanation].

  57. Btw, let’s do the thought process for this scenario: Beginning the First Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis starts celebrating ad orientem at altars where that is feasible.

    Question: would it change how anyone here views Pope Francis?

  58. What should be made clear here is that Mass celebrated ad orientem is, and always has been, a legitimate option in the Novus Ordo. Thus all this talk about it being a betrayal of Vatican II or the liturgical reform is just untrue.

    While I see a number a people concerned that this would be mandated for those opposed, where is there the same concern that versus populum has been de facto mandated on those who would have liked to have utilize the historical option of ad orientem? I guess that some options are more optional that others.

  59. Haven’t seen 100+ comments on a thread here in a long time. That may well indicate the level of discussion this would generate in a parish.

    To be sure, it’s a serious discussion. But the prudent would ask: do we really want to spend this kind of energy in December in our parishes? Would that we had such a serious look at things like the commercialization of Advent. Or, hopefully, violence in our society.

    1. @Todd Flowerday:
      Because discrete topics invite more back and forth.

      I’ve been through parish upheavals thrice over the past generation. In my experience (which is not data), fwiw, even in community meetings to sift through the causes and effects of major upheaval, a conversation will be readily diverted to a discrete topic that is easier to have a back and forth about. It takes a special type of facilitator to get conversation back on track to the messier stuff.

  60. “Where’s the beef? Or rather: Where’s the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship protocol number?

    If it ain’t got one, it ain’t official; only “one man’s opinion.” Or rather, one cardinal’s suggestion.

  61. #18 “Let the personality of the celebrant disappear and let us look all in the same direction : towards the coming Lord.”

    Didn’t Jesus have a human personality? What would it mean for a priest not to have a personality or to have to suppress it during the liturgy? I find this line of thinking absurd.

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily:

      I think the idea is that, as much as possible, the priest should get out of his own way and not allow all of his own idiosyncrasies and peculiarities to be the focus of the worship. It doesn’t mean one should be a dullard or speak in monotone, but it does suggest a kind of self-emptying. Being in the military, my mind goes naturally to drill and ceremonial. We suppress our individualism there because we are not the focus of the event, but rather the movement as a whole and what it represents. None of us wants to be “that guy” who stands out.

      1. @Shaughn Casey #24:

        … the priest should get out of his own way and not allow all of his own idiosyncrasies and peculiarities to be the focus of the worship.

        Do you suppose Cardinal Sarah will next suggest all priests, especially bishops and cardinals, do away with donning the most expensive and extravagant vestments that reek of “Look at Me! Me! Me!” for mass?

        [insert the obligatory image of a prelate celebrating mass ad orientem in his ridiculous vestments]

        I’d totally be on board with that idea.

      2. @Elisabeth Ahn:

        Vestments are tricky. I can get my hands on a set of lined brocade or jacquard vestments with chasuble, maniple, stole, burse, and veil for $200. Or I can get a plain chasuble and alb from CW Almy thst looks like a dinner napkin for $800. Or a parishioner might make the priest vestments with his or her own time, talent, and treasure. Should it be refused?

        I am probably not the person to ask. I have dress uniforms O wear once a year on average that run $400 or more. Out of uniform, I like to wear suits, but I get them on sale for less than some pay for jeans or yoga pants.

      3. @Shaughn Casey #28:

        Or one could get a simple chasuble and alb that doesn’t look like a dinner napkin for even less than $200. And to that parishioner, you could always tell him or her that his or her kindness is very much appreciated, but that you already have all the vestments you need, so how about spending that precious time, talent and treasure of his/hers instead on serving the poor in his or her community? Because doing so would certainly be more in line with the Gospel values, no?

        But no matter, as long as he’s a good servant of God and of God’s people, I don’t really care what kind of vestments a priest chooses wear during mass.

        What I do question is the sheer shallowness of the claim that ad orientem = God-focused liturgy, whereas versus populum = a priest’s one man show, and the corollary fantasy that if only the priest would turn away from the people, everything would become a-okay with the liturgy.

        @Jack Wayne #37:

        FYI, I do not consider myself to be a “progressive”, liturgically or otherwise — at least not in the sense that you seem to think I am.

        Even so, your reasoning seems all out of whack. You have the rosiest views about the traditionalists, and the exact opposite of that for the progressives.

        Don’t think that’s quite how things are.

        Or as Karl Liam Saur @ #38 said, “nice try but no cigar” indeed.

      4. @Elisabeth Ahn:
        We’ll have to agree to disagree. I don’t have a particularly rosy view of traditionalists, but have met and talked to a lot of them and liturgically am one myself. I was reacting to your “out of whack” view of anyone who wears vestments that you perceive as being too fancy. You ascribed intentions to others without knowing if they are true or not. I apologize if my view of “progressives” was overly negative.

      5. @Elisabeth Ahn:

        I haven’t here argued that ad orientem worship is a panacea, but simply that it’s indisputably the way that most of the saints we venerate have worshipped, that this form of worship fed their faith, and therefore it shouldn’t be unreasonable if a parish or a diocese were to worship that way, whether for a season or as their standard service.

        I also find the language “he has his back to the people” extremely tiresome. He’s facing the same way, just like the person in the pew in front of me, whom I would never resent for doing so. I’m not primarily there to stare at the priest; it doesn’t much matter to me whether he’s in front of me, behind me, above me, below me, facing me, or not, so long as he isn’t distracting me, and I find ad orientem the least distracting way to experience Mass.

        To return to the honor guard analogy, they’re at their best when they’re so smooth that their individual roles don’t distract me from the movements of the whole. I find a priest looking at me from the other side of the altar immensely distracting, just as I would if a member of the honor guard were making eye contact with me during the National Anthem.

      6. @Elisabeth Ahn:
        Because you see the man behind the minister you think the paraphernalia honors the priest.

        We see the Risen Christ behind the priest and it is Christ who is the object of our worship. Again, it’s a matter of whom we focus on : God or man.

        Do you know that St John Vianney, a model of humility, the “patron saint of parish priests” (St John XXIII), could never find vestments lavish enough for the celebration of Mass?

    2. @Fr. Jack Feehily: “What would it mean for a priest not to have a personality or to have to suppress it during the liturgy?”

      It means: “No longer I who live but Christ who lives in me”. Yes, Jesus had a personality and the priest, alter Christus, is called during the liturgical function to clothe himself with the Lord.

  62. Unless I’m mistaken, it seems that nobody in this string of 100 comments has cited the normative document, namely, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (confirmed by decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on March 26, 2010), which at n. 299 reads:

    “The altar should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.”

    That, period. And after years of preparation that produced the third edition of the Missal. Oh, and after Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004, the practical document promised by Pope John Paul at the end of his 2003 encyclical on the Holy Eucharist) so painstakingly covered every possible “abuse” or other irregularities that were to be “abrogated” or otherwise corrected in all things concerning the celebration of the Mass.

  63. Unless I’m mistaken, it seems that nobody in this string of 100 comments has cited the normative document, namely, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (confirmed by decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on March 26, 2010), which at no. 299 reads:

    “The altar should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.”

    That. And after years of preparation that produced the third edition of the Missal. Oh, and after Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004, the practical document promised by Pope John Paul at the end of his 2003 encyclical on the Holy Eucharist) so painstakingly covered every possible “abuse” or other irregularities that were to be “abrogated” or otherwise corrected in all things concerning the celebration of the Mass.

    1. @Bruce Morrill:

      I did mention it in post #105. And in response to this, and to Jonathan Day at #133. a correspondent has emailed me privately to say this concerning the phrase “which is desirable wherever possible”:

      “quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit” is very strong – much stronger than “desirable”; more accurately it could be translated as “which is to be done wherever possible”. So I wonder why such a limp English translation of ‘quod expedit’, and whether a stronger translation had been softened by CDW / Vox Clara.

  64. At some point someone is sure to repeat the canard that section 299 of the GIRM was “mistranslated”, so let’s deal with that now.

    The Latin reads:

    Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.

    Now it is true that the last clause, quod expedit … refers to everything that goes before it, not just to celebration facing the people; otherwise quod would have been feminine qua, to accord with celebratio.

    One particularly idiotic translation of this reads:

    The main altar should be built separated from the wall, which is useful wherever it is possible, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out.

    A more idiomatic and more accurate rendering would be:

    Wherever it is possible to do so, the main altar should be separated from the wall, so that it is easy to walk around it and to celebrate facing the people.

    The quod clause isn’t limited in reference to celebration facing the people, but it certainly includes it.

    An analogy would be, “Whenever you can, eat 5 servings of vegetables each day, in order to reduce your chances of getting cancer.”

    It’s true that this section of GIRM 299 doesn’t require celebration facing the people, but it sure seems to recommend it.

    1. @Jonathan Day:

      Thank you Jonathan for your translation and insight.

      It’s important to remember that the Vatican Latin dialect strongly trends towards the use of adverbial clauses despite the greater risk of ambiguity. As Jonathan notes, a relative pronominal clause with qua would unambiguously refer to the antecedent celebratio, the celebration of Mass. I would agree that this relative pronominal construction would be more precise and durable. Even so, adverbial clauses highlight the inertial pull of medieval Latin on Vatican typical texts. The Vatican cannot escape the medieval syntactical orbit. The Roman rite’s liturgical heritage draws heavily from medievalisms.

      The typical Latin of GIRM 299 desperately requires revision. This rubric, which has always been contentious ever since the promulgation of Inter oecumenici, is patently unable to convey clear meaning through an imprecise adverbial clause. An incorporation of Jonathan’s pronominal correction is a good first move. However, more recent publications of the CDW should be incorporated into the rubric. Adverbials must be placed aside during revisions, and certainly for 299!

      While a single-level pronominal clause is not necessarily an undue complexity, typical rubrics should be paratactic. GIRM 299 does not convey all required information within a cleanly developed indicative sentence. The lack of parataxis is a prominent reason why GIRM 299 has become very contentious.

    2. @Jonathan Day: #33

      There is no need to debate private interpretations of para. 299. As I stated above, there is an authentic interpretation from the Congregation of Worship. As for their reasoning:

      “Before all else, it is to be borne in mind that the word «expedite» does not constitute an obligation, but a suggestion that refers to the construction of the altar «a pariete sejunctum». The clause «ubi possibile sit» refers to different elements, such as for example, the topography of the place, the availability of space, the artistic value of an existing altar, etc. It reaffirms that the position towards the assembly seems more appropriate inasmuch as it makes communication easier (Cf. the editorial in Notitiae 29 [1993] 245-249), without excluding, however, the other possibility.”

      The bottom line is that Mass ad orientem is perfectly legitimate.

      1. @Fr. Anthony Forte:

        Father, would you participate in an online collaborative rewrite of the typical Latin of GIRM 299 in light of the CDW instruction you cite? Would classical or medieval syntax and semantics apply, or is one trend in Latin language development the only permissible model? Are certain words such as expedio (4) non-negotiable words in an otherwise negotiable philological and linguistic environment?

        Rubrics are not handed down from Sinai. They are the creation of persons who manipulate Latin to achieve a particular end. Since the typical text of GIRM 299 is hopelessly ambiguous, change is necessary. Of course, any discussion on PTB is non-binding. And yet, we may be on to something.

        (Eds., please, if possible, could we fork this thread to a separate discussion of the Latin of GIRM 299?)

  65. I think Elisabeth and Shaughn’s post about the priest’s personality and vestments reinforces for me what seems to be a difference in how progressives and traditionalists view the role of the priest at Mass. A traditionalist might see the priest more as a role or office that is being filled by an individual, while a progressive seems to see the priest as an individual first and foremost who happens to be filling a role. Therefore, a traditionalist tends to see the objects used (vestments, candlesticks, etc) primarily as gifts for God being used in the worship of Him rather than as being a personal “Look at me!” statement. The priest is seen as being more of servant to God, the people, and the liturgy. In contrast, progressives SEEM to put a lot of focus on the priest as an individual, he is less a servant and more of a principal actor who controls the liturgy, and the objects used at Mass are thus percieved to be more for him and his ego.

    1. @Jack Wayne:
      Nice try, but no cigar. Unfortunately, there are definitely traditionally oriented priests for whom the vestments and altar furnishings are an extension of egoism. Not saying everyone, but sorry, that rationalization is not persuasive.

    2. @Jack Wayne:

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am certainly wired more closely to the way you describe. Comparisons abound. A drum major in parade dresses differently and carries different gear, but it is primarily a concern of form and function. The honor guard wear very formal uniforms, but they are hardly to say “Look at me!” Indeed, I have been to more events with an honor guard present than I could easily count, and I can scarcely remember any of their faces. That’s the point. The individual fades, and only the ceremonial remains. The image only risks breaking if there is an error or an interjection of individualism that isn’t appropriate.

      At Mass, the less I see of the priest’s personality (outside of the sermon, anyway), the less he seems to be the star of the show and the more he seems to be, as you say, filling a role or office that any other priest might step into interchangeably.

      To use another example, some of my favorite actors are, say, Daniel Day Lewis or Gary Oldman. I forget it’s the actor, and it’s only the role: William Cutting, Beethoven, or whatever.

  66. I’m sure there are some traditionalist priests like that, but I was talking more about how a layperson would percieve the priest. A traditionalist wouldn’t automatically assume fancy vestments are an ego statement by the priest as an individual, because they don’t look at the role of the priest in the context of Mass as being about an individual who needs to make a statement.

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