Wednesday, December 5, 2018

AD ORIENTEM! WHY IS IT SO CONTROVERSIAL AND SO SHUNNED?


In my most humble opinion, I think, if only, if only, if only, that those who manufactured the 1970's Roman Missal with a theology that could be manipulated by so many had insisted that the position of the priest at the altar not change, so much would be different today.

There would have been no recovations of beautiful churches with their magnificent high altars destroyed or ignored. There would have been more peace and joy in parishes where there would have been no waste of time or resources convincing people that the new liturgy need new wine skins, so to speak.

New churches would not look as horrible as some of the 70's, 80's and 90's concoctions.

Catholic liturgical spirituality would not have been destroyed. over night.

So, when we watch Bishop Morlino's version of the Ordinary Form Requiem celebrated ad orientem, I can only imagine bishops like Cardinal Cupich and other liturgical visionaries rolling their eyes.

CAN WE HAVE A SOUND AND SOBER DISCUSSION ABOUT WHY THERE IS SUCH ANTIPATHY IN THE HIERARCHY AND RANK AND FILE CLERGY, NOT TO MENTION THE LAITY WHO SIMPLY DON'T WANT AD ORIENTEM. WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?

22 comments:

Henry said...

I think the 1960s Catholic reformers did what the 16th century Protestant reformers did, with full knowledge and with the same intent—to destroy Catholic belief, practice, and spirituality as they had been known.

If he’ not facing an altar but instead is facing the people over a table, then he’s a minister presiding over a meal rather than a priest offering sacrifice. It’s all of a piece. Get rid of ad orientem celebration, then at once you’re rid of sacrifice, mystery (like transubstantiation), and the essence of the priesthood. And if no more priests—just ministers whether ordained or not—no more mysterious priestly rituals, like confessions. And if we’re more or less equal in ministry, why bother to kneel, genuflect, receive on the tongue, etc.

So those graduates of 1970s/80s seminaries who drank the kool-aid, ad orientem celebration symbolizes “going back” to all that intrinsically Catholic baggage they long since got rid of.

TJM said...

If Cupich was rolling his eyes, it would just confirm his Protestant bona fides and abysmal ignorance of the very Rite he is supposed to honor in its two forms.

I have always said, the most deleterious reform was the move to ad populum celebration. It helped foster the very worst sort of clericalism, i.e., it's all about me!

rcg said...

What is the reason(s) given for promoting it to begin with? I dont think very many people actually know. The motivation I hear now is that they don’t like the priest tuning his back on them. Since that is, hopefully, not the actual reason the only other plausible one I have heard is that it is allowed; a ‘reason’ only slightly better that being offended by the priest’s backside.

The whole thing strikes me as an exercise in vanity and elevation of self for the laity that echos the Fall of Man. We also parade up to Communion as it it were a food truck at a pop concert. Maybe they could introduce a third species and serve slices of apple.

Victor said...

Those millions that disliked ad populum liturgies left the Church years ago. I have wondered if the OF is mainly for wannabe priests of the congregation, for whom praying means following or doing exactly what the celebrant does, rather than personally praying by themselves in union with God in their hearts as in the Old Rite which does not treat the liturgy as an idol.

Anonymous said...

"If he’ not facing an altar but instead is facing the people over a table, then he’s a minister presiding over a meal rather than a priest offering sacrifice."

What's the essential connection between the direction the priest faces and the fact that the Mass is a sacrifice?

I'm not talking about how it is perceived, but in the connection between the orientation and the essence of the Sacrifice?

Henry said...

I think it's mainly a couple of troubled generations of priests--rather than the blue-rinse pew sitters--whose opposition to ad orientem is visceral.

Several priests who've thrown an occasional ad orientem Mass at their parish have been surprised by the virtual absence of negative reaction. One pastor I know celebrated his first ad orientem Sunday Mass with some trepidation, and afterwards was surprised that the (very) few parishioner comments were all positive.

So for me the real question--particularly for our genial host--is ... Why the reluctance on the part of even those priests personally inclined to favor ad orientem celebration? Peer pressure? Careerism?

Henry said...

"I'm not talking about how it is perceived, but in the connection between the orientation and the essence of the Sacrifice?"

But, when the goal is changing the hearts and minds of the faithful, perception is all that matters. Whether the priest in persona Christi is facing east, west, north, or south does not affect the reality of what he does.

Anonymous said...

So, is it your contention that the people in the congregation attending a Mass "versus populum" cannot perceive and/or understand that the Mass is a true sacrifice?

Anonymous said...

What was it like at the Last Supper? Ad Orientum or not? Altar or table?

ByzRC said...

Anonymous @ 3:57 -

The Last Supper is depicted with those present on one side of the table with the other side being left free of seated persons so that the service could have access to the table. The Last Supper took place on a table. Divine worship then followed this arrangement raising it up as the supplication/sacrifice it was intended to be, and not an outright reenactment.

Regarding the question posed by our host, to me, the antipathy has two components: acceptance and fear. Acceptance in that for many, the liturgical reforms, right or wrong, were accepted and it is almost unfathomable to consider changing back to that which was deemed to be obsolete, non-inclusive and any other way verses populum was explained and justified. As for fear, there is likely fear in the unknown: What would it be like to go back? Would laity be able to "see" and "actively participate" in the way they were told verses populum makes possible? Would clergy be able to mentally and physically adapt/readapt to such an orientation? Would clergy be able to accept not being able to see the congregation and readily interact as the liturgy would then be forced to be directed towards our Lord? Would clergy be able to accept the supplication and verticality that comes with such orientation? Would clergy be comfortable not being able to see who is entering the church, and if an individual intended to do them and/or the congregation harm?

In the East, none of these fears/concerns are part of the liturgy as, verses populum has never been part of our divine worship. There isn't a "longing" for something that was never taken away" in the first place. The only discussion I have ever heard regarding this topic is how awkward Divine Liturgy would be if someone did attempt to celebrate it verses populum (if perhaps this has already been done, and I have in my mind that maybe it was, thank God it was never embraced as a universal option and/or mandate).

I would be curious too hear what, if any concerns/fears Fr. AJM might have returning to ad orientem worship as a permanent and exclusive orientation. I would also be curious to hear Fr. MJK's thoughts as well.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

One of my parishioners who had never attended an EF Mass or any ad orientem Mass did so for our All Soul's EF Mass. She said she understood for the first time that the Mass is a sacrifice and an offering to God. She got it for the first time.

Until then, when she heard about the Sacrifice of the Mass, she thought it was her sacrifice to go. She had to sacrifice her time to find time to go.

A convivial meal with friends is what she thought the Mass was, a reenactment of the Last Supper. She thought that when the priest said during the Eucharistic prayer, take this, drink this, that he was speaking to the congregation and that they were like participants as the Last Supper, like the 12 Apostles that Jesus had just ordained into the New Covenant priesthood.

Yes, facing the people speaks volumes to the congregation, but it isn't what the Mass is that they hear.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Well, when Jesus says "Take this, drink this" he is speaking to the congregation AS WELL AS to His disciples.

Also, it is a prayer offered to the Father AS WELL AS a prayerful representation (reenactment) of the Last Supper and of the sacrifice of Calvary in, as we say, an unbloody manner. CCC 1367 "The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different." "And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory."

I spoke last Monday to our RCIA group about this very understanding and spent some time explaining our belief in the mass as a true sacrifice - as THE sacrifice of Calvary.

I don't think the mass offered versus populum negates in any way the understanding that it is a true sacrifice.

And I certainly don't think the idea that the intention of those who proposed and supported it was to destroy the faith.

TJM said...

Kavanaugh,

At the end of the day, we do not want to LOOK at YOU or any other priest talk show host! Ad Populum is another example of clericalism on steroids. Why should the Church have ever changed the praxis of centuries to satisfy YOUR ego? Bugnini was absolutely a Protestant sympathizer who was given the boot by St. John XXIII, you know, the Pope who promulgated Veterum Sapientia. When was the last time you celebrated Mass in Latin? If never, I cannot take you seriously as a Roman Catholic priest.

Mark Thomas said...


The Holy See has declared that liturgy offered ad orientem is of "profound value" to the Church.

Instruction for applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches


107. Prayer facing the east

"Ever since ancient times, it has been customary in the prayer of the Eastern Churches to prostrate oneself to the ground, turning toward the east; the buildings themselves were constructed such that the altar would face the east. Saint John of Damascus explains the meaning of this tradition: "It is not for simplicity nor by chance that we pray turned toward the regions of the east (...). Since God is intelligible light (1 Jn. 1:5), and in the Scripture, Christ is called the Sun of justice (Mal. 3:20) and the East (Zech. 3:8 of the LXX), it is necessary to dedicate the east to him in order to render him worship.

"The Scripture says: 'Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and he placed there the man whom he had formed' (Gen. 2:8). (...) In search of the ancient homeland and tending toward it, we worship God. Even the tent of Moses had its curtain veil and propitiatory facing the east. And the tribe of Judah, in as much as it was the most notable, encamped on the east side (cf. Nm. 2:3). In the temple of Solomon, the Lord's gate was facing the east (cf. Ez. 44:1).

"Finally, the Lord placed on the cross looked toward the west, and so we prostrate ourselves in his direction, facing him. When he ascended to heaven, he was raised toward the east, and thus his disciples adored him, and thus he will return, in the same way as they saw him go to heaven (cf. Acts 1:11), as the Lord himself said: 'For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be' (Mt. 24:27). Waiting for him, we prostrate ourselves toward the east. It is an unwritten tradition, deriving from the Apostles."[85]

"This rich and fascinating interpretation also explains the reason for which the celebrant who presides in the liturgical celebration prays facing the east, just as the people who participate. It is not a question, as is often claimed, of presiding the celebration with the back turned to the people, but rather of guiding the people in pilgrimage toward the Kingdom, invoked in prayer until the return of the Lord.

"Such practice, threatened in numerous Eastern Catholic Churches by a new and recent Latin influence, is thus of profound value and should be safeguarded as truly coherent with the Eastern liturgical spirituality."

The ancient and universal practice of the True Church is to celebrate liturgy ad orientem. It is a shame that the Latin Church has all but shattered ad orientem, which is proper to Her liturgy.

Pax.

Mark Thomas

TJM said...

OMG,

MT and I are on the same page!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

TJM - I think it is highly unlikely that the Council Fathers and those who were given the responsibility for implementing for liturgical reforms were concerned about my ego.

I was, after, all, not yet ten years old when the changes were made . . .

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Allan, you left out a significant portion of my comment.

What I said was, "Well, when Jesus says "Take this, drink this" he is speaking to the congregation AS WELL AS to His disciples. Also, it is a prayer offered to the Father AS WELL AS a prayerful representation (reenactment) of the Last Supper and of the sacrifice of Calvary in, as we say, an unbloody manner."

All of this is rolled into one liturgical action. It is highly complex, being both deeply mystical and very human at the same time. It has meaning on various levels.

To eliminate one aspect of the meaning and purpose of the action does not represent the Church's understanding of the entire.

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess the national funeral service yesterday for the first President Bush was "ad orientum"---sort of. Actually, the free-standing altar (which would be where his casket was during the service yesterday) was moved for the occasion, but of course the back marble altar remained (where some of the singers/choir were located). The cathedral celebrates its Sunday Eucharists in the same direction as most of the Roman Church does.

The funeral yesterday followed the "Burial for the Dead" of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer---the order not much different from the Catholic funeral up to the offertory. There were some things I would have changed for it:
(1) The bishops present (the bishop of Washington and the presiding bishop) should have been vested in cope and miter for the service. Understandably, since there was no communion yesterday, they would not be wearing chasubles, but they basically were in choir vestments yesterday, not appropriate for actively participating in a liturgy (it would be different if they were mere visitors or spectators present)
(2) Use some incense or spray the casket with holy water. Washington (the Episcopal Diocese) has always had some "Low Church" feel (like President Bush's home diocese in Houston), perhaps why such was not the case.
(3) Funeral pall (baptismal pall) instead of the American flag draped over the casket in the cathedral.

But I do like the final touch today---a train taking the casket from Houston to the burial at his presidential library. I think the last time a train was used for a presidential funeral was in 1969, when Eisenhower's party was transported from DC to Kansas.


TJM said...

Kavanaugh,

If Mass were still said ad orientem and in Latin, I doubt you would be a priest

TJM said...

Kavanaugh, quid vobis videtur?

John Nolan said...

Versus populum did not come in with the Novus Ordo; its more-or-less universal adoption coincided with the advent of the vernacular Mass five years before. Paul VI modelled it on 7 March 1965 at Ognissanti in Rome, using a table set up in the nave of the church.

Since the Mass was now seen as a dialogue between presider and assembly with a plainly didactic purpose, it was logical that the lecturer faced his class.

TJM said...

John Nolan,

I do not know if this occurred in England prior to Vatican Disaster II, but there were occasional celebrations of the EF ad populum in certain diocese in the US. There is photographic evidence of it that I have seen. I recall it occurred in Kansas City in the 1950s. It clearly did not catch on until the odious implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium