Saturday, January 26, 2013


(One of the greatest compliments and badges of honor I have been given and on a progressive blog, no less, is that I have idiosyncrasies and I am idiosyncratic! How sweet and how "oh so true!" To prove the point I post once again our Ordinary Form Facing the East or Facing God Mass at Saint Joseph Church's "Church Music Association of America" Gregorian Chanted Mass at the end of this post, in case you missed it!)

This method of the so-called "Benedictine altar arrangment" is the best solution as everyone faces the same crucifix with the Corpus on it. The first photos are our Holy Father modeling the most ancient direction the Mass is prayed in the Church. The third is our parochial vicar, Father Dawid Kwiatkowski doing the same. It is perfectly natural, perfectly canonical and simply, just perfect, isn't it?
However, the Holy Father also models "ad orientem" or facing God together, by having a crucifix placed centrally on the altar facing the priest when he faces the congregation. It is not as perfect as the above pictures, but it will due as a temporary measure in a time of great liturgical renewal and transition where everything old is made new (renewed/renewal) again! The first photos are our Holy Father modeling the Benedictine altar arrangement facing the congregation and the last two are Bishop Gregory Hartmayer doing so at Saint Joseph Cathedral, I mean Church, in Macon, Georgia:
The following article written by Fr. Victor R. Claveau, gives a wonderful historical and theological analysis of the Mass facing East or toward God, with both the congregation and priest facing the same direction:

Facing East

Victor R. Claveau, MJ

According to the rule laid down in the Apostolic Constitutions (written in Syria about AD 380), churches were to have the sanctuary at the east end, the reason being that by this means the Christians in church were able to pray as they were used to pray in private, i.e. facing the east.

―After this, let all rise up with one consent, and looking towards the east, after the catechumens and penitents are gone out, pray to God eastward, who ascended up to the heaven of heavens to the east; remembering also the ancient situation of paradise in the east, from whence the first man, when he had yielded to the persuasion of the serpent, and disobeyed the command of God, was expelled‖ (Apostolic Constitutions, Book II, §LVII.).

Joseph Jungmann‘s book on the Early Liturgy informs us that the early Christians all faced east for prayer! Why east? Because east symbolized the return of Christ in glory.

St John of Damascus describes the practice of the Church in these words:

When ascending into heaven, He rose towards the East, and that is how the Apostles adored Him, and He will return just as they saw Him ascend into heaven, as the Lord has said: ―Just as the flash of lightening rises from above and then descends downward, so will be the arrival of the Lord
Waiting for Him, we adore Him facing East. This is an unrecorded tradition passed down to us from the Apostles.

Just as Moslems today turn toward Mecca for prayer, and just as the ancient Jews turned toward Jerusalem, so the early Christians turned toward the east. In the early Egyptian liturgies, we find the instruction ―Look towards the East! Included at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer. St Augustine would conclude his homilies with the command Conversi ad dominum ―Turn to face the Lord. And St Basil the Great confirms the Damascene‘s claim that the practice of facing the east to pray is an unwritten custom passed down from the Apostles.

In the churches of the patristic Church, the Holy Table was typically located in the east end of the building, with the building built on an east-west axis. The altar was free-standing (though we know that in at least one Syrian ante-Nicene church it was actually attached to the east wall). The celebrant would stand on the west side of the altar and together celebrant and congregation would face the Lord for praise and worship.

However, this rule was by no means universally observed. The ancient churches in Rome, including St. John Lateran, are arranged with the entrance at the east and the sanctuary at the west. This allowed the early morning sun to flow into the building through the open doors. So do we not have here a counter-example with the priest facing the congregation? Not so! The apostolic rule was to face the east for prayer, and so the bishop faced the east and only incidentally therefore did he face the congregation. The big question is —which direction did the congregation face? I‘m not sure if anyone knows the answer to this question for certain, but I can tell you that Joseph Jungmann, Louis Bouyer, and Klaus Gamber (all very respectable liturgists) believe that in these churches the congregation too would have turned to face the east! Western Churches built after the 4th century conformed to the eastern practice and sited the altar in the east end.

The practice of priest and congregation facing the Lord in praise, worship, and prayer belongs to the fundamental grammar of Christian liturgy.
The versus orientem promotes a sense of God‘s transcendence. We stand together facing the mystery of the Holy Father, offering to him the body and blood of his Son through the ministry of our great high priest. We participate in the heavenly liturgy of the Triune God, sharing in the eternal self-oblation of the Son to his heavenly Father.
The priest is an instrument of the risen Christ. As St John Chrysostom states, the priest but lends Christ his voice and hands.

St Augustine:

―When we rise to pray, we turn East, where heaven begins. And we do this not because God is there, as if He had moved away from the other directions on earth …, but rather to help us remember to turn our mind towards a higher order, that is, to God‖ (Quoted in Klaus Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy [1993], p. 80)

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, (now Pope Benedict XVI) Feast of Faith (1986):

―The original meaning of what nowadays is called ‗the priest turning his back on the people‘ is, in fact–as J. A. Jungmann has consistently shown–the priest and people together facing the same way in a common act of Trinitarian worship, such as Augustine introduced, following the sermon, by the prayer ‗Conversi ad Dominum.‘

Priest and people were united in facing eastward; that is, a cosmic symbolism was drawn into the community celebration–a factor of considerable importance. For the true location and the true context of the eucharistic celebration is the whole cosmos. Facing east‘ makes this cosmic dimension of the Eucharist present through liturgical gesture. Because of the rising sun, the east–oriens–was naturally both a symbol of the Resurrection (and to that extent it was not merely a christological statement but also a reminder of the Father‘s power and the influence of the Holy Spirit) and a presentation of the hope of the parousia. Where priest and people face the same way, what we have is a cosmic orientation and also an interpretation of the Eucharist in terms of resurrection and Trinitarian theology. Hence it is also an interpretation in terms of parousia, a theology of hope, in which every Mass is an approach to the return of Christ.(pp. 140-141)

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, (now Pope Benedict XVI) The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000):

―The Eucharist that Christians celebrate really cannot be adequately be described by the term meal.‘ True, the Lord established the new reality of Christian worship within the framework of a Jewish (Passover) meal, but it was precisely this new reality, not the meal as such, that he commanded us to repeat. Very soon the new reality was separated from its ancient context and found its proper and suitable form, a form already predetermined by the fact that the Eucharist refers back to the Cross and thus to the transformation of Temple sacrifice into worship of God that is in harmony with logos. Thus it came to pass that the synagogue liturgy of the Word, renewed and deepened in a Christian way, merged with the remembrance of Christ‘s death and Resurrection to become the Eucharist,‘ and precisely thus was fidelity to the command 'Do this‘ fulfilled. This new and all-encompassing form of worship could not be derived simply from the meal but had to be defined through the intercommunion of Temple and synagogue, Word and sacrament, cosmos and history. (pp. 78-79)

―The turning of the priest toward the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is closed in on itself. The common turning toward the east was not a 'celebration toward the wall‘; it did not mean that the priest had his back to the people‘: the priest himself was not regard as so important. For just as the congregation in the synagogue looked toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian liturgy the congregation looked together 'toward the Lord.‘… It was much more a question of priest and people facing in the same direction, knowing that together they were in a procession toward the Lord. They did not close themselves into a circle; they did not gaze at one another; but as the pilgrim People of God they set off for the Oriens, for the Christ who comes to meet us. (p. 80)

―A common turning to the east during the Eucharistic Prayer remains essential. This is not a case of something accidental, but of what is essential. Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord. It is not now a question of dialogue but of common worship, of setting off toward the One who is to come. What corresponds with the reality of what is happening is not the closed circle but the common movement forward, expressed in a common direction for prayer. (p. 81)
(An excerpt from the chapter on eastward orientation can be found at the Adoremus site:

Klaus Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy (1993):

―The custom of facing East in prayer is as old as the Church; it is a tradition that cannot be changed. It symbolizes a continuous 'looking out in the direction of the Lord‘ (J. Kunstmann), or, as Origen says in his tract about praying (c. 32), it is an allegory of the soul looking towards the beginning of the true light, ―looking forward to the happy fulfillment of our hope when the splendor of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus will appeal(Tit. 2:13). (pp. 172-173)

K. G. Rey, ―Signs of Puberty in the Catholic Church, cited in Gamber, Reform of the Roman Liturgy:

―While in the past, the priest functioned as the anonymous go-between, the first among the faithful, facing God and not the people, representative of all and together with them offering the Sacrifice, while reciting prayers that have been prescribed for him–today he is a distinct person, with personal characteristics, his personal life-style, his face turned towards the people. For many priests this change is a temptation they cannot handle, the prostitution of their person. Some priests are quite adept–some less so–at taking personal advantage of a situation. Their gestures, their facial expressions, their movements, their overall behavior, all serve to subjectively attract attention to their person. Some draw attention to themselves by making repetitive observations, issuing instructions, and lately, by delivering personalized addresses of welcome and farewell … To them, the level of success in their performance is a measure of their personal power and thus the indicator of their feeling of personal security and self-assurance. (pp. 86-87)

Aidan Nichols, Looking at the Liturgy (1996):

Today the question [of orientation] should be determined, in my judgment, in relation to the threat of what we can call 'cultic immanentism‘: the danger, namely, of a congregation‘s covert self-reference in a horizontal, humanistic world. In contemporary 'Catholic communalism,‘ it has been said: Liturgical Gemutlichkeit, communal warmth, friendliness, welcoming hospitality, can easily be mistaken for the source and summit of the faith.‘ Not unconnected with this is the possibility that the personality of the priest (inevitably, as president, the principal facilitator of such a therapeutic support-group) will become the main ingredient of the whole ritual. Unfortunately, the 'liveliest church in town‘ has little to do with the life the Gospel speaks of. (p. 97)

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WSquared said...

Thank you, Father, for posting this.

...didn't then-Cardinal Ratzinger also refer to the congregation closed in upon itself as the very description of sin, or was it somebody else who made that observation?

As someone who attends both the EF and OF, I did notice that in the EF, the priest "disappears," so to speak. And this is as someone who grew up with Masses where the priest always faced the congregation. I recalled complaining about this, that, or the other priest's preaching as a kid, and my mom shushed me, telling me that the priest's personality didn't matter. I didn't know what she meant at the time, but I do now. ...and she was formed by the EF as a kid. :)

At the EF, one is no longer made inordinately aware of Father So-and-So and his Sparkly (or not) Personality. It also occurred to me that the priest who usually celebrates the EF Mass I attend once a month isn't the greatest homilist in the world. But it then also occurred to me that it doesn't really matter. All that matters is that he's solid, and he doesn't shy away from giving us solid food while at the same time not conveying complete nonsensical crap, if not advocating dissent and heresy, from the pulpit. He may not be "dynamic" or whatever, but that's not what his priesthood-- and indeed the priesthood, period-- is all about. And thank God, actually.

The priesthood is sacramental and pertains to personhood; it's not all about being a great preacher (...incidentally, this being a country in part formed by religious revivals during two Great Awakenings, I wonder if thinking that being a priest is all about great preaching is one of the reasons why some people think that women can be priests?).

Henry Edwards said...

WSquared, in the EF rite of ordination, the priest is conferred with two distinct powers--to offer sacrifice in propitiation for the sins of men, and to forgive the sins of men.

These two bestowals take place in distinct ceremonies within the TLM Mass of Ordination. The "Bestowal of the Power to Offer Holy Mass" occurs before Gospel.

"Receive the power to offer sacrifice to God and to celebrate Mass for the living and the dead."

At this point the ordinand is a "priest simplex" who cannot yet give absolution. The "Bestowal of the Power to Forgive Sins" comes later in the Mass--after Holy Communion in the last TLM of ordination I attended.

"Receive the Holy Ghost; whose sins thou shalt forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins thou shalt retain, they are retained."

So far as I recall from the last OF ordination I attended, these two powers seem not to be mentioned explicitly or separately in the OF rite of ordination.

John Nolan said...

Don't forget Uwe Michael Lang's book 'Turning Towards the Lord' with its foreword by Cardinal Ratzinger.

WSquared said...

Henry Edwards, thank you for the information! The only ordination I've ever attended was when I was a kid. It was an OF ordination, and I don't remember a whole lot.

If the OF rite of ordination doesn't make clear what powers the priest receives from God, then all the more is the pity.

Unknown said...

I would argue that this "temporary mesaure" of versus populum with the Benedictine arrangement is simply lipstick on a pig.

Harsh? Probably, but true.

How many times does the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) instruct the priest to turn around and face the congregation? I'll save you the suspense. FIVE.

If we are to DO THE RED AND SAY THE BLACK, why are we not "doing the red?" At what point does "the red" cease to be legal and authoritative? At what poing does "the red" just become a suggestion or an ideal? And if "the red" isn't followed to the letter (where we find the spirit, btw), then how can we expect the priests to SAY THE BLACK?

One of the reasons that I argue so vociferously about the ad orientem position is that if we are to be authentic in our worship, then we should be authentic in our worship. We should not be banal and on-the-spot about what we tolerate and what we don't.

It is often said that "we can't approach reform with the same attitude of the 1960s!" I say, why not? The liberals hold the 1960s to be the dawning of a new age (Aquarius or not) and if that model of approach is so wonderful, why can't we now employ the same tactic?

The faithful won't leave. It is proven to be the case that the fastest growing segment of the Church is the traditionalist movement. If one thinks that the faithful will be offended that the priest is facing the same direction starting in Advent 2013, then he is sorely misguided. The older faithful will carp about it, but won't do anything, because they are passive agressive, oh sure some will bolt, some will stop giving money, but by and large the young people will pick up the slack and the Church will continue on.

If we are going to be serious about the "New Evangelization" and the "Reform of the Reform," this is a step. We must start by doing what the books ask of us, 100%. Not 70% or 80% or even 90%, 100%!

This is not hard. Really, it isn't. What is hard, is that the more orthodox priests of today are afraid of their liberal peers and they are afraid that their money sources will dry up. It is that same old story, that man is afraid of the tattle-tale. The orthodox priest has the proper justification on his side...Fr. McD has shown some of it.

The priests of today cannot be afraid of a little persecution. The vocation to the priesthood isn't a popularity contest, nor is it a matter of going with the status quo. Had that been the case, the priesthood would have died a long time ago.

It is my prayer that priests stand up, DO THE RED and SAY THE BLACK; in both forms. Since, however, my prayers are unlikely to be answered in a timeframe which is conducive to my spirituality, I will continue to call for a return to the TLM exclusively, because for some unknown reason "the red and the black" are treated as law, which is where we find the spirit.

Courage. That is what we need, courage.

Gregorian Mass said...

Using the Benedictine Arrangement is a good second but it seems to make more sense to use the tallest candlesticks and crucifix available. I think for those who complain they can not "see" only have to look past the staff of those things and not the whole object itself which seems to block more view.

John Nolan said...

Versus populum is vital because it creates the dynamic which allows so many other things to flourish. Look at a still photograph of an ad orientem celebration. Is it OF or EF? Latin or vernacular? It's sometimes hard to tell. On the London Oratory website there are some photos of a Pontifical Solemn Mass celebrated a couple of Sundays ago by a visiting Australian bishop. The bishop is wearing liturgical gloves. There is a faldstool. In addition to deacon and subdeacon there is an AP in cope. There is even a bugia-bearer. Yet this is an OF Mass.

A photograph from another church might show a dozen clergy, wearing robes which make them look like druids, standing on three sides of a table (altar?) covered with so many silver cups it reminds one of a school prize-giving. It's clearly different. One can reasonably infer that a) it won't be in Latin and b) the music will be of the Haagen/Haas/Inwood school.

Some very recent re-orderings have been deliberately designed to make ad orientem celebration impossible. So the Benedictine arrangement is really the only option.

Unknown said...

"So the Benedictine arrangement is really the only option."

Unless of course, the priest just turns to face the altar with the faithful. That is another option, no?

John Nolan said...

Andy, he can only do this if there is a footpace to stand on.

Unknown said...

That is easily remedied, can be built or the altar, even if epoxied to the floor can be moved to accomodate.

Just sayin'.

If they could adapt and overcome in the 1960s; we can adapt and overcome in the 2010s.