Sunday, July 10, 2016


Seize the Day, a call-in talk show in the morning on the Catholic Channel on XM-Satillite Radio focused the discussion this past Friday on Robert Cardinal Sarah's recommendation (it isn't a mandate yet) on celebrating the Mass toward the liturgical east of our churches, which is the apse of any Catholic church building regardless of the actual geographical direction of the apse.

The opinions of the callers was mixed, some vehemently opposed because they simply are coloring book Catholics who don't understand the symbolism of ad orientem and think it excludes them, poor little souls.  Some endorsed it but again for the wrong reasons saying the Mass should be celebrated toward the tabernacle--what nonsense!

But others, more cogent in their informed rhetoric got it right as a symbol of facing the geographical sunrise, facing the geographical Jerusalem which is ultimately facing the new and heavenly Jerusalem coming down from the sky!

Ad orientem refers to a symbolic geographical position within the building which is symbolically oriented toward Jerusalem. In the Church's case, the New Jerusalem, that heavenly city.

Geographically, but symbolically fulfilled in every Catholic Church (except the major basilicas in Rome, which are oriented geographically east toward the earthly Jerusalem and where the sun rises in the sky, except for St. Paul outside the Walls) ad orientem is an orientation toward the sunrise with its symbolic implications for the Rising of the Son on Easter morn!

Apart from that, it also indicates that the priest and the congregation are oriented together in the same direction for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in which eternity touches the finite and Jesus Christ by the will of the Heavenly Father is returned to us in an eternal "Resurrection" upon our altars. He comes again from the east, the heavenly Jerusalem symbolized by the actual Jerusalem on earth.

In addition, the Roman Missal placed on the ad orientem altar is the prayer of the Church, clergy and laity alike, and they are reading from the one book together albeit in a symbolic way. We all see the Roman Missal as it is facing all of us, not just the priest!

But how realistic is it that every priest would implement this wonderful, time honored tradition of the Church interrupted for only 50 years this year by the arrogance of those who did it as some kind of panacea for the "springtime" of the Church that this orientation would bring about but never did and in fact more than likely helped to disintegrate the Church and her liturgy?

So many Catholics actually think that the Mass is a dialogue between the priest and the congregation. What nonsense! They also believe that ad orientem means the priest is turning his back to them and that they aren't important to the Mass--what nonsense, sounds like Adam and Eve all over again!

But the greatest obstacle to Robert Cardinal Sarah's vision for the authentic renewal of the post-Vatican II Mass is that it isn't a mandate. Bishops have to be on board from a mandate on high endorsed by Pope Francis.

So much of the good things that Pope Benedict modeled in his liturgies were proposals not mandates and we see where these have ended up, completely ignored or mocked.

As a new pastor of a parish, I would never begin to implement ad orientem at our three weekend Masses, two on Sunday, one Saturday evening, without my bishop's tacit approval.

That is what is needed! Bishops need to be on board or a debacle will occur!


Anonymous said...

"Bishops need to be on board or a debacle will occur!"

Um, no. Debacles don't occur.

Woody said...

At the Blue Mosque in Constantinople/Istanbul a few years ago,the following exchange with the guide:

Me: Excuse me, may I ask a question?
Guide: Yes, of course.
Me: When the imam leads the faithful in prayer, which way was does he face?
G: Towards Mecca, of course.
M: The same way as the faithful do?
G: (Wondering why he gets such a stupid question) Yes, of course.
M: Don't the faithful think he is turning his back on them?
G: (look of pity for such a stupid tourist): No, of course not. Why do you ask such a question?
M: Oh, just a Catholic thing.

Anonymous said...

The most important reason for ad orientem celebration does not consist of the (quite valid) symbolic and theological points you cite, but rather of the pragmatic and historically demonstrated fact that ad orientem celebration makes for more reverent and proper worship, which in turn makes for more faithful Catholics, since as Vatican II emphasized, our Eucharistic worship is the source of our faith (lex orandi, lex credendi). The EF aside, this is clear to anyone who's observed congregations where the OF is celebrated ad orientem.

Ryan Ellis said...

Have you considered asking your bishop his opinion, Father?

Anonymous said...

On a complete and different subject, please pray for our police officers in the USA and for the MURDERED officers in Dallas Texas, this man in the White House has declared ALL police officers as open targets whether they are white, black, Asian, or Hispanic. With out the police anarchy and chaos will reign in America, and then and only then when these same people who HATE THE POLICE call them for help and there is no response, lets see what they say then, think about that folks!!! This is a man who came out of nowhere reached the highest office in our country not once but twice, how did this Marxist street agitator achieve this with no money or name recognition???????????

Anonymous said...

Facing East.....really?! We can't even get priests to "say the black and do the red". They can't even say the dumbed down version of the mass that was forced on the Church even with a big huge book in front of their face with a spotlight on it. They just can't do it.

Just on a practical level they would not be able to do it because, to be blunt but not uncharitable, they are stupid. Have you seen the quality of priests out there. We do not exactly have the best and the brightest in the clergy.

The vast majority of priests today would be unable to make it in the real world. People who have real jobs have to follow real rules or they loose those jobs. Priests can be basically illiterate and unable to put together an intelligent sentence yet they are running parishes. Anddddddddd these same priests think they are better than envy one else.

I must say that when Pope Francis tries to permit sacraligeous communions and allow adultery he is dead wrong. But when he addresses the serious deficiencies in the clergy he is spot on. In today's gospel we hear about the priest who walked by the man assaulted by the robbers. A similar thing happened to me. I fell down the steps at Church and hurt myself very badly. The priest who just said the Mass was right there sitting in his car as I was falling and while I picked myself of the ground and while I sat there in pain. He never flinched for a moment. He didn't even roll down the window to ask if I was ok. He did nothing. Then he drove away. And this was not some big lib priest. This was a priest in a cassock who had just celebrated the Tridintine Mass. It doesn't matter if the priest is liberal or conservative.....the dirty little secret is the vast majority of priests could care less about anybody but themselves.

It is ridiculous to think that ad orientum worship will return to the Church anytime soon. It's not going to happen. The new translation of the Mass didn't cure anything why would turning east accomplish anything.

When you have a pope who isn't teaching the faith clearly along with cardinals and bishops who don't either what do you think will be the result.

We have one bishop saying adulterers can't receive communion without confession and amendment of life and another Cardinal saying they can. The pope is silent and confusion reigns and people's souls are in jeopardy! Do any of you priest realize that?! People's souls are in jeopardy, for the love of all that is holy do something and do it now. Teach the Faith and denounce matter who is saying it. Or who by their silence and deliberate ambiguity is causing confusion.

Do any of you people believe in God? Seriously do you. If you do you better make an effort to stop this insanity. It's to late for smells and bells it's martyr time. You all need to defend the Faith clearly without compromise and stop being silent in the face of evil.


John Nolan said...

The impact of Cardinal Sarah's request was not that priests worldwide would immediately take it up, but that those who did would be able to appeal to the CDW if a local bishop tried to obstruct this legitimate practice.

Just as SP and UE made it clear that the option to use the 1962 Missal could not be overruled by the local Ordinary, this makes it clear that any bishop who tried to mandate versus populum in his diocese would be acting ultra vires. This was of course always the case but it is good to have it spelled out.

The bishop's responsibility is to ensure that the liturgy in his diocese be celebrated in an orthodox and reverent way, in accordance with the norms laid out by the Holy See. The fact that many have failed in this duty is immaterial.

Marc said...

If people are so offended when the priests turns his back on them, they should imagine how God feels when the priest turns his back on God.

The Church has been worshipping ad orientem for 2,000 years. It takes an astounding level of hybrid to change this tradition at the whim of modern man, especially since doing so is so clearly rooted in pride.

Mark Thomas said...

In light of the Latin Church's desire for radical reforms, that surfaced in earnest during Pope Venerable Pius XII's Pontificate...

If ad orientem worship were an unheard of practice within the Latin Church, then our Churchmen would enshrine ad orientem worship as the norm.

If altar girls represent a break with Holy Tradition, then the presence of altar girls at Mass will be promoted to the hilt by our Churchmen.

If Communion in the hand is a novel practice, then our Churchmen will establish Communion in the hand as the Latin Church's standard practice.

If the washing of women's feet during Mass (Holy Thursday) is the novelty/liturgical abuse, then our Churchmen will promote said practice.

If the practice of Churchmen praying and worshiping at non-Catholic religious sites is unheard of throughout the Church, then our Churchmen will be certain to pray and worship at non-Catholic religious sites.

If the Church had opposed cremation, then it's guaranteed that our Churchmen will adopt and promote cremation.

If the Church had for centuries taught the Faithful to abstain from eating meat on Fridays, then our Churchmen will be certain to all but uproot said practice.


Mark Thomas

Rood Screen said...

When the priest and people face the same direction during the Eucharistic Prayer, do opponents of ad orientem doubt God is there before them? Fear of ad orientem could really be fear of divine absence.

Carol H. said...

Facing east goes a bit deeper than what was stated.

When Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden, they were driven out of the east side. When Christ ascended into Heaven, he ascended eastward and will return from the east.

I know the meaning goes deeper still, but I am no scholar, and cannot fully grasp it, let alone, explain it. Maybe Marc, Gene, or John N. are willing to give it a try?

Marc said...

Carol, here's what St. John of Damascus says on the topic:

It is not without reason or by chance that we worship towards the East. But seeing that we are composed of a visible and an invisible nature, that is to say, of a nature partly of spirit and partly of sense, we render also a twofold worship to the Creator; just as we sing both with our spirit and our bodily lips, and are baptized with both water and Spirit, and are united with the Lord in a twofold manner, being sharers in the mysteries and in the grace of the Spirit.

Since, therefore, God is spiritual light (1 John 1:5), and Christ is called in the Scriptures Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) and Dayspring, the East is the direction that must be assigned to His worship. For everything good must be assigned to Him from Whom every good thing arises. Indeed the divine David also says, Sing unto God, you kingdoms of the earth: O sing praises unto the Lord: to Him that rides upon the Heavens of heavens towards the East. Moreover the Scripture also says, And God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed (Genesis 2:8): and when he had transgressed His command He expelled him and made him to dwell over against the delights of Paradise , which clearly is the West. So, then, we worship God seeking and striving after our old fatherland.

Moreover the tent of Moses (Leviticus 16:14) had its veil and mercy seat towards the East. Also the tribe of Judah as the most precious pitched their camp on the East. (Numbers 2:3) Also in the celebrated temple of Solomon the Gate of the Lord was placed eastward. Moreover Christ, when He hung on the Cross, had His face turned towards the West, and so we worship, striving after Him. And when He was received again into Heaven He was borne towards the East, and thus His apostles worship Him, and thus He will come again in the way in which they beheld Him going towards Heaven (Acts 1:11); as the Lord Himself said, As the lightning comes out of the East and shines even unto the West, so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:27) .

So, then, in expectation of His coming we worship towards the East. But this tradition of the apostles is unwritten. For much that has been handed down to us by tradition is unwritten.

Mark Thomas said...

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."


Mark Thomas

Rood Screen said...


Please calm down.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...


Genesis 3:24 "He expelled the man, stationing the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life."

We are not told that A&E were expelled to the East, but that the cherubim was stationed to the east to guard the way to the tree.

Where are we told that Jesus ascended to the East?

Mark 16:19: "So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God"

Luke 24:50-51: "Then he led them [out] as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven"

Anonymous said...

Some say we should face the East in expectation of the Lord's second coming. Of course, if Jerusalem is the "place" to which He will return, then those in Tokyo and other spots along the 32nd parallel north will have to face west to witness this event...

Other say we should face Him already present on the altar under the forms of bread and wine, yet truly present, Body, Soul, Humanity, and Divinity.

Rood Screen said...

I've noticed that Father Z and Rorate Caeli seem ambivalent about Cardinal Sarah's proposal. These Traditionalists have done with Summorum Pontificum what Modernists did with VCII, attaching themselves emphatically to an extremist "spirit" of a Church document, rather than attending to its letter. The Traditionalists are now so attached to the EF Missal that they miss the fact that the OF Mass is the way of the future, and that it is to its serious reform that we must devote our best pastoral efforts.

If ad orientem is ever widely restored to the OF Mass, then I intend to disassociate myself from the EF Mass and from some of the problematic people associated with it.

Rood Screen said...


Why would He expel them towards the West, but then station angels at the East? This seems like a point you could concede. It's all symbolic, anyway.

Your question is a good one.

George said...

" Since God is spiritual light, and Christ is called in the Scriptures Sun of Righteousness and Dayspring, the East is the direction that by tradition assigned to His worship. God is He from Whom every good thing arises. David also says, Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth: O sing praises unto the Lord: to Him that rideth upon the Heavens of heavens towards the East . Moreover the Scripture also says, And God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. Moreover the tent of Moses had its veil and mercy seat towards the East. The tribe of Judah pitched their camp on the East of the Temple. Also in the celebrated temple of Solomon the Gate of the Lord was placed eastward. Christ, when He hung on the Cross, had His face turned towards the West, and so we worship, striving after Him. And when He was received again into Heaven He was borne towards the East, and thus His apostles worship Him, and thus He will come again in the way in which they beheld Him going towards Heaven as the Lord Himself said, As the lightning cometh out of the East and shineth even unto the West, so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be. So, then, in expectation of His coming we worship towards the East." (Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus.)

At Fatima, when departing, Our Lady was seen by the children to move slowly toward the the East, " She disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament".

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Dialogue - Why? Because the text says, "He expelled the man, stationing the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life."

Doesn't mention the direction in which they were expelled. And I'm not going to read into the text what is not there.

John Nolan said...

Dialogue, disagreement with the opinions and attitudes of some people regarding the classic Roman Rite is hardly cause to 'disassociate' yourself from it. Also when I hear people say that the Novus Ordo is 'the way of the future' I am reminded that Sidney and Beatrice Webb said the same about Soviet communism in the 1930s.

Anonymous said...

I watched a mother and Father Cardinal bird work hard today making sure all of their children (4 of them) left the nest successfully. Interesting three flew towards the East on their way to a new life. The one that was most scared and the last to leave flew a different way and was lost for awhile. The father left all of the other three with the mother and searched for quite awhile to find his lost child. He did not scream at him as some birds do he chirped gently. Soon the little bird was safe with his parents and brothers and sisters. His father had to really work to get him there. What wonderful lessons we can learn from nature.

I predict that this will become one of the top Catholic Blogs for healthy discussion. What smart Posters who help so many. Today Fr. McDonald this Blog was so uplifting. No person was called a name and while there was disagreement it was all done I feel in a manner that would please God. Thank You Fr. MCD for this Blog.

gob said...

I think the inmates have taken over the asylum....

Православный физик said...

Any move to go Ad Orientem would just be a literal interpretation of the already existing rubrics. In Theory nothing should stop a priest from doing such a thing. The Bishop should simply know, since there's no way he could forbid Ad Orientem (licitly) anyway. It would be nice for the Roman church to join (most) of their sister eastern churches towards the Lord.

DJR said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said... Where are we told that Jesus ascended to the East?

For those of us on the Byzantine side of things, it is a common tradition that Christ ascended "to the east."

Psalm 67 by accommodation:

Sing to God, ye kingdoms of the earth: sing ye to the Lord: Sing ye to God, [34] Who mounts above the heaven of heavens, to the east. Behold he will give to his voice the voice of power: [35] Give ye glory to God for Israel, his magnificence, and his power is in the clouds.

St. John Damascene 676 - 787

"And when he was taken up, He [Jesus] ascended to the East and thus the apostles worshipped Him and thus He shall come in the same way as they had seen Him going into heaven, as the Lord himself said “ As lightning cometh out of the east and appeareth even into the west: so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

And so while we are awaiting Him we worship toward the East. This is moreover the unwritten tradition of the apostles, for they have handed many things down to us unwritten.


Tony V said...

I don't know anything about Fr McD's comments, but I think it's safe to say that most bishops round the western world will ignore Cardinal Sarah's recommnedations--if indeed they even hear about them.

I agree with John Nolan's assessment of Dialogue's reference of the OF as 'the Mass of the future.' It's the mass of the Sixties, and was passe almost before it was imposed on us. It's been a colossal failure, but the hierarchical church doesn't understand that it is capable of failure, very capable indeed. It just doesn't get it.

We should also remember that the Novus Ordo GIRM plainly states that Mass 'celebrated ...facing the desirable wherever possible.' That's what it says, and it's flawed.

Anonymous said...

Dialogue, said, "attaching themselves emphatically to an extremist "spirit" of a Church document, rather than attending to its letter". Eh ...? I am sorry but your statement makes no sense. You need to recognize the fact that Catholics have a choice of which form of the Mass they may attend and, just as those who attend the Novus Ordo in the main are not interested in attending the Extraordinary Form of the Mass or promoting it in any way, just as we who attend the Extraordinary Form - although we applaud anything that improves the OF - aren't interested in a new reform of the reform in that it does not affect us and we have our work cut out in promoting the Extraordinary Form, which for us is the future of the Church.

Anonymous said...

If I were a Priest and my Bishop did not disagree I would tell the members of my Church that I felt it in my heart to face the East. Facing East during the most Holy part of the mass should not bother anyone. For me it is the most beautiful act to see the Priest and the People all face God. I think in our Church if the priest felt that way (and I would feel that way) just simply tell the people why you are doing it and they will love it. The Catholic people will not feel disrespected if a priest faces God. The priest faces the people during the homily so why would any church member feel offended. Fr. McD if you love that way to worship God just tell the people in the church how you feel. They will totally support you.

Anonymous said...

With the moral decay sweeping this country--as evidenced by a Supreme Court who can't find the will to support any abortion restrictions and who thinks same-sex marriage is a right---the direction of the altar is probably pretty small potatoes in comparison. Kind of like getting caught up in arguments over "small t tradition" vs. "Big T Tradition." And to the supporters of "Black Lives Matter": Well, if they really do, why don't your folks lead marches to the local Unplanned Parenthood abortion clinic? Far more blacks in Georgia and the United States die from abortion than from police shootings. But I am not holding my breath that they will do so.

Anonymous said...

I have never ever in my life met a "stupid" Priest as was stated above in this thread.
Most of the Priests I have met are so educated that simple people do not always understand their words.
The Catholic Church does not train "Stupid" priests. Ive only attended St. Joseph in Macon so I don't
know about all the other Church but we had very Educated and Gifted Priests. Not to mention very Holy Men.

TJM said...

To refer to someone attaching themselves to the EF, which was the Mass of Vatican II, as possessing an extremist spirit, points to an individual who is themselves an extremist par excellence.

Anonymous said...

"I think it's safe to say that most bishops round the western world will ignore Cardinal Sarah's recommnedations--if indeed they even hear about them."

Maybe. But my own bishop, who is not well-known for frequent liturgical statements, promptly re-tweeted--on his personal page that surely is followed by all his priests--a summary of Cardinal Sarah's recommendation of ad orientem celebration AND kneeling for communion.

Anonymous said...

My sense tells me that Bishops hesitate to take Cardinal Sara up on the suggestion to encourage ad Orientem Masses because they fear to be labeled as orthodox cranks by their brother bishops. Fear of loosing human respect is one of the most difficult sing to overcome.

John Nolan said...

Tony V

The English translation of the 2002 GIRM is flawed, and the CDW has confirmed this. See my comment of 9 July on the thread 'The more I think about it ...' where I quoted the original Latin. It could well be that someone who wanted to promote versus populum added the 'quod expedit' clause - it wasn't in previous versions - and in their eagerness forgot about syntax and scored a spectacular 'own goal'.

johnnyc said...

Apparently Cardinal Sarah has been assigned to re-education camp. It's from a liberal source but probably true unfortunately.

Gerbert d' Aurillac said...

What is happening is just what Vatican II said in Sacrosanctum Consilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. All those who want to adhere to the Council should read up on how the Mass was to change, it will be an eye opener. It is clear that what has happened to the faithful due in part to the Novus Ordo. Approx 48% of Catholics do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the sense of the sacred has been lost, focus is now on the priest and not Christ, The participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation has dropped dramatically. This alone tells how most Catholics do not recognize what is sinful and what is not. The whole purpose is to return the church to proper worship, to restore the sacred in the faithful.
The Anglican ordinate is the model, this is nothing more than the 1965 Sacramentarium. I grew up with the Novus Ordo, never heard or saw the Tridentine Mass before 2007. My curiosity was stirred when Pope Benedict issued his Moto Proprio. I purchased a missal and attended the Mass at St Joseph, it was a profound influence on me, after Mass Father McDonald asked me what I thought, I looked at him and said "What did we do" I was blown away by the beauty and focus of this Mass on Christ and the Eucharist. I went in with no preconceived notions, I just participated with the Priest and prayed a beautiful Mass with him. I am not a Trad, but I do see where the Extraordinary form can help breath life into the Novus ordo. I believe Cardinal Sara and Pope Francis see this as well, this generation my be to far gone for it to do any good, but future generations will benefit, this I am sure of.

Marc said...

False alarm, Novus Ordites. Turns out Cardinal Sarah has been misinterpreted.

Isn't it remarkable how often the people in the Vatican are misinterpreted?

Catholic Mission said...

Cardinal Sarah means the priest should face east,communicants kneel and all interpret Vatican Council II with a new premise which violates the Principle of Non Contradiction and creates ' a new faith'