Saturday, November 25, 2017


UPDATE: The article mysteriously reappears, but perhaps in an edited form, which you can read here.

Praytell had an "other voices" ecumenical post on its main rotating lineup of posts which then did a complete disappearing act.

The post was on Protestant denominations which offer "the Lord's Supper" ad orientem. Facing east, the post described how this removes the "cult of the personality" from the minister, especially in small worship spaces.

It was interesting and I thought I would copy and paste it, only to return to Praytell and find that the post did a disappearing act!


This isn't the article, I don't think, but one very similar to the Praytell post that disappeared in such an insensitive way, ecumenically speaking:

Ad Orientem in Protestant Worship

Before the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church celebrated Mass with the priest facing ad orientem (“to the east,” since almost all altars faced to the east), with his back to the congregation or facing God along with the congregation, depending on your perspective.  This, of course, was one of the practices that fueled the Protestant Reformation: priests muttered in Latin, facing away from the worshipers, which only exacerbated their ignorance of what was happening during the service.
(One of my favorite anecdotes from church history class is the source of the phrase “hocus pocus.”  During the high part of the Mass, the priest would say, in Latin, “Hoc est corpus meum” [“This is my body.”]  But the worshipers, who didn’t understand Latin and who couldn’t hear him anyway, took those words–which sounded like “hocus pocus”–as some magic incantation that changed the wine and bread into Jesus’ body and blood.)
Since the Reformation, and since the Second Vatican Council, Protestants and Catholics alike have been worshiping with priests and pastors facing toward the congregation.  And in many ways, this has been an improvement.  But as some Catholics have begun to recover the practice of ad orientem, I think we Protestants should recover the theological significance of ad orientemin our worship, too.
Too often, in Protestant worship services–especially “contemporary” worship services–the pastor is no longer the leader of the people in prayer, directing believers to offer themselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).  But too often the pastor becomes the star of the show, the performer of worship for the crowd’s enjoyment, the lecturer for the class in the pews, or, worst yet, the object of worship himself.  This mistake is only accentuated when musicians are positioned facing the “crowd,” as though they are singing to the people instead of God.
In one of my seminary internships, the pastor would walk among the congregation to gather up prayer requests before the pastoral prayer (or “prayers of the people”).  And then he would stand in the aisle, among the worshipers, and pray to the front of the sanctuary, on behalf of the people.  And the symbolism–of who was praying to whom–was both powerful and unmistakable.
Although we may have differing opinions on how worship should look and sound, we Protestants should pay more close attention to who is actually in the spotlight and who is receiving our praise, our glory, and our worship.


Rood Screen said...

What is the source for the article that you do post here?

John Nolan said...

Protestant 'reformers', who did know Latin, came up with the 'hocus pocus' slur. They also referred to the Blessed Sacrament as 'Round Robin' or 'Jack-in-the-box'. The children's toy of that name came later, but examples survive with 'hocus pocus' engraved on the lid.

In the Anglican Prayer Book service the priest is enjoined to stand at the north end of the table, presumably facing south. The 19th century Oxford Movement and subsequent reordering of churches reintroduced the ad orientem stance, but John Henry Newman, in his years as an Anglican priest, always followed the Prayer Book rubric.

GenXBen said...

I've attended a Lutheran church (Missouri Synod) a few times for weddings and funerals and when there's a "Lords Supper", the minister says the prayers over the host ad orientem. He also says a couple of other prayers ad orientem, but I never understood which ones they were.

I attended a high church Episcopalian liturgy that was ad-orientem to the gills. While sitting in that church I was most likely sitting next to a gay couple, though they weren't married in they eyes of the state or anyone else at the time. They were oddly nonscandalized by ad orientem worship. It always amuses me why liberal Catholics heave and moan about "rigid restorationist" ad orientem worship when liberal Episcopalians don't.

Father G said...

I believe this is the article. It has "the cult of personality" reference:

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Dialogue, this is what I found at the bottom of the article:

This entry was posted in Faith and tagged ad orientem, contemporary worship by sinaiticus. Bookmark the permalink.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Thanks Fr. G. I noticed that the article mysteriously reappeared this morning, but I think the "cult of the personality" remark was edited out of this paragraph, which nonetheless is insightful:

This may be sufficient introduction to background reflection on several conversations regarding east-facing eucharistic celebrations and gender issues, prompted by conversations and shared experiences with students over the last year. First was the desire on the part of several presiders and other liturgical ministers for the presider to “get out of the way.” This is exacerbated in smaller buildings in which the tendency (arising from sight lines, audibility issues, or a general cluelessness) of some presiders to stand front and centre facing the community gives the impression that the singing, the creed, and the intercessory prayers are actually directed to the presider. Joined to the renewed focus in liturgical theology on God acting on us in liturgy, rather than the liturgy as something that we alone ‘do,’ the challenges of the placement of the one presiding throughout the liturgy have been increasingly questioned. In addition, the simultaneous reality that we offer “our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” not only through Christ but with Christ as ‘the Body’ has raised questions of what the whole of the gathering of the baptized offering praise and thanksgiving together actually looks like.

Father G said...

You're welcome, Father.

Just wanted to point out that the "cult of personality" remark can be found in the last paragraph of the article.

Blessed Sunday of Christ The King!

TJM said...

Bernard Fischer, probably because those "liberal" Catholics were trained by priests like Kavanaugh!