Saturday, January 16, 2021


 I have come to the conclusion about 50 years ago, that ad orientem will not again become the norm for the Church’s Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

But in the 1990’s there were some legitimate liturgical historians and theologians who called into question the “resourcement” excuse of those who promoted the iconoclasm of traditional church altars, that in fact ad orientem occurred quite early and during the time of the Fathers. They recommended a return to it.

Pope Benedict also desire a literal or symbolic return to it by making the crucifix the locus of orientation, in terms of facing where the cross was originally, Jerusalem, the east, the rising of the sun. 

Thus, even under Pope Francis, who seems not to truly care about liturgical orientem, the crucifix has remained at the center of the altar when facing the congregation and His Holiness is not phobic of celebrating Mass truly ad orientem in the Sistine Chapel, side altars in St. Peter’s and a few other venues. 

Thus look at the photo, so common today. Also, a disturbing trend in some quarters is to have a free standing altar in a new church with traditional architecture and acquiring an older altar with reredos from a closed church to be place behind the free standing altar as a “tabernacle” stand. But in reality it is an altar.

I like the church and side altars are clearly not the main altar. What I don’t like and I think goes against liturgical norms are the two main altars. I don’t like the side altars being used for votive candles. Odd.

I don’t like the red carpet, but what the heck. 

The way to remedy the truly egregious free standing main altar which is second rate when compared with the original main altar is this: slice the table part of the altar away from the reredos and pull it forward about 10 feet or so and make sure their is a predella in front of the detached altar so that Mass can be celebrated on either side. Thus the old altar is still the main altar, placed where the eye is naturally drawn and eliminates the faux altar.

Could you imagine free standing altars in front of the two side altars? No! It is senseless. 

Here’s the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta which did what I recommend in 1968. Thus the altar consecrated as the altar in April of 1863 is still the altar that has always been used in this church and has the capability of Mass celebrated on it on either side of it. 

Before with attached altar:

After with detached altar (allowing for Mass to be celebrated on either side of it):


ByzRus said...

Beautiful church. If it was mine, I would remove the carpeting, clear the side altars (they are altars, not plant/candle stands)and remove the platform under the chair as I wouldn't personally see the need to have a throne for myself. The table altar would remain, as is and where it is. That way, should common sense prevail someday, it could simply be carried away and the high altar would again be the altar. Shame the old pulpit wasn't retained. As it looks to be a larger church, the person speaking would be more easily seen from an elevated location.

Fr William Bauer said...

I have met a priest who settled the matter simply renaming the altars. The real main altar is not used much and is usually nearer a wall. The smaller altar in front of it is the snack stand.