Editor’s note: This essay marks the debut of a regular CWR column by Dr. Larry Chapp. Titled “Chapp’s Schtick”, it will feature Dr. Chapp’s commentary on a range of current issues, with a particular focus on theological controversies, cultural conflicts, and ecclesial debates.
I was recently reading an article on a traditionalist site, posted by a friend of mine on his Facebook page. I do not normally read articles from such sources as I consider them, in general, to be devoted to a retrograde form of “angry Catholicism”. However, the topic was ad orientem worship, which piqued my interest. In the midst of an otherwise decent analysis the author casually stated that only “ad orientem” worship was proper since it is altogether fitting that the priest should “face God” in the tabernacle rather than turning his back on the same. I certainly do not believe that all traditionalists think this way; however, it does seem to be a misconception shared by many.
Joseph Ratzinger, in his 1986 book The Feast of Faith: Approaches to Theology of the Liturgy addressed this very topic, stating:
The eastward-facing position of the celebrant in the old Mass was never intended as a celebration toward the holy of holies, nor can it be described as “facing the altar”. In fact it would be contrary to all theological reason, since the Lord is present in the Eucharistic gifts during the Mass in the same way as he is in the gifts of the tabernacle which come from the Mass. Thus, the Eucharist would be celebrated “from” the Host “to” the Host, which is plainly meaningless. There is only one inner direction of the Eucharist, namely, from Christ in the Holy Spirit to the Father. The only question is how this can be best expressed in liturgical form.
Ratzinger goes on to point out that the tradition of facing east was grounded in the iconic symbolism of the rising sun (Son). It was thoroughly eschatological in tone and tenor since the symbolism involved focused on the Resurrection as a proleptic “looking forward” to the Parousia and the consummation of the Kingdom at the end of terrestrial time. The emphasis was on the full cosmic nature of our redemption. This necessarily included a Trinitarian emphasis not only on the work the Son, but also of the Father’s “power” over all of creation and the transformative role of the Holy Spirit in mediating the manner in which Christ makes “all things new.”
Thus the tradition arose of placing a cross on the east wall of the Church, which became the eschatological focus of all Eucharistic worship for priest and congregation alike. Sadly, over time this eschatological/trinitarian/cosmic dimension was eclipsed and then lost as the focus became almost exclusively the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The sacrificial aspects of the Mass, though most certainly important, crowded out the eschatological horizon of the liturgical action. Thus, as Ratzinger notes, with this loss of eschatological orientation,
…the ancient eastward orientation of the celebration became meaningless, and people could begin speaking of the priest celebrating ‘facing the wall’ or imagine that he was celebrating toward the tabernacle.
This loss of the eschatological horizon, already operative in the pre-conciliar liturgy, is why versus populum worship was also immediately misunderstood as a “dialogue” between priest and people. After all, once the eschatological horizon is lost it does seem to be the case that it is better for the priest to face the people rather than “the wall” or the tabernacle. As Ratzinger states:
This misunderstanding alone can explain the sweeping triumph of the new celebration facing the people. … All this would be inconceivable if it had not been preceded by a prior loss of meaning from within.
Ratzinger clearly prefers a return to the prior form of priest and people facing the eschatological east together. But he believes that to institute such a reversion now would only further confuse people who have endured enough liturgical tinkering already. Better for now, at least as a stop-gap measure, to place a large crucifix on the altar where it is plainly visible and which becomes the focus of both priest and congregation. This has the added advantage as well of emphasizing that what makes the liturgy “ad orientem” is not the posture or position of the priest vis-à-vis the people as such, but the eschatological horizon that is the very heart and soul of what ad orientem meant in the first place.
In other words, the entire congregation could be on their backs looking at the ceiling during worship, but if it contains a strong eschatological focus on the cosmic Christ then, in some way (and no matter how bizarre my example) the worship is “ad orientem”.
However, I think even Ratzinger understands that his “crucifix on the altar” solution is, at best, a partial and ultimately unsatisfactory answer. It does not address the deeper issue of a Church that has become overly horizontalist and has lost its eschatological edge—a fact the “new Mass” perhaps exacerbates. But, for that matter, absent such a reinvigorated eschatological sense, a mere return to the priest facing away from the people will not solve matters either. Because, as we have seen, this too is open to misunderstanding when the original meaning of ad orientem worship has been lost.
The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, in a lecture given to various Catholics assembled at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, made the claim that this is precisely the broader crisis in the Church today as a whole. The first Christians, he states, had a thought world utterly dominated by the eschatological sense of “Messianic time,” which for Agamben means the first Christians saw themselves as “sojourners.” They were a people “on the move” from Christ and to Christ; the Church, according to Agamben, has lost this eschatological edge. We are now “settled citizens” content with the ambient cultures that surround us and the stasis of a “time” devoid of eschatological orientation.
I agree with this, and what it says to me is that there is no way that our current “liturgy wars” can be resolved until we once again become a Church that lives the entirety of its life as an “ad orientem” Church. Only such a Church will have the inner resources to once again “turn to the east” with an expectant faith oriented to the cosmic Glory that is to come.
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The earth is the Lords, we should worship Him on all points of the compass on our daily walk.
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing,
Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Matthew 6:7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Praise the name of the Lord.
I wonder if we’re not missing something more obvious: the Catholic desire for the incarnational. As they did when Eucharistic adoration took root, people just want to see. Seeing the confection of the Eucharist, and engaging the other senses, such as hearing the Mass in the vernacular were just two developments that aligned with something of deep Catholic tradition. We naturally suspect things that are hidden from us, secreted away. That we’ve lived in an age of information for generations now only encourages the movement.
Maybe the eschatological was more “accessible” in the Tridentine Era. But we also struggle with gnosticism, even to this day–the problem that some people in the Church have secrets and are themselves special or elevated in God’s eyes because of them.
By the way, liturgically, I favor the monastic antiphonal seating: Christ at the center, not as the song suggests, “at a distance.” A community conducting a prayerful conversation with God, a sharing of worship.
The problem with this is that it obscures the sense of the transcendetal whic is now all but lost in our modern understanding of liturgy.
Chapp is right, we have become too horizontal as a church. We see this in the overemphasis on the communal dimension of the liturgy to the neglect of the vertical.
The argument about suspicion of the secretive no longer flies these days because information is already readily available. It just a matter of educating the people.
For many Americans, the larger problem is that few clergy are trained as artists and many parishes do not hire artists for liturgy. Educating for what elevates the spirit? Mostly can’t be done. I agree that a lot of Catholic liturgy fails to inspire. It has nothing to do with the orientation of the clergy. It takes apprenticeship in the arts, and you can’t follow a recipe to get it.
For many Americans, the larger problem is that too many clergy are behaving as artists and many parishes hire self-styled artists to create a liturgy to their personal tastes. Educating for what elevates the spirit? Can be done with proper catechesis, teaching the true meaning of the mass. I agree that a lot of Catholic liturgy fails to inspire, if your expectation is to be entertained. This matter has a lot to do with the “orientation” the author describes, which is to “turn to the east” with an expectant faith oriented to the cosmic Glory that is to come. (As was clearly stated in the last paragraph of the article.) It takes abandonment of the false ‘arts’ so that you can follow a successful recipe developed millenia ago to get it.
Well said F_William.
They are creating the Liturgy in their own image.
Yes, that can happen. But it is also undeniable that without artistic effort, there would be no polyphony, no Sistine Chapel painting, no St Peter’s Basilica. Music, art, and architecture are grounded in faith, but require a creative cooperation with the Holy Spirit that, frankly, catechesis alone does not provide.
Todd. No. No. No.
One can justify any position but whatever the position one must remember that the Mass is a unique liturgical service in which we respond, as a Church family, to the sacred gifts our Lord made available to us. And those gifts are on the altar on which the ritual is being celebrated by the worshippers.
I do believe that the introductory prayers could be said at the foot of the altar with the priest turning east as it used to be done years ago. However, once we begin the liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest should face the people around the altar table as is done in the NO.
With all the divisions in the Church today, one initially reacts to this essay as something like “should all the angels dancing on the needle point face eastward?”
Not that the matter,form and intention in sacramental theology isn’t important. But
all three of these linchpins have evolved over the centuries, even how water in baptism was initially used, from ceremonial dunking the full body and head under to pouring a few drops on the forehead that people a few rows away can’t even see the water. Best point made in this east versus horizontal is leave what we have alone and don’t bring in yet another issue to fight over.
Why leave the matter alone if it is not right?
The liturgical abuses we’ve seen all stem in a kind of slip sliding away manner from the seemingly minor matter of the priest turning away from the east.
If status quo is not healthy, status quo must change. Broken things must get fixed.
The Mass is the renewal of Christs sacrifice on the cross from which all graces stem. It is the most beautiful and holy thing on the planet. A single mass pleases God more than all our sins displease him, primarily due to the actions of Christ in offering his redemptive sacrifice to the Father in the Mass. It is more than a pity that this belief and concept of the mass has been lost in the Church, which explains the decrease in Catholics who believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the loss of identity amongst the Priesthood. How many young men are willing to give up family and a wife to become a Presider over a liturgical service that celebrates a meal.
Have you read what Francis and his minions have contemptuously proclaimed about people who revere traditional liturgical forms? And you think the “Traditionalists” are the ones who seethe in anger?
Have you ever asked your pastor or some other priest to celebrate the NO in Latin? I can’t distinguish the vitriol I’ve been given there from what you expect when making the same request for the EF. Very unfortunate that Larry Chapp couldn’t bite his tongue in reference to traditionalists at the beginning of this article.
I have well over a dozen books by Joseph Ratzinger (thanks to Ignatius Press and Father Joseph Fessio et al) and I love his gentle and persistent recourse to reasoning.
And I greatly appreciate Larry Chapp and am delighted to see he will have a regular column here at CWR.
I am very familiar with and sympathetic to the reasoning surrounding Ratzinger’s discourse on ad orientum and versus populum.
Of course, there is a “BUT” coming after that introduction.
Since Jesus gave us the Catholic faith as incarnational (“This is My Body…Put your finger here, and see my hands, and put out your hand and place it in my side….”), therefore gestures have meaning, and conversely, the absence of gestures can communicate an absence of meaning.
Meaning is communicated by gestures.
And the absence of gestures can communicate the absence of meaning.
The questioning and reasoning about ad orientum in Ratzinger (and hence in the essay) are built on a presumption against ad orientum, as a kind of settlement of the question, and in all fairness, many such presumptions are inherently rebuttable presumptions, that can themselves be found faulty.
In the case of ad orientum and versus populum, the weakness of the discussion by Ratzinger is that it is off balance, as it critiques (puts to the test) only the ad orientum gesture, and fails to submit the versus populum gesture to examination.
I agree with Larry Chapp that even Ratzinger suspects that his alternative of putting a crucifix on the altar is “a partial and unsatisfactory answer.”
Since the question of ad orientum and versus populum involves a decision of one in favor of the other,” a more balanced examination and decision would allow putting the two options to the same test, treating both alternatives in the same way. Absent that, there is really no holistic process for making the decision, and there really no discussion, but instead, nothing more than explaining away one alternative (in this case ad orientum), and giving the other alternative a free pass. Giving versus populum a free pass, after only testing ad orientum and explaining it away, is not reasonable, and therefore in the marriage reason and charity, it is by extension not charitable…it is mere ecclesial fiat.
Indeed, if it is the case, as Ratzinger argues, that “the sweeping triumph” of versus populum is explained by “a prior loss of meaning” about “ad orientum,” then it seems to follow that the subsequent decision in favor of “versus populum” is a decision in favor of a gesture devoid of meaning.
And if the path trod by the “New Order of the Roman Rite” (NO), is only a series of “sweeping triumphs” that can be explained away by “a loss of meaning” in the words and gestures if “The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite,” then the next logical step is to dispense with the doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, because it can be justified and explained away right now, because 70% of “Catholic” people don’t believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and that means that doctrine is losing its meaning.
So yes, by all means discuss the choice between ad orientum and versus populum. But not on the basis of a lop-sided rationalization defaulting to versus populum, which amounts to nothing more than a surrender to “the loss of meaning.”
Thanks, Chris in Maryland, for the thoughtful observations. The deep wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Sarah really will really comes to fore when Catholics come to realize their proposal of having the OF and EF inform each other is to someday see the two form converge so that we have the best of both worlds. Seen another way, the Novus Ordo is abolished and the usus antiquor is allowed to resume its organic evolution, incorporating the most desirable and most justifiable features of the Novus Ordo (e.g., communion under both species, the expanded lectionary, an updated calendar to name a few).
Thank you for the kind compliment Archange.
First of all, I’d like to say that “Chapp’s Schlick” has to be one of the greatest column names of all time!
Regarding ad orientum, surely the principle of lex orandi, lex credendi applies. Versus populum encourages an interplay between priest and people that isn’t always positive. I recall once seeing a priest offer a humorous quip that occurred to him during the Eucharistic Prayer. I enjoy humor as much as anyone and I know it can be welcome at appropriate times in the mass, but hearing a joke during the Eucharistic Prayer was very jarring and distracting. It’s hard to picture an ad orientum priest looking back over his shoulder to make a wise crack. It’s just my observation, but there seems to be a more reverent attitude among the people when the Eucharistic Prayer is offered ad orientum. But, maybe that’s more a reflection of the rarity of ad orientum, or a reflection of those who seek out more traditional masses?
I grew up before Vatican II and I remember the Mass as it was then. I found that my primary focus was on the priest because I was waiting until he turned around and said something that I could recognize so that I could make sure I was on the right page in my missal.
I also found that the fact that the priest stood between God and the people reinforced the belief that the people had no direct contact with God except for the 15 minutes after Communion. The priest stood between God and them. This belief was reinforced further by the understanding that all prayers and meditation had to pass through the minds of priests so as to be “correct”. Any personal contact with Jesus was considered “Protestant”.
Your point is well taken.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
Ephesians 3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Romans 5:2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
John 10:7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
God bless you.
Read the writings of the saints if you want to learn what a personal relationship with Jesus looks like in the context of the Catholic faith.
Thank you, I have, and that is why I do not accept an ecclesiology that separates the liturgy from the rest of the life of the faithful, especially when it causes people to travel to another parish just for the liturgy, without taking any part in the life of the parish. Please see my comment of March 23rd,
When attending the Traditional Latin Mass, I find my attention focused entirely on God throughout the mass. I observe the priest and what’s happening on the altar because I know that Christ our Lord is there. I have no sense of “division” between God and myself simply because of the intermediation of the priest. I find God more present, not less.
Thanks Faithful. Me too.
Furthermore, it is ridiculous to complain about the mediation of the priest. If God chose mediators then that is good because it is God’s choice.
It’s like a beggar complaining because the king chose to give alms via his almoner. Ridiculous.
Isn’t Christ the sole Mediator? Isn’t the Mass a work of the whole Christ? Not just a work of the Head and the priest? The Church is the continuation of the Incarnation and that means that what all the members do, not just the priest, matters – literally. It is not enough to be spiritually united with the priest.
And I find my attention focused on Him present in the sacred vessels which I can see when they are not hidden by someone else. Different people are helped by different expressions of the same truth.
Same here. It’s far more distracting when the priest faces us, since you’re more likely to focus on his facial gestures, personality or other interfering factors. The “effectiveness” of Mass often is tied to the priest’s showmanship or improvisational inputs.
The word ‘liturgy’ has an obvious connection with the word ‘literature.’ In literature, we read the text which often includes sub-text. Sub-text prevails in importance, as it conveys meaning at a powerful, psychological level, especially in the theater and the movies. As I view the Novus Ordo and compare it to the Tridentine Mass, I see a “house divided against itself.” In the Tridentine Mass, the priest faces away from the congregation because he is leading prayer to God, as symbolized by the rising sun. In the New Mass, he is leading prayer to whom? To those sitting in the pews. Intellectually, we are told that we pray to God, sub-consciously we pray to ourselves, as possibly, a tribe worships itself by honoring a totem animal. In the New Mass, as we approach the minister of Communion, she says, “Body of Christ.” We say, “Amen” and accept the Host in hour un-consecrated hands. The sub-text belies the text. It is not the Body of Christ, it is just a wafer, as intended in the Cranmer Mass. In the traditional Mass, women were not permitted at the altar and altar girls did not exist. The text recognized the profound differences between males and females, and the importance of men, priests, in sustaining a Divine moral order. The Novus Ordo sub-text, today, avers that no Sacred space exists and no moral order exists. It is all the same ball of wax. The kiddie art and the banal music convey the same meaning. The difference between the sacred and the profane is a matter of taste. Tradition means nothing. Today means everything. Today conveys meaning not the Bark of Peter, not the Church. The task of the Church is to keep up with the modern challenges of life over which it seems to refuse to take any control, since that would infringe on the prerogatives of those who do control these challenges.
“Schtick?” I don’t agree with using a term used by and from Jews. For those who are knowledgeable about such matters it tends to make one suspicious.
“But, for that matter, absent such a reinvigorated eschatological sense, a mere return to the priest facing away from the people will not solve matters either. Because, as we have seen, this too is open to misunderstanding when the original meaning of ad orientem worship has been lost.”
Human females modestly dressed are at least subconsciously perceived as virtuous and the effect on reducing the “imaginative temptations” posed by immodesty is the same regardless of how it is perceived by the person who noticed the modestly clothed female.
The effect of any “lost meaning” is irrelevant in this case.
Interestingly enough while there is a definitely “line in the sand” with regards to modestly, it is a fact that there are levels of charity which go “above and beyond.” As such, it wasn’t common for much of the twentieth century for women to be visible in public life. It is almost certain that TPTB know that presenting even a modest woman can be a very mild – and unnecessary – temptation.
I am not interested in verifying the specifics right now, but there was a saint who vowed never to look (gaze?) on the face of his mother. This attitude is the correct one. The “bare minimum” isn’t as good with regards to scandal.
“I don’t agree with using a term used by and from Jews. For those who are knowledgeable about such matters it tends to make one suspicious.”
And what about the Old and New Testaments. Suspicious of those as well?
Here is some info for those curious about the etymology of “schtick”. It is used here as “piece” or “slice”, which fits well with Dr. Chapp’s approach and is in keeping with the title’s pun.
Thanks, Carl, for setting me straight on Larry’s meaning. There I was, thinking his column would be balm to rough dry chapps.
Correct. It is a phonetic rendering of the German/Yiddish word stueck (i.e. stu(umlaut)ck) meaning piece. Its adaptation in the Yiddish theatrical world as a bit of a comedy routine is obvious. But truly disturbing is why Shawn is alarmed by a term by “used by and from Jews.” Would he feel better thinking it is a term used by and from Germans?
Me, I think my life has been enriched by learning and appreciating Jewish culture, contemporary as well as Biblical/ historical.
Jesus was King of the Jews. We should honour the Jews and thank the Lord that we were grafted into the vine. Let us be an aid to the Jews and never a hinderance.
Temptation in of itself is not sin. It is dwelling on it instead of moving our minds to the godly. Jesus was temped on every count, yet without sin! He is uniquely qualified to cleanse us of our sins. The one who gave the Law, fulfilled the law. God in His mercy, used Jesus as a light to gentiles. Righteous Jews brought us the Gospels, Epistles and writings.
The New Testament is a very Jewish book. First for the Jews and then for the gentiles.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
God bless you in your walk with the Lord.
The term schtick is useful, because it exposes odd prejudices like anti semitism.
Thank you for this. I agree that the Church’s liturgy as commonly celebrated lacks a sense of reverence, of transcendence, and of looking toward the eschatological horizon. How do we recapture this without devolving into bickering over the proper forms? Personally, I think returning to ad orientem posture at least for much of the liturgy of the Eucharist would be an excellent first step. I see the placing of a cross on the altar as a stop-gap compromise that really doesn’t work because it does not result in the priest and people facing liturgical east in unison. I also believe that a return to receiving the Eucharist kneeling, on the tongue, from the hands of an ordained cleric would help.
Dr Chapp has written a fair amount about the need for personal conversion on his blog, I’d check it out.
To me, the answer is not to be found in this or that display of performative piety which may or may not be accompanied by actual holiness. The answer is actually living the Gospel with humility: personal prayer; reception of the Sacraments; doing the work (job) we are called to, as living, breathing Christians, bearing his candle into every dark corner in order lives, hopefully leading others to Christ.
I think the hang ups on liturgical form are a distraction from the above in many cases.
While it’s true that fights about, or obsessing over, liturgical form can be distractions from one’s personal shortcomings, it’s also true that liturgical form is important. The difficult part these days is telling where lack of devotion and knowledge of our faith comes from poor liturgical form, and where lack of devotion and knowledge of our faith leads to poor liturgical form. If both are true, then it would behoove us all to identify good liturgical form so that we can promote it, and it can help people become more devout and learn more about their faith.
Your comments are notable for their conciseness and for their clarity. Thank you.
“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“In the process of presenting a gift by one and receiving it by another, the two face each other” –
No unless you also are in the habit of giving gifts to your friends and family while standing 10 to 30 yards or more from them. Which is why, Mal, when the part comes for reception of the Eucharist (even when one is on the knees at an altar rail) the priest faces the communicant when he reiterates with a sense of intimacy “Corpus Christi”. Or have you also unaware that in the TLM the consecrated Eucharistic species are not only held aloft above the celebrant’s head visibly after the words of institution and are again displayed face to face upon the “Ecce, Agnus Dei!”. The Syro-Malabar Rite is currently having intelligent discussions about the ideal mix of ad orientem and versus populum within the Divine Liturgy. Totally scrubbing out the ad orientem position during the Mass has greatly impoverished the Western Rite because the Mass is BOTH a sacred banquet AND a holy sacrifice.
It is worthwhile when men discuss matters of faith. To be strengthened by another’s insight is good. A sermon/homily that lifts us to godliness is always well received. God requires us to expand our faith so that we are useful servants to our fellow man.
2 Timothy 2:2 And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Romans 1:12 That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Rejoicing in the love, peace and fellowship of Jesus Christ
If the Church had lost her sense of eschatology, if the ‘faithful’ circa VCII failed to understand ‘ad orientem’ as an eschatological raison d’etre and instead saw a “priest looking at a wall,” is the Tridentine Rite to blame??
Further, if ‘looking at a wall’ conveys no eschatological meaning, I’ll happily lie supine, looking up, searching for what lies beyond my coffin lid.
The priest does not face the wall (which would have no eschatological meaning); rather, he faces the East. Now we don’t even necessarily build churches facing the East, which is yet another sign of how symbolically impoverished we have become.
Yes, facing East, the traditionally understood direction from which Christ shall come at His return Mt 24:27, as it was the beginning place where God put man in Eden, which God planted in the eastern part of paradise (Genesis 2:8).
Note too that Jesus CAME THROUGH THE WALLS of the upper room on the eve of Easter. It makes sense that a priest would look for Christ to the east (and at a ‘wall’ or a ‘veil’ between the priest, the people, and our invisible Lord). The non-believers, people without imagination, folks without a spiritual sense of Scripture will see a wall and only a wall, beyond which they believe and hope for nothing. Were Christ to appear in their midst with all walls, all veils removed between them and Him, such folks would probably still have difficulty.
There is another way of regarding the Priest facing the people. It is an expression of the Trinitarian Icon of the Church. In this icon (Augustine and various writers since Vatican II) The person of the Father is represented by the clergy (begetting the Word and giving life to all creation, the person of the Son is represented by the congregation (in loving, self-emptying reverence for the Father) and the person of the Spirit is represented by the affection of clergy and laity for each other. Loss of meaning and acquiring new meaning is largely a matter of education. We need to education by both explanations and actions. John’s Gospel begins with the Word and God face to face: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was (literally) face to face with God, and the Word was God. We can hardly do better than look to the Trinity for meaning.
That does not work.
Meanwhile, liturgical abuse rolls on under “the great reformer,” once again done by Pontiff Francis himself, as observed by Phillip Lawler, who in turn offers the link to the outstanding essay at The Catholic Thing by the faithful priest Father Gerald Murray.
It all gives one the impression that the Pontiff Francis enjoys abusing the office of pontiff…
Power is heady. Even more sore absolutely power.
Please forgive me if the reader is offended. When Christ first offered the Eucharist on the night of the Last Supper he was reclining, [the original Gk text has him reclining ἀνέκειτο, Latin text Jerome’s vulgate discumbebat facing the Apostles in a semi circle] as that was the Greek custom adopted by the Jews described by Matthew 26:20.
An argument may be made defending Benedict XVI as quoted by Chapp. Although, more important is that it was, and is most appropriate that we decline to adopt a physical, semi pagan facing the sun, or the East as Muslims do, rather than direct our attention in worship of the incomprehensible mystery of the invisible God present to us in the Holy Eucharist. And that the priest face the people as he did the Apostles at the Last Supper.
Furthermore, the essential meaning of the words of consecration, This is my Body, which will be given up for you is lost ad orientem. The Holy Eucharist was instituted by Christ for the people. Not to God as the sacrifice of animals were offered in the Judaic worship in parallel to the ad orientem posture away from the people. As if intended as an inferior [animal] sacrifice offered to God.
The Holy Eucharist was offered by Christ for the people, and to the people. And must be understood in the manner of the new, not the old dispensation.
Likewise, the ancient Latin rite should, and must be retained as inherent to our tradition, and as a model for transition to the new as recommended by Benedict XVI.
Thank you, Fr Peter. These are the best two posts on this matter.
Additionally, what is said is criticism for sake of considering the efficacy of both liturgies, since needless to say the rite practiced for approx 2000 years is beautiful and spiritually profound.
Whichever rite we prefer it’s the depth of faith and practice that matters.
Jesus gave up His body To His Father For the People. He did not give up His body To the People.
You do not offend in the least. One ought not be sorry unless one intends to offend.
But God does work in mysterious ways. Mal signals her approval.
Meiron. He gave his sacred body and blood to us as our true food and true drink. And similarly Meiron, he offered his suffering, not simply a body as such, which abstracts from the fulness of the reality, rather his entire being body and soul to the Father in reparation for our sins. There are two different though connected theologies here. The theology of the Eucharist, the gift of himself to us as our sustenance, the banquet, and the theology of the sacrifice, the giving of himself in reparation to the Father on our behalf.
Right. He offered His body and blood first to His father. Without having sacrificed His body on the cross, His gift of His body to us at the Last Supper – the Day of Preparation – would have no sacrificial efficacy. Applying the blood of the sacrificial lamb has salvific efficacy. Applying blood of a non-sacrificial lamb would not have led the Angel to Pass-over the firstborn resident. The Passover sacrifice is what is essential. The meal is simply the application of the effects of the sacrifice. Therefore, Fr. Morello, the Passover is the offering. The gift is the effect of the offering applied.
Meiron, do you understand that you are denying the very words of Christ, Take this all of you and eat of it, For this is my Body which will be given up for you. The sacrifice on the Cross confirms the gift given to us by Christ. You denigrate the Holy Eucharist as if it were a passing consequence. Turn away from personal predilection and believe in the Gospel.
Jesus gave up his spirit to the Father. ““Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46
At every NO holy Mass we hear these words: “This is my body, given up for you.”
Luke tells us: “In like manner the chalice also, after he had supped, saying: This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you.”
That point is a major point, and I thank you for pointing it out.
The profundity of the Catholic Mass compels me to write further. When I offer Mass alone, that is, alone with God I my offering is also Christ offering himself for the people as banquet, and to the Father as the sacrifice that reconciles us to him. Which is why the Church encourages the priest to offer Mass even when it’s not possible, or convenient to offer it with a community. As I believe Benedict says when alone we may offer the Mass for the world.
I have a question Peter (Fr Peter Morello)
I always understood that the Mass/Sacrifice always required a sharing as in a recipient being present.
As we are taught that a Sacrament is An Outward Sign of Inward Grace. Baptism without a baby (Recipient). Confession without a penitent. Holy ‘Communion’ /Sharing without a recipient. Confirmation with a person. Marriage without a groom or bride. Holy orders without a participant Anointing without a sick person. So, is it not fair, to say all of these examples would fracture this teaching?
A priest acts as a conduit to God’s grace through the Sacraments he is not the Sacrament he cannot forgive himself, ordain himself etc.
kevin your brother
Kevin, the sacrifice of the Mass is the one, unique sacrament that exclusively possesses its own efficacy. Because it effectively re presents Christ’s saving act on the cross for the salvation of the many.
The priest who offers Mass, in a secondary though unique manner exclusive to his ordination as alter Christus participates with Christ’s sacrifice by offering himself with and through Christ to the Father.
Thank you Peter (Fr Peter Morello) for your comment “The priest who offers Mass, in a secondary though unique manner exclusive to his ordination as alter Christus participates with Christ’s sacrifice by offering himself with and through Christ to the Father “ But Peter don’t we the faithful as brothers and sisters in Christ also join in with Christ’s perfect offering as a secondary with our imperfect offering too
“Pray, brethren, that ‘my’ sacrifice and ‘yours’ be acceptable to God the Father almighty.”
As I have said previously, I always understood that the Mass/Sacrifice always required a sharing as in a recipient being physically present without which these words could not be said in honesty “Take and eat; this is My body.” So, have you some other given format?
kevin your brother
Christ himself speaks to the priest as well as the laity in the words of consecration.
You mentioned the Greek custom adopted by the Jews of eating on the same side of a semi-circular table while reclining. Another ancient custom that I almost never hear talked about concerning this topic is the Jewish practice of facing the temple during prayer. Keeping this in mind and considering that the earthly temple became obsolete with the death of Christ, the natural question any devout Jew would ask is, “Now where do we face when we pray?” I could imagine St. Paul would have chimed in saying, “We face towards the true temple not made with hands, where Christ ministers on our behalf.” Which direction is that? Rabbinic tradition tells us that the entrance to Paradise is to be found in the east. Whereas the entrance to Hades is to be found in the west. In this context psalm 19 makes sense as telling the gospel, “In them he has placed a tabernacle for the sun, which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.” Here we have familiar terms, tabernacle, sun [of justice], bridegroom, strong man, rising. I would argue that facing eastward during prayer would totally make sense as facing the true temple not made with hands, where our Lord ministers on our behalf. This should be the direction of our prayer. As lightening comes from the east and makes its way to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Eschatological, yes, cosmic, yes, but profoundly rooted in the Jewish custom of facing the temple during prayer, yes indeed.
Interestingly, Rome, St Peter’s Basilica had from the beginning the altar facing East toward the people [versus populum] the people gathered on either side of the altar to have visible contact of what occurred on the altar. Even Saint Paul’s Basilica Outside the Walls had this arrangement as did many Roman churches following the model of St Peter’s.
“For whatever reason it was done, one can also see this arrangement whereby the priest faced the people in a whole series of church buildings within Saint Peter’s direct sphere of influence, The Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer” (Adoremus Bulletin, Vol. VI, No. 3: May 2000 ). Also, my predilection more with Rome than the East I am fully in agreement with Romano Guardini.
“In the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the altar is ‘the center of thanksgiving that the Eucharist accomplishes’ and the point around which the other rites are in some manner arrayed. Its importance was made evident by Romano Guardini 1885–1968, about whom Robert R. Kuehn wrote: with him [Guardini] on the altar, the sacred table became the center of the universe. The impact of the sacred action was all the more profound because Guardini celebrated the Mass versus populum – facing the people” (Anthology Romano Guardini Liturgy Training Publications 1997 in Wikipedia).
Although the people initially faced the altar at the beginning of Mass because of the layout of St. Peter’s Basilica. They then turned their back towards the altar and faced east during the Eucharistic prayer at the direction of the Deacon who said, Conversi Ad Dominum! So important was the eastward facing posture.
For further support of my position [and that of Romano Guardini] in the ongoing saga of whether facing East rather then West or any other direction really matters [my position is it doesn’t matter theologically, spiritually, or logically, that facing East distracts from exclusive worship of God] I quote Saint Thomas Aquinas:
ST 1a2ae Q 102, 4. Whether sufficient reason can be assigned for the ceremonies pertaining to holy things? Ad 5. Objection 5: Further, the power of the First Mover, i.e. God, appears first of all in the east, for it is in that quarter that the first movement begins. But the tabernacle was set up for the worship of God. Therefore it should have been built so as to point to the east rather than the west.
I answer that, The chief purpose of the whole external worship is that man may give worship to God. Now man’s tendency is to reverence less those things which are common, and indistinct from other things; whereas he admires and reveres those things which are distinct from others in some point of excellence. And for this reason it behooved special times, a special abode, special vessels, and special ministers to be appointed for the divine worship, so that thereby the soul of man might be brought to greater reverence for God.
Reply to Objection 5: Worship towards the west was introduced in the Law to the exclusion of idolatry: because all the Gentiles, in reverence to the sun, worshipped towards the east; hence it is written (Ezech. 8:16) that certain men “had their backs towards the temple of the Lord, and their faces to the east, and they adored towards the rising of the sun.” Accordingly, in order to prevent this, the tabernacle had the Holy of Holies to westward, that they might adore toward the west. A figurative reason may also be found in the fact that the whole state of the first tabernacle was ordained to foreshadow the death of Christ, which is signified by the west, according to Ps. 67:5: “Who ascendeth unto the west; the Lord is His name.”
Additionally, in today’s breviary readings Moses delineates God’s commands for the rite of Atonement and the sprinkling of blood to purify the propitiatory, sacred vessels. There is no reference to facing East. Origen in the second breviary reading says, “There is deeper meaning in the fact that the high priest sprinkles blood toward the east. Atonement comes from the east”. Apparently Origen presumed the Mosaic practice of facing East contrary to fact.
Fr. Peter Morello: Your reasoning regarding liturgical orientation is another example of Latin hyper-rationalism that disregards tradition, a tradition observed by the Church Universal fron the very beginning. It is also, then, another example of Latin innovation that disregards the rest of the Church because “we’re special.”
Sol, my point is not to diminish, or eliminate the Traditional Latin Mass ad orientum practice, either in the West or as practiced in the East. That ancient rite’s ad orientum usage should be preserved and practiced, here and wherever the Eastern rites Catholic or Orthodox are practiced, and for the Latin version as a vehicle of exchange to improve the Novus Ordo.
My reasoning is an apologia for the Novus Ordo practice versus populum, which has been under unrelenting attack and ignorant besmirching. The Novus Ordo facing the people is the Mass of my ordination, and the Mass I’ve learned to love.
Fr. Peter Morello – your purpose was obvious, but my points still stand. As in the case of Bugnini and most of the experts on the Consilium, hyper-rationalism won out against tradition, and here even versus populum was not specifically mandated by the Pauline reform but gained currency because of experimentation by Latins earlier in the 20th century. Funny how Latins stubbornly cling to their claim that clerical celibacy is an apostolic tradition when ad oriented worship could be that. So long as Latins cling on to their innovative mindset and practices, their separated brethren will be appropriately scandalized. That is no way to lead in “ecumenical dialogue.”
Sol, clerical celibacy, Tridentine rite, faithfulness – this is what I’d tell you: there is nothing for anyone to be scandalized about and those who are irate over these matters and build fake comparisons and fake contrasts, bring it on themselves and confound themselves.
The patriarchate of Rome needs to return to the orientation in the liturgy that was observed universally throughout the Church (with exceptions based on particular locations of temples). It is because of the example and prestige of Rome that some Eastern Catholics have corrupted their own liturgical praxis to match the liturgical reforms that were imposed by clerics and not even mandated by the Pauline Missal, either, i.e. “versus populum” celebration. If it is unclear to the people why they are facing East, then Roman Catholics need to fully appropriate the teachings of the 7th Ecumenical Council, as Joseph Ratzinger recognized in his work on the liturgy, so that the icons of our Lord are used for liturgical worship, and Roman Catholic temples recover the practice of having large icons of our Lord in the apse/sanctuary/etc.
Response to March 29. Sol, whatever may be obvious I hope it’s my stated intention, which is consistent with Benedict XVI in retaining the Traditional Mass and conveying what is beneficial to the new, the Novus Ordo. Annibale Bugnini is another matter, like Hannibal his namesake he routed the Roman hierarchy by Protestantizing the Traditional liturgy, which was intended by the Council fathers to be more relevant to the current needs. Understanding what the liturgy is about, rather than attending a liturgy in which many, fingering their rosaries [like my Mom and Dad] praying to a God outthere somewhere. Most Catholics don’t have the theological philosophical acumen like yourself to comprehend further. The Church correctly intended to make the primary worship, the Mass, and the confection of the Eucharist, Christ’s real presence, of Christianity Christological rather esoteric.
Let’s not forget Bugnini, Hans Kung were all children of the ancient liturgy, and children of a lesser god, the imaginative figment of their moral leanings. A wave of heresy both sexual, and theological fell upon the Church, and it managed through the Holy Spirit to survive it, overcome it with the blessings of John Paul II and Benedict. Where else do we find world leadership? It was the transient Church I was born into spiritually, that makes for defenders and missionaries of Christ, or the unfortunate complainers.
Personally, Sol, the new Mass in English despite the original horrid translation corrected finally by Benedict was an epiphany for me. Christ, who was previously relegated to some secondary divinity [a kind of demiurge] to the incomprehensible God of the ancient liturgical worship away from the community to a place beyond. Yes. Many are entirely satisfied with the ad orientum liturgy, safe and snug in their cocoons. But it was the face to face admonition from Christ speaking through the priest at the altar versus populum that convinced me that the Church required VatII, that the hijacking by reprobates expected as it was would not prevail. That a return to a true faith practice would renew and be held to the hearts of the many, if not all.
Faith in Christ is a fierce fire, not a campside glow for self assuring companionship. It took me to our Native American, Hispanic Southwest, and to Africa to bring Christ. Whatever you may conceive of Latin Roman Catholicism, your constant irregular judgment, I implore you to open your mind and soul to the reality of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection for the salvation of the dissident and unbeliever.
“A wave of heresy both sexual, and theological fell upon the Church, and it managed through the Holy Spirit to survive it, overcome it with the blessings of John Paul II and Benedict.”
The heresy you speak does infect the Church to different degrees, but you speak of the Patriarchate of Rome, which has by its influence and missionaries corrupted the ecclesial traditions of Eastern Catholics.
“I implore you to open your mind and soul to the reality of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection for the salvation of the dissident and unbeliever.”
My mind is, thanks be to G*d, aware of this. Are you aware of how Latin hubris has led your patriarchate to its current situation?
If my judgment is “irregular” because I don’t think like a Latin, I take it as a compliment.
Correction, The Church intended to make the Church Christocentric rather [than] esoteric. What is suggested is that focus within the ad orientem liturgy was directed to the mystery of the incomprehensible Father instead of his comprehensive revelation in Christ.
What has been diluted is the sense of mystery, not in the new rite perse, rather in the absence of spirituality in the celebrant. These were priests who formerly offered Mass ad orientem with the same absence of spirituality in their comportment at the altar of sacrifice who were unwilling to identify with the crucified Christ.
Had VatII not occurred it’s likely that the spiritual deterioration that already existed would have ended in greater adversity than within the Council’s aftermath. VatII exposed what required correction and contained, eventually returned to faithful practice many of the aberrant, one by self admission the eminent cardinal Avery Dulles who reversed his idealist position on the real resurrection and became a major witness to Catholic orthodoxy on the real resurrection. Evident through it all was the direction of the Holy Spirit despite the fomenting errors. Roman Catholicism remains the beacon of light for the world on the truth of the faith, the real, complete, human and divine natures of the divine Person of Christ. This far from being hubris is authentic orthodoxy.
I believe we should retain our Lord’s orientation at the Last Supper.
Liturgies and icons has not prevented two orthodox communities from violently attacking each other. It is time that our emphasis was on our unique relationship with Jesus and our commitment to faithfully commit ourselves to it. This is the call coming from the Roman Pontiff.
Liturgy is our response to this relationship with Jesus; it does not necessarily create the relationship.
As usual you talk like the modernists who want to reduce the Divine Liturgy to just the Sacred Banquet aspect of the Mass. The Mass is both a Sacred Banquet and a Holy Sacrifice; a purely versus populum orientation undermines symbolization and communication of the latter. The Eucharist is not a just a homey meal with religious overtones. Pope Francis has too little respect for tradition and its inner logic to be taken as a guiding light in such matters, other than public compliance for his commands for as long as he is the Supreme Pontiff–though not for one minute longer than his reign lasts. He began his reign by saying “Go make a mess.” When he leaves the Holy See in better hands, his successors will have a big clean up job in areas pertaining to liturgy, doctrine, and discipline (his commendable successes in other areas not withstanding).
“facing the people” means “facing the body of Christ” (the Church) assembled to worship Christ the Head of the Church. Christ is present as well in the Word of God proclaimed. Christ is present as well in the consecrated bread and wine. Christ is symbolized as well by the altar table. And of course in the priest who acts in persona Christi capitis ecclesiae. the “ad orientem” has its place in the liturgy, but it is not the only thing about the liturgy. the eschatological dimension is already present in the celebration itself, a sign of the eschatological banquet. all this talk of “direction” is making a mountain out of something that cannot account for the whole reality of the Eucharist, the thanksgiving of the Son to the Father in which we are asked to participate in the Holy Spirit.
It seems to me that one very important element is being left out of the whole discussion and that is the relationship of the priest to the members of his parish outside of Mass. A parish is meant to be a vibrant community that brings about the sanctification of all its members in all of the aspects of their lives. The liturgy is essential, but just as liturgy is not the whole spiritual reality of an individual Catholic, so it is not meant to be the whole spiritual reality of a parish. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the spiritual life, but it is meant to vivify the rest of our lives. If the priest is deeply involved in the lives of his people throughout the week, then it makes sense for him to lead them in the liturgy. If the only contact they have with him is at Mass, then he is not a spiritual leader for them, no matter what direction he faces.
It is regrettable that, at some churches, people come from outside the parish solely for the liturgy, without taking any part in the life of the parish. In this case, they cannot say that the priest is their leader in prayer, for they are separating the liturgical aspect of their spiritual life from the rest of their life.
All Masses, Ordinary Form (19) and (2) Extraordinary Form, each week, Ad Orientem at San Secondo D’Asti, Guasti (Ontario), California. Diocese of San Bernardino.
All Masses, Ordinary Form (10) and (6) Extraordinary Form, each week, Ad Orientem at Holy Innocents, Long Beach, California. Archdiocese of Los Angeles
A word here, a vital word regarding Christ’s words, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you. For my flesh is real food and my blood real drink.
Of all the sacraments Christ makes this one sacrament essential to salvation [we know however difficult an unbaptized person who hasn’t refused that sacrament and is basically ignorant is susceptible to salvation if he responds to grace]. As discussed above the Holy Eucharist is inextricably united with Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, the parting of his blood from his body the reason we have two consecrations, the bread and the wine. The Eucharist is certainly not to be understood as a peripheral consequence.
Apostolic belief during the centuries recognizes the healing powers of the Eucharist, a remedy for the sinner. This truth is at the center of the current controversy on who may be worthy to receive Christ’s body and blood. Can a sinner approach the Eucharist for consumption. Yes. If that person is already disposed to relinquish their sins [although Trent requires we first confess mortal sin specifically to a priest prior to receiving. They’re may be circumstances when to avoid scandal one may receive without confession, conditionally with the resolution to confess as soon as possible]. Not if that person brings their sins to Christ for approbation, which egregious error is spreading throughout the Church disposing many to condemnation. The former leads to eternal life, the latter to eternal death. Choose Life.
In response to Fr Peter Morello see link below as no reply button is shown.
“Christ himself speaks to the priest as well as the laity in the words of consecration
Yes, Peter, that is true when His Word is acted upon in ‘obedience’ to His Divine Prerogative as given at the Last Supper. To my understanding Grace (Gods’ gift) is only given when in obedience the ordained minister re-enacts Christ’s actions in a memorial to Him Because as you have wisely said on another occasion “Obedience to God is essentially love of God”.
“Take this cup and ‘share’ it amongst yourselves”
So, in loving obedience, who are you going to pass the cup to Peter?
kevin your brother
The one who escapes your judgment.
Fr. Morello: ““Christ himself speaks to the priest as well as the laity in the words of consecration.”
Or, is it that Christ speaks through (not “to”) the priest such that His words of consecration are effective precisely because coming concurrently from Him and through/from the ordained priest in persona Christi?
Yes Peter. What you refer to is the essential purpose for the words of consecration in the transubstantiation of the bread and the wine. My reference is other. It’s to the participation of the priest, as well as laity in offering ourselves with Christ. The priest especially as alter Christ is called to imitate Christ by participation in his suffering and oblation to the Father.
For an example, when the priest [at least I whenever I offer Mass] drinks the Precious Blood from the chalice he’s also receiving it figuratively [my personal thought even intentionally] from Christ, also with real purpose in imitation of Christ’s words to the Apostles James and John. Indeed you will drink from the cup [of suffering and oblation] that I will drink of.
Also Peter, it is through the faculty [power] invested in the priest by the laying of hands by the bishop that he is invested within, with the ability [faculty] to consecrate. It’s not as if Christ simply speaks “through him” as one would use a microphone. Rather it is “the words of Christ that accomplishes this sacrament” exclusively by virtue of ordination (St Ambrose quoted by Aquinas ST 3a 78, 1). “But in this sacrament [unlike all the others in which the priest or bishop cites himself for example, ‘I’ baptize you] the form of this sacrament as pronounced is, as in the person of Christ himself speaking; by this we understand that the part played by the minister in the effecting of this sacrament is the mere utterance of the words of Christ” (from commentary to Aquinas by English Blackfriars Ibid). Therefore, as you correctly say, it is through the priest as his instrument that Christ himself is present to the human priest and speaks to him and to all present, example, Take this all of you and eat of it.
Fair enough Peter (Fr Peter Morello) if you see it like that. But I think that my question is a fair one based on an understanding given by the Church that is that a Sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace, as expressed to you in my original post. I still cannot understand how this teaching has been changed as to my limited knowledge I believe that this teaching goes back to the early Church which I absorbed by rote from my Penny Catechism daily over eight school years and very limited religious instruction which actually incorporated the question under discussion.
Obviously, my ‘direct’ probing has angered you for which I apologize. Nevertheless, I am still no wiser and remain doubtful that a Catholic priest can say Mass alone without another participant. Sadly, it appears that I will have to look further afield for an answer or perhaps someone else on the site will enlighten me in regard to the said question.
kevin your brother
Whichever Mass form we participate in, we have to be in a state of grace and have right disposition. On disposition, briefly, the Mass is Sacrament, Sacrifice and Memorial. I am using capitals there to underscore the initiative and accomplishment of God. It is the same Sacrifice on the Cross with the Divine Victim Jesus Christ; and we join in the same sacred moments of the Last Supper when the Lord drew us into His bosom. And the Sacrifice has 4 ends: supreme honour and glory to God; thanksgiving for His benefits through Jesus Christ; satisfaction for sins and gaining graces for repentance; beseeching God His further glories, in the same Jesus.
Disposition and purpose that aren’t on Christ, will, then, fall far short of the Mass obligation, in either form. In which event something would be amiss with grace.
Unfortunately on this subject the “at large” present approaches to what problems there may be, has not been like this; and it is hard to identify if they ultimately have this orientation. The wider setting seems to lend more and more to the point. Reflect on it a while and you can discover how very troublesome it can be for the laity.
‘ Addresses Friday included a talk by Massimo Faggioli titled, “Opposition to Francis Rooted in Abandonment of Vatican II as a Source of Renewal,” and another by Jesuit Mark Massa titled, “The Money, Media and Networks that Oppose Pope Francis.” ‘
Elias, you’re quite correct regarding laity or even clerics [deacons, concelebrators]. Although, it is true regarding the reverential example of the celebrant priest, a wayward priest who doesn’t believe and lacks intention, nevertheless, if he correctly speaks the words of consecration he speaks in unison with the Church, and the sacrament, the Holy Eucharist is validly consecrated.
Thqank you Fr. and yes, you are right.
Fr., your point speaks to the article and the suppression of the Traditional Rite.
And, Fr., your point speaks eloquently to the issue at hand!
* * *
(Edit – “Thank you” without any “q” anywhere etc.)
“The first Christians saw themselves as “sojourners.” They were a people “on the move” from Christ and to Christ”
Yes, and not coincidentally, we have absolutely zero liturgy from the first Christians. We have almost no art. That isn’t entirely due to persecution or obscurity of history (after all, we do have the New Testament). People “on the move” do not create things to last, if they create anything at all.
The first Christians do seem to have been overly verticalist…at least some horizontal dimension was a good and necessary development.
Father. You lack understanding. May God forgive your ignorant unkind claim that I deny The Word. You appear to presume that your words are Christ-like while mine are heretical. The marks of education and ordination surrounding your name may have led you astray from charity.
I am a member of Christ’s Body. I have learned on my knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Further, I have learned at the knees of Church Fathers, of Aquinas, Cajetan, Bossuet, Journet, Garrigou-LeGrange, Vonier, et al. Your remark compels prayer for uncharitable souls.
In future I shall disregard your comments.
“Meiron, do you understand that you are denying the very words of Christ, Take this all of you and eat of it”, was not at all intended to accuse you of heresy, rather denial of correct interpretation of these words in which he gives us his body. Otherwise, I agree with you that I’m not kind, that I am prideful, that I disrespect you and others, that I’m unworthy of my calling. That, I confirm.
And yes, I regret my careless wording.
Meiron, no, please don’t hereafter disregard Fr.’s good comments.
May I share with you I try to take criticism in all events whether I think I am right or not; it is always a source of some truth for me. This has an attendant advantage, in that I am forced to allow the other person both a foundation and a sense.
It doesn’t have to be a good priest, it could be anyone. Yes, it’s hard to do.
Further, Fr. could be right in that it could appear in the wording that you could separate the 2 acts, when, in fact, they are a unity in the Holy Spirit and the truth of Jesus Christ – even into the very moments of His making it happen. The Mass is the un-bloody re-presentation of Calvary. The Eucharist is the Real Presence of the same Lord and Saviour, infinite, everlasting, ever-present and mystical unity, Jesus Christ, Incarnate, Blood, Body, Divinity, Soul.
Yes. It is good when we ‘allow the other person both a foundation and a sense.’ Yes, it is very good, particularly when a priest allows another person a foundation and a sense, even and particularly if the other espouses error.
Edit/Correction: “…if the other is perceived to espouse error.”
And yes, the Eucharist is the Unbloody representation of Calvary. Would there be a salvific sacrament/sacrifice/commemoration in the Eucharist if Christ had not first died on the Cross? The Mass is the representation, the making present of Calvary. Christ’s death is what saves. Bread and wine transubstantiated into blood and flesh differ from bread miraculously multipled to feed a crowd of hungry men.
On facing East, we have
1) St. Damascene: ttps://www.orthodox.net/fathers/exactiv.html#BOOK_IV_CHAPTER_XII
2) St. Augustine: When we raise our hearts in prayer, we turn towards the East (ad orientem convertimur), whence heaven arises. This is not to say that God could (only) be found there and that he has forsaken the other directions of the world…, rather, we face East to remind ourselves that we must turn in the direction of a higher natural state, that is, that we must turn to God.
On facing Esat, we also have
3) St.Thomas Aquinas: To adore facing east is fitting, first, because the movement of the heavens which manifest the divine majesty is from the east. Secondly, paradise was situated in the east according to the Septuagint version of Genesis, and we seek to return to paradise. Thirdly, because Christ, who is the light of the world is called the Orient, who mounteth above the heaven of heaven to the east and is expected to come from the east according to Matthew, as lightning comes of the east, and shines even to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (ST, II-II, 1.84,a.3,ad3)
Go to a Mass celebrated according to the Ordinariate liturgy of the Roman rite, and you will find the perfect solution to the dilemma. The celebrant faces liturgical east when addressing God [e.g. the Canon] and faces the people when he is addressing them. The priest at the chair faces across the sanctuary, not the congregation. The language is sacral English, and the people kneel for the reception of Holy Communion. The most frequent comment I hear from newcomers after the Ordinariate mass is: “I really feel as if I have been to Mass!”
Go to a Mass celebrated according to the Ordinariate liturgy of the Roman rite, and you will find the perfect solution to the dilemma. The celebrant faces liturgical east when addressing God [e.g. the Canon] and turns to the people when he is addressing them. The priest, when he is at the chair [during the readings for example] faces across the sanctuary, not the congregation. The language is sacral [as opposed to street] English, and the people kneel for the reception of Holy Communion. The most frequent comment I hear from newcomers after the Ordinariate Mass is: “I really feel as if I have been to Mass!”
Fr. Ramsay, thank you for your rational and balanced contributions to the discussion. The commendable practices of the Ordinariate regarding the mix of ad orientem and versus populum is very much in line with the Syro-Malabar concern with coming to a new consensus of what is most fitting, fostering communion in the assembly and rendering glory to God.
From Cardinal Ratzinger on facing the people, et al, from Spirit of the Liturgy:
The ordering of St. Peter’s was then copied, so it would seem, in many
other stational churches in Rome. For the purposes of this discussion, we do
not need to go into the disputed details of this process. The controversy in our
own century was triggered by another innovation. Because of topographical
circumstances, it turned out that St. Peter’s faced west. Thus, if the
celebrating priest wanted—as the Christian tradition of prayer demands—to
face east, he had to stand behind the people and look—this is the logical
conclusion—toward the people. For whatever reason it was done, one can
also see this arrangement in a whole series of church buildings within St.
Peter’s direct sphere of influence. The liturgical renewal in our own century
took up this alleged model and developed from it a new idea for the form of
the liturgy. The Eucharist—so it was said—had to be celebrated versus
populum (toward the people). The altar—as can be seen in the normative
model of St. Peter’s—had to be positioned in such a way that priest and
people looked at each other and formed together the circle of the celebrating
community. This alone—so it was said—was compatible with the meaning of
the Christian liturgy, with the requirement of active participation. This alone
conformed to the primordial model of the Last Supper. These arguments
seemed in the end so persuasive that after the Council (which says nothing
about “turning toward the people”) new altars were set up everywhere, and
today celebration versus populum really does look like the characteristic fruit
of Vatican II’s liturgical renewal. In fact it is the most conspicuous
consequence of a reordering that not only signifies a new external
arrangement of the places dedicated to the liturgy, but also brings with it a
new idea of the essence of the liturgy—the liturgy as a communal meal.
This is, of course, a misunderstanding of the significance of the Roman
basilica and of the positioning of its altar, and the representation of the Last
Supper is also, to say the least, inaccurate. Consider, for example, what Louis
Bouyer has to say on the subject: “The idea that a celebration facing the
people must have been the primitive one, and that especially of the last
supper, has no other foundation than a mistaken view of what a meal could be
in antiquity, Christian or not. In no meal of the early Christian era, did the
president of the banqueting assembly ever face the other participants. They
were all sitting, or reclining, on the convex side of a C-shaped table, or of a
table having approximately the shape of a horse shoe. The other side was
always left empty for the service. Nowhere in Christian antiquity, could have
arisen the idea of having to ‘face the people’ to preside at a meal. The
And this from Spirit of the Liturgy:
Once again let me quote Bouyer: “Never, and
nowhere, before that [that is, before the sixteenth century] have we any
indication that any importance, or even attention, was given to whether the
priest celebrated with the people before him or behind him. As Professor
Cyrille Vogel has recently demonstrated it, the only thing ever insisted upon,
or even mentioned, was that he should say the eucharistic prayer, as all the
other prayers, facing East. . . . Even when the orientation of the church
enabled the celebrant to pray turned toward the people, when at the altar, we
must not forget that it was not the priest alone who, then, turned East: it was
the whole congregation, together with him” (pp. 55-56).
Admittedly, these connections were obscured or fell into total oblivion in
the church buildings and liturgical practice of the modern age. This is the
only explanation for the fact that the common direction of prayer of priest
and people were labelled as “celebrating toward the wall” or “turning your
back on the people” and came to seem absurd and totally unacceptable. And
this alone explains why the meal—even in modern pictures—became the
normative idea of liturgical celebration for Christians. In reality what
happened was that an unprecedented clericalization came on the scene. Now
the priest—the “presider”, as they now prefer to call him—becomes the real
point of reference for the whole liturgy. Everything depends on him. We have
to see him, to respond to him, to be involved in what he is doing. His
creativity sustains the whole thing. Not surprisingly, people try to reduce this
newly created role by assigning all kinds of liturgical functions to different
individuals and entrusting the “creative” planning of the liturgy to groups of
people who like to, and are supposed to, “make their own contribution”. Less
and less is God in the picture. More and more important is what is done by
the human beings who meet here and do not like to subject themselves to a
“pre-determined pattern”. 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 regarded as so important. For just as the congregation in the
synagogue looked together toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian liturgy the
congregation looked together “toward the Lord”. As one of the fathers of
Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy, J.A. Jungmann, put it, 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
Even more prolix than some of my entries, but we get it:
All “walking together” synodally in the same direction, on an “endless journey” is in step; but all “facing together” liturgically in the same direction, in a Eucharistic encounter is out of step–or mostly inadmissible, or something, or whatever.