Celebrations “ad orientem”

There is discussion of Mass ad orientem in another entry.  I remember some time ago I wrote a response on one of my columns to a writer asking about rubrics and ad orientem celebrations.  Here is the relevant part (some emphasis added):

Long-time reader and now frequent participant on the WDTPRS internet blog, HE of TN, sent a note via e-mail relative to this interview.  Here is HE (edited):  “…the notorious pessimist Prof. L. Perrin has a … post today including this claim: ‘As Abp Ranjith is stressing, a Latin versus Deum Novus Ordo Mass is entirely faithful to the Vatican II Constitution, even more faithful. But what Abp Ranjith is ‘forgetting’ is to mention the 3rd edition of [the Missale Romanum] (2002) is pushing for versus populum … against the two previous Pauline editions and Vatican II.’”  Then HE asks me directly: “Do you know anything in the 3rd edition of the Missale Romanum that says this? Aside from the well-known mistranslation of GIRM #299 that you have discussed several times?  Anything in the MR 2002 rubrics themselves? For instance, does it still say several places that the priest is to turn and face the people?”

Indeed, HE of TN, Yes. Welcome to “What Do The Rubrics Really Say?”  There are still indications in the rubrics of the 2002MR which presuppose that the priest is celebrating ad orientem.  Here are two examples.  In #132 we find:

Sacerdos genuflectit, accipit hostiam, eamque aliquantulum elevatam super patenam vel super calicem tenens, versus ad populum, clara voce dicit: Ecce Agnus Dei,….  The priest genuflects, takes the Host and, holding it raised a little way over the paten or over the chalice, having turned toward the people, says in a clear voice: Behold the Lamb of God….

The people make their response and then in #133 we find:

Et sacerdos, versus ad altare, secreto dicit:  Corpus Christi….  And the priest, having turned toward the altar, says silently: May the Body of Christ…

In these two rubrics there is a specific order of actions.  First, the priest turns to the people.  Then, he turns to the altar.  This is only possible if the priest is celebrating Holy Mass facing the altar and the people are behind him facing the same direction as the priest.  The rubric is clear in this moment before Communion.  

Somewhat less immediately clear is the rubric at the Orate Fratres in #29, which says that the priest, while standing at the middle of the altar, turns to the people (versus ad populum) to say “Pray brethren, that my sacrifice and yours…”.  Then in #30 the priest is directed to speak the Super Oblata prayer, but there is no indication that he turns back to the altar: there is no second versus.  Why?  The priest, turning to the people to invite their response, simply continues to turn in the same direction back to the altar.  The single versus in this case indicates a completed turn in circle.  In #132 and #133 (above) the two different instances of versus indicate two turns, one toward the people by the priest’s right and one toward the altar by his left.  There is no complete circle.  In this way the Novus Ordo is consistent with the older “Tridentine” Rite at this same moment in Mass.  In the older, traditional way the priest turns by his right away from the altar and toward the people. He speaks the invitation.  He turns back to the altar, always by his right, in the same direction, thus completing the circle.  The rubric in the 2002MR has language very similar to the corresponding rubric in the 1962MR.  Thus, HE of TN, we have clear support in the 2002MR for ad orientem celebration.

If anyone (read: parish priest) were looking for suppport in the rubrics themselves, here you go.

Not only that.  Some years ago I did a translation of an article in Notitiae for the journal Sacred Music about celebrations ad orientem versus.  Then I wrote an examination of those articles.  The bottom line is this: the principle if the unicity of the altar is strong enough that if there is a serious altar of artistic or architectural merit, and it is ad orientem, you should not put another altar in front of it.  That was in Notitiae

The famed liturgist Klaus Gamber, so appreciated by Joseph Ratzinger, thought that the changing of the direction of the altar was more damaging than any other change after the Council.  Both Jungmann and Bouyer said they were wrong in their initial support of versus populum celebrations. 

There is a lot more, but chew on that for a while.

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18 Responses to Celebrations “ad orientem”

  1. David says:

    Father, could you post a link to the Latin text of the GIRM, in reference to paragraph 299 above? Thank you!

  2. Alcuin says:

    Would you mind pointing out where Jungmann and Bouyer mention their change of mind about the desirability of Mass “versus populum”? I’m rather a fan of both but never came across such statements. Thanks.

  3. Father Zuhlsdorf:

    Back on 30 April 2006 you quoted from your 2005 The Wanderer commentary on the Collect (2) for the Third Sunday of Easter: “WDTPRS has written of the importance of the unicity of the altar in the sanctuary (i.e., one altar, not two) and that even the same CDWDS has stated that “table” altars ought not be set up in front of important and clearly dominant main altars (cf. Notitiae (May) 1993).”

    After several months I was finally able to locate a copy of said issue of Notitiae, and searched diligently from cover to cover. Alas, I know but one or two words of Italian!

    I still have the library copy of Notitiae (and it must be returned soon!). Where precisely in this issue has “CDWDS…stated that ‘table’ altars ought not be set up in front of important and clearly dominant main altars”? Would you kindly supply an English translation of the relevant text for those of us who are “Italically challenged’?

  4. Fr. Arsenius,

    While Fr. Zuhlsdorf may still not have arisen from his morning nap following a hearty Roman breakfast (it only being 1 pm there), I might mention his posted article

    TURNING THE TABLES: A COMMENTARY ON AN EDITORIAL IN ‘NOTITIAE,’ MAY 1993
    http://www.ewtn.com/library/LITURGY/TURNTABL.TXT

    in which he discusses the Notitiae article and the “unicity of the altar”.

  5. Philip Sandstrom says:

    Do you remember and can you please point out that there were rubrical provisions in
    in the Missale Romanum for Mass ‘versus populum’ well before the Council of
    Trent?

    This was true in the late 15th century first printed edition of the Missale
    (an incunabula) about 100 years before Pope St. Pius V. And it was also commonly
    true in manuscript versions before printing existed.
    Among other things it was on this rubrical basis Romano Guardini and others began
    to use ‘versus populum’ for celebrations of Mass during and after the First
    World War. It was also a common usage with ‘dialogue Masses’ which started at
    about the same time.

    It isimportant to realize that these usages were not introduced as ‘whimsical
    aberrations’ by liturgical liberal ‘loose cannons’ after the Second Vatican
    Council.

  6. Boko says:

    That’s all fine and dandy, but what about 2003 GIRM (with US adaptations) # 299, which reads: “The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. ….”

    As I recall, that’s new (the Mass facing the people being desirable bit) and came as rather a blow to those hoping the then new GIRM would tighten things up a bit.

    And Mr. Sandstrom, I agree “that these usages were not introduced as ‘whimsical
    aberrations’ by liturgical liberal ‘loose cannons’ after the Second Vatican
    Council.” There was nothing whimsical or loose about the deform. Those bastards pointed their cannon with deadly accuracy.

  7. Boko: You haven’t been paying attention to WDTPRS, have you! I wrote on this issue of the faulty translation of GIRM 299 extensively in my columns. I think you know that official version of documents are in Latin.

  8. RBrown says:

    This was true in the late 15th century first printed edition of the Missale (an incunabula) about 100 years before Pope St. Pius V. And it was also commonly true in manuscript versions before printing existed. Among other things it was on this rubrical basis Romano Guardini and others began to use ‘versus populum’ for celebrations of Mass during and after the First World War. It was also a common usage with ‘dialogue Masses’ which started at about the same time.

    We have to make some distinctions:

    Not all churches are designed the same way.

    1. It is not uncommon in Roman Basilicas (e.g., Santa Maria Maggiore, San Paolo) that the choir of canons was in the apse as the people were in the nave. There are also churches (e.g., San Vitale in Ravenna, 6th century) that are circular.

    Therefore, any mass in those circumstances is going to have to celebrant facing somebody, and rubrics versus populum were needed in order to accommodate such situations.

    2. In certain Roman churchs facing West, the celebrant faced east, which co-incidentally was toward the nave. Many think that during the mass, the doors were opened, and people moved to the side, facing north and south.

    3. I think it safe to say that in Romanesque churches the celebrants have not faced the people during the Canon.

    4. I agree that there were masses facing the people before VatII, and that great pastoral consequences were promised. It is obvious, however, that vernacular mass facing the people has proven to be a pastoral failure.

  9. Boko Fittleworth says:

    Mea culpa, Father, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Some of this comes back to me now. Something about word order and dependent clauses and which phrase modifies which and such. I was going off the usccb website’s version. Silly me.

  10. Boko: Minima culpa, in this case I think. There are lots of things to keep our minds occupied. You can read what I have written, however, which is pretty thorough.

  11. Alcuin says:

    I’m far from a Latin specialist, but I just read your piece about the proper translation og GIRM #299. I can’t shake the feeling that the placement of the “quod” clause at the end, rather than directly after the clause “Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum” renders the official USCCB translation more felicitous (alas!). Although word order often doesn’t matter in Latin, it sometimes does. A medieval logician would say there’s a world of difference between “Non omnis homo currit” and “Non omnis homo currit.” However, I’d be happy to stand corrected.

  12. Alcuin says:

    My last post should have read … A medieval logician would have said there’s a world of difference between “Non omnis homo currit” and “Omnis non homo currit.” My apologies.

  13. Alcuin: No, I am afraid your feeling is “disoriented” in this case. As a matter of fact, the Congregation actually published in Notitiae a response to a dubium proposed on this very question. The Congregation actually explained the Latin!

  14. Boko,

    That’s all fine and dandy, but what about 2003 GIRM (with US adaptations) # 299, which reads: “The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. ….”

    In brief, the WDTPRS point to which Father Z refers cryptically, is this. When this first temporary English translation of the GIRM appeared, someone sent the Congregation for a a question whether this meant that “it is desirable that Mass be celebrated facing the people whenever possible”. The CDW replied NEGATIVE, and gratuitously gave the American bishops (or their staff) a brief Latin lession, explaining that the “whenever desirable” modifies instead the first clause regarding a detached altar that can be circuambulated (when incensing, for instance). However, when the permanent translation of the GIRM was published well AFTER the CDW’s grammar lesson, the apparently agenda-driven mistranslation was mendaciously repeated.

    The CDW

  15. That concluding “The CDW” somehow got detached from “The Congregation for Divine Worship” in the second sentence.

  16. I give up trying to correct it. Surely everyone knows which Congregation the second sentence refers to.

  17. Alcuin says:

    Well, I’m glad for the CDW’s correction. Still, I can’t say I blame the GIRM tramslation. The Latin strikes me as a bit ambiguous. Be that as it may, I’m all for “re-orientation.”

  18. Alcuin: Well… I suppose any puzzle is hard until you know the answer.