Wednesday Audience: Benedict XVI speaks of “turning toward the Lord”

UPDATED 23 Jan 07 – 22:05 GMT:

In his Wednesday audience address, focused mostly on Christian unity, the Holy Father subtly reinforced what he has been doing about reorienting the focus of liturgy, both the positioning of the Crucifix in relation to the altar and by celebrating Mass ad orientemi.  Remember: the Pope has a plan to reinvigorate the identity of the Church and liturgy is the tip of the spear.  Therefore, it should not be a surprise that he will bring liturgical references into talks on many subjects.

Here is what he said at the audience in my translation corrected from the released text by listening to the audio.  The important corrections from the recording I indicate in green:

Behold, the meaning of prayer: to open our hearts, to create in us a willingness which opens the path to Christ.  In the liturgy of the ancient Church, after the sermon, the bishop or president of the celebration, the principal celebrant, said: "Conversi ad Dominum…Turn (around) toward the Lord".   Then he himself and all there rise [text: rose] up and turn [text: turned] themselves toward the East.  They all want [text: wanted] to gaze toward Christ.  Only if we have been converted, only in this turning toward Christ, in this common gaze at Christ, can we find the gift of unity.

What I find interesting here is that, in this quotation, in the official text released by the Holy See, the Holy Father uses the past tense, as if he is speaking of a historical reality.  In his actual talk, he changed the tenses to present, not past.  People ARE turning, etc. 

This is a subtle change, to be sure, but I think the Holy Father has something in mind in doing this.  He is talking about a liturgical turning to the Lord TODAY, as a tool of Christian unity. 

In one of my recent PODCAzTs I spoke about worship ad orientem.

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36 Responses to Wednesday Audience: Benedict XVI speaks of “turning toward the Lord”

  1. pdt says:

    Now there would be an interesting rubrical change! Liturgy of the Word versus populum, then the priest stands and calls for all to turn toward the Lord, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist is ad orientam. As concise and understandable a catechesis as you’re likely to encounter.

  2. RichR says:

    The Pope is catechizing his flock so they understand his actions. It is interesting that the Pope is subtly appealing to a grassroots reclamation of traditional forms of worship. He really is asserting his immediate jurisdiciton in any part of the world as he reaches out to each individual Cahtolic.

  3. TNCath says:

    Here we go! As Father Z. says, “Brick by brick..”

  4. AJDiocese says:

    pdt, I think you have it right. It’s my thought that this may be the future of our liturgy – combining the best of both worlds, the Liturgy of the Word towards the people as it is done now and the Liturgy of the Eucharist towards the Lord.

  5. Father M says:

    Little things like this do give you a heightened sense of anticipation. As some of us recall, we do have to be attentive to the signs of the times. It is fun–and joyful–to watch the Pope slowly picking up the pieces. Dominus conservet eum!

  6. Cory says:

    I was just reading “Spirit of the Liturgy” on my way back from March For Life last night and these words seem to the His Holiness’ exact thinking on the subject from then as well. If one wishes to understand where the Holy Father is coming from with his reinvigoration of the liturgy, he need only to read that book–everything is making more and more sense as I read it.

  7. hieromonk Gregory says:

    It would be a good thing if any of you would have the opportunity to attend a Divine Liturgy of St. James. In that Usus Antiquior the clergy make the Little Entrance with the OT. Epistle,and Gospel Books. When they come to the Ambon the books are placed on it, and the clergy arrange themselves facing the people for the readings and the Homily. Then they proceed to the altar to continue the Eucharistic Sacrifce ad Orientem. By the way the multtiple signs of the cross are used at the anaphora (Canon).

  8. schoolman says:

    The Benedictine reform continues with small and large steps forward. Perhaps the latest large step has already been announced…an assessment and revision of the 1983 Code of Canon law:

    “The 1983 Code of Canon Law, the archbishop acknowledged, is “like all human works … perfectible.”

    The upcoming congress will aim “to identify certain points in need of a little restoration,” he said.”

    See the following from Zenit:

    http://zenit.org/article-21573?l=english

  9. Dob says:

    A question.
    I attended a Christmas concert in St Mary’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, Ireland. It is a most beautiful Cathedral that has been wreckovated. However, at least they had the good sense to keep the high altar hidden in the back. Anyway, at the end of the concert a man stood up and proclaimed that Christ does not come in any special way to us. He comes in the everyday. Everyone we meet is an encounter with Christ. He is in all of us. He went on to say that we serve Christ by looking after each other etc… The Pope obviously points us beyond ourselves to Christ where as this speech seem to indicate that we ourselves are Christ and the denial of the Real Presence. My question is does the Pope’s actions signify a frontal assault on the religion of man=god that seems to be showing it’s ugly face in some of our churches? Is the chair that is set up where the tabernacle used to be (directly behind the altar) of any significance in respect of this new religion?

  10. EDG says:

    Our Pope works gently but persistently! It seems to me that every time he says something about the ad orientem matter, or, better yet, does something about it (such as celebrate that way), another priest here gets up the nerve to do it. I imagine the same is true in Europe, too, although I don’t know of any examples.

  11. Matthew Mattingly says:

    Does anyone else get the feeling that the Pope is preparing us for a return to “ad orientam” altars, and the discarding of the horrible table-altar scenarios? I do. Nothing would be more wonderful, following the issuing of the Motu Proprio for the TLM, that the Pope would follow up on it by abolishing the usage of the “table-altars”. It would be great to see them disappear from all the magnificent Cathedrals whose high altars have not been used in 40 years. The National Shrine in DC could use its beautiful High Altar again. I watched the Mass for Life 2 days ago. Obviously Pope Benedict’s liturgical revolution has not reached the USA. The altar at the Shrine was as it’s appeared for nearly 40 years now….100% Episcopalian style.
    I would not be surprised if in the next few months, Benedict XVI will proclaim/initiate 3 things that will have traditional/traditionalist Catholics cheering…..and people like Piero Marini weeping !!
    1). A further expansion of the TLM with the updated guidelines for the Summorum Pontificum expected from the Ecclesiae Dei office….guidelines which in no uncertain terms take any authority/dictates about the TLM away from Bishops.
    2). Some new liturgical rules, decreeing Catholic Mass to now be celebrated on the original altars “ad orientam”….the little tables no longer to be used.
    3). More traditional/traditionalist style vestments and other Papal vestments restored. There’s been a rumor I read on one site in Italian, that the Pope might permit Cardinals to wear the “cappa-magnas” again in the Vatican at Papal Masses. And other major restorations regarding ecclesiastical vesture which Paul VI and company wrecklessly discarded

  12. TNCath says:

    I have a feeling that the Holy Father’s emphasis of the ad orientem posture at Mass will take root in the parish level in dioceses throughout the world . This will certainly make the American bishops squirm, the vast majority of whom prefer the versus populum posture. I’m still waiting to see if EWTN decides to resume their televised Masses to the ad orientem posture in light of the Holy Father’s televised ad orientem Mass.

  13. Michael says:

    I don’t think the Pope will ever mandate the use of traditional altars where they exist. Think of what this would mean. Not only would every bishop and priest in the world object, there would be a public outcry, since Catholics in even the most traditional places think of versus populum as a right. In almost every Catholic Cathedral in Europe, the choir and high have been left to collect dust. There aren’t enough clerics to fill a choir anymore, and it wouldn’t matter if there were because canons don’t seem to chant the office in those places. In most cathedrals, a garrish modern altar has been set up at the crossing, with a very modern cathedra and “presider’s chair” behind it or against the pillars at the entrance of the choir. These very permanent arrangments purposely obstruct any view of the choir or high altar on the east end of the church, making it impossible to “go back” without costly renovations. The same is true in many churches where the high altar remains. It’s completely blocked by a fixed altar in front of it.

  14. Allan says:

    I think those little table altars can be deconstructed overnight. Give me three other traditional Catholics, and we’ll have the job done in time go go for pizza afterward.

  15. Brian2 says:

    I’m not holding my breath; until GIRM is revised* (together with USCCB documetns like ‘built of living stones’) the table altars and versus populum are here to stay.

    *[I know the argument has been made that GIRM suggests ad orientem in the Latin, but even making the argument shows that this is not the clear directive that is needed nowadays. I really hope BXVI takes a hard look at GIRM soon. A revised GIRM combined with the upcominn improved translations of the missal would be a big big boost for the average OF parish]

  16. I am struck by Pope Benedict’s use of the words “open our hearts” which echoes his appeal at the time of “Summorum Pontificum” : Let us open our hearts to all that the faith itself allows.”

    I detect a common them here.

    We have seen how the false spirit of Vatican II caused men to close their hearts in a spirit of discontinuity with the past, and how diastrous and destructive that was.

    The Benedictine reform calls for an opening of hearts in a spirit of continuity with the Church’s past, so that a real and genuine re-building can proceed.

  17. NoName says:

    “Why do you go to church?”
    “To attend to the Word of God”…

  18. Dob says:

    NoName, who are you quoting?

  19. Marilyn says:

    A question — I have never yet seen a clear, definitive answer to this: can a priest, on his own initiative, without asking permission of anyone, celebrate ‘ad orientem’? Is there any Church document that deals with this explicitly?

  20. Fr. John says:

    From the bottom of my heart, I do indeed hope, wish, and pray that the Holy Father is preparing the way for a document on the ad orientem posture, but I believe if it happens it will not be a sweeping mandate to return exclusively to ad orientem. I think that rather the Holy Father might state that it is indeed a venerable, worthy and advisable posture for the priest and people at Mass. I would also expect a wonderfully written instruction on the subject, pointing out the obvious theological merits and beauty of such a posture, but the option for mass towards the people will remain for a bit longer.

  21. Bill says:

    I don’t believe an abrupt decree abolishing table altars is consistent with the Holy Father’s personal style or with his objection to liturgical development by rupture. I agree with those who think his agenda is more subtle and will take a lot longer than some of us would prefer. As Fr Z says, “brick by brick.”

  22. elizabeth mckernan says:

    There is a video showing part of one of the private Masses celebrated by the Holy Father ‘ad orientem’ on the French site ‘Daily Motion’ (under ‘Messe Pape’). What surprised me was that it was dated last April.

  23. Marilyn,

    Yes, he can.

    Are you talking about the novus ordo ?
    There is no need for any change in Canon Law, or in the General Instuction of the Roman Missal.
    There is no document or decree from Vatican II, nor is there any subsequent directive which forbids, or even discourages, Mass celebrated ad orientem.
    Consequently, there is absolutely no need, at any time, or in any place, for any dispensation or permission for the priest to celebrate ad orientem.

    And that, as they say, is that !

  24. Fr. Anthony Forte says:

    CONGREGATIO DE CULTU DIVINO
    ET DISCIPLINA SACRAMENTORUM

    Prot. N. 564/00/L

    April 10, 2000

    [Reverend Father P. Joseph FESSIO, S.I.]

    Reverend and Dear Father:

    This Congregation for Divine Worship wishes to acknowledge reception of the documentation in which you raise certain questions pertaining to the authentic celebration of Holy Mass and about the proper interpretation of the relevant liturgical legislation.

    That documentation, and in particular, a transcript of your lecture of May 22, 1999, in which you present your opinion about the intention of the post-conciliar liturgical reform in implementing the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, has been carefully studied by this Dicastery. This study has not found anything doctrinally erroneous in the text and therefore, no basis for an allegation of heterodoxy against you. Indeed, the Congregation would point to the fundamental right of all the faithful to make their views known to others of Christ’s faithful, provided that they always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals (cf. Dogmatic Constitutions Lumen Gentium, no. 37, §1; Code of Canon Law, can. 212, § 3).

    With respect to your question regarding the position of the priest celebrant permitted by liturgical law, the Dicastary wishes to state that the Holy Mass may be celebrated versus populum or versus absidem. Both positions are in accord with liturgical law; both are to be considered correct.

    It could be that in some circumstances, because of the sensibilities of the faithful, celebration of Holy Mass versus populum would be indicated, however, it should be borne in mind that there is no preference expressed in the liturgical legislation for either position. As both positions enjoy the favor of law, the legislation may not be invoked to say that one position or the other accords more closely with the mind of the Church. For the same reason, a priest’s choice of position to offer Holy Mass, whether facing the apse or facing the people, may never be used to fall into question his adherence to Catholic Doctrine. Priests, and indeed any member of the faithful, are free to develop sound theological arguments to support their convictions and even to posit a certain personal preference for one manner of legitimate celebration over another based upon what they consider to be most pastorally beneficial for the faithful (cf. Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, no. 313). As noted above, the Second Vatican Council and the Code of Canon Law require only that the faithful always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due respect to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals in expressing their opinions.

    The dispositions made by the Most Reverend David E. FOLEY, in the Norms for Televising the Mass in the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama dated February 22, 2000, concern only Masses which are broadcasted or taped for television and are produced in that Diocese. The Bishop has explained his intention as that of seeking to promote a manner of celebration which would avoid any risk of confusion among those who view the broadcast. The publication of such norms falls within the responsibility of the Diocesan Bishop in virtue of his rose as moderator of the Sacred Liturgy in the particular Church entrusted to his pastoral care. In exercising this responsibility, even though he is unable to exclude or mandate the use of a legitimate option, the Diocesan Bishop is competent to provide further guidance to priests in their choice of the various options of the Roman Rite. As a sign of his acceptance of this disposition of law, His Excellency Bishop Foley has kindly withdrawn the preceding Decree dated October 18, 1999 on March 13, 2000, and the Congregation for Divine Worship is grateful to His Excellency for this decision.

    In the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, priests for their part should be sensitive to the legitimate attitudes of the faithful, which is to say, those which are compatible with the doctrine, the tradition and the liturgical law of the Church. As a result, when priests – or for that matter, any of the faithful – express their legitimate personal preferences, they are to avoid demeaning other options approved by the Church.

    With every good wish for a fruitful Holy Week and blessed Easter, I am,

    Sincerely yours in Christ,
    + Jorge A. Card. Medina Estévez
    Prefect

    + Francesco Pio Tamburrino
    Archbishop Secretary

  25. Henry Edwards says:

    As a sign of his acceptance of this disposition of law, His Excellency Bishop Foley has kindly withdrawn the preceding Decree dated October 18, 1999 on March 13, 2000, and the Congregation for Divine Worship is grateful to His Excellency for this decision.

    This refers to the preceding decree in which the bishop had attempted to prohibit ad orientem celebration in his diocese, contrary to the fact that both ad orientem and versus populum celebration are in accord with Church law.

  26. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Father:

    Interesting point you make about ecumenism. Is it perhaps the undoing of ecumenitis to say “ok- let us do as you say and let our TURNING TOWARD THE LORD undo the divisions which separate us”? I’ve been listening to John Vennari on the topic and rereading Mortalium Animos and Satis Cognitum and am, therefore, convinced that the ‘policy’ of ecumenism must be radically redone.

    On another, related point, is it worth noting that this is (at least) the second time His Holiness has turned the tables? First the “Extraordinary form”, and now “turning toward the Lord”. What’s next? (He said hopefully….)

  27. Father Anonymous says:

    What a magnificent Pope we have. He is fearless and single minded in what he is doing; the Vicar of Christ on earth. God bless Pope Benedict XVI!

  28. Matt Q says:

    RichR wrote:

    “The Pope is catechizing his flock so they understand his actions. It is interesting that the Pope is subtly appealing to a grassroots reclamation of traditional forms of worship. He really is asserting his immediate jurisdiciton in any part of the world as he reaches out to each individual Catholic.

    ()

    Now, if only those who are responsible for actually doing it would do so, and also the parish. There many pious Faithful but mention any change for the better traditionally, they act as though you asked them to switch religions.

    =====

    TNCath wrote:

    “Here we go! As Father Z. says, ‘Brick by brick…’”

    ()

    Yes, brick by brick. We should all want to help make those bricks. Wow, that kinda sounds Exodus-like. :-)

    =====

    Father M wrote:

    “Little things like this do give you a heightened sense of anticipation. As some of us recall, we do have to be attentive to the signs of the times. It is fun—and joyful—to watch the Pope slowly picking up the pieces. Dominus conservet eum!”

    ()

    Yes, Father, truly agreeable and exciting, but it’s the trickle-down theory which concerns me. In my own parish, not one word was ever mentioned about the Motu Proprio, and various chatting about the Tridentine Rite brings about a reaction as though it was something not discussed in polite conversation.

    =====

    Schoolman wrote:

    “The Benedictine reform continues with small and large steps forward. Perhaps the latest large step has already been announced…an assessment and revision of the 1983 Code of Canon law:

    “The 1983 Code of Canon Law, the archbishop acknowledged, is “like all human works … perfectible.”

    The upcoming congress will aim “to identify certain points in need of a little restoration,” he said.”

    ()

    We just wonder though what citations the archbishop was referring to.

    =====

    Does anyone else get the feeling that the Pope is preparing us for a return to “ad orientam” altars, and the discarding of the horrible table-altar scenarios? I do. Nothing would be more wonderful, following the issuing of the Motu Proprio for the TLM, that the Pope would follow up on it by abolishing the usage of the “table-altars”. It would be great to see them disappear from all the magnificent Cathedrals whose high altars have not been used in 40 years. The National Shrine in DC could use its beautiful High Altar again. I watched the Mass for Life 2 days ago. Obviously Pope Benedict’s liturgical revolution has not reached the USA. The altar at the Shrine was as it’s appeared for nearly 40 years now… 100% Episcopalian style.

    ()

    Yes, Matthew, the Shrine neeeds some liturgical work. To be fair, though, there are many dioceses and individual parishes ( not mine :/ ) doing their best to implement the Motu Proprio.

    Matthew wrote further:

    “I would not be surprised if in the next few months, Benedict XVI will proclaim/initiate 3 things that will have traditional/traditionalist Catholics cheering… and people like Piero Marini weeping !!
    1). A further expansion of the TLM with the updated guidelines for the Summorum Pontificum expected from the Ecclesiae Dei office… guidelines which in no uncertain terms take any authority/dictates about the TLM away from Bishops.
    2). Some new liturgical rules, decreeing Catholic Mass to now be celebrated on the original altars “ad orientam”… the little tables no longer to be used.
    3). More traditional/traditionalist style vestments and other Papal vestments restored. There’s been a rumor I read on one site in Italian, that the Pope might permit Cardinals to wear the “cappa-magnas” again in the Vatican at Papal Masses. And other major restorations regarding ecclesiastical vesture which Paul VI and company wrecklessly discarded.

    Your lips to God’s ears, Matthew, but I’m with you on that.

    =====

    Michael wrote:

    “I don’t think the Pope will ever mandate the use of traditional altars where they exist.”

    ()

    It won’t happen as along as the Novus Ordo is in effect and commonplace throughout the Church.

    Michael wrote further:

    “…These very permanent arrangments purposely obstruct any view of the choir or high altar on the east end of the church, making it impossible to “go back” without costly renovations. The same is true in many churches where the high altar remains. It’s completely blocked by a fixed altar in front of it.”

    ()

    That’s why when the Tridentine Mass is celebrated in certain churches, it looks odd because the sanctuary has a Novus Ordo orientation and thus the Tridentine Mass looks like an after-thought, but we still use what we have.

  29. Matt Q: Does anyone else get the feeling that the Pope is preparing us for a return to “ad orientam” altars, and the discarding of the horrible table-altar scenarios? I do.

    Yes. I get a strong feeling about that too. However, knowing Benedict, and what he has written about this, I also know that he will work with patience.

    PS: A posting tip. Post individual responses to individual whom you address in separate comments. Don’t lump them together. It is too hard for other people to know you are talking to them unless you put their name or handle as the very first word (so they see it easily) and then respond to them individually. Thanks!

  30. Marilyn says:

    Thanks for the posts about asking permission for celebrating the mass ‘ad orientem.’ And yes, I was talking about the novus ordo.

  31. Maureen says:

    In English, using the present tense to describe past events is a storytelling device that adds informality as well as immediacy. I had no idea you were allowed to say things that way in romance languages.

    You learn something every day!

  32. TNCath says:

    Henry wrote: “As a sign of his acceptance of this disposition of law, His Excellency Bishop Foley has kindly withdrawn the preceding Decree dated October 18, 1999 on March 13, 2000, and the Congregation for Divine Worship is grateful to His Excellency for this decision.

    This refers to the preceding decree in which the bishop had attempted to prohibit ad orientem celebration in his diocese, contrary to the fact that both ad orientem and versus populum celebration are in accord with Church law.”

    Henry,

    Yes, I am aware of the fact that Bishop Foley withdrew his attempt to prohibit ad orientem celebrations of Mass in the Diocese of Birmingham; however, he then turned around (no pun intended) and prohibited TELEVISED ad orientem Masses in the Diocese of Birmingham.

    See the following excerpt from “Norms for Televised Masses in the Birmingham Diocese” dated February 22, 2000:

    “All televised Masses will be celebrated in such a way that when the priest is standing at the altar he is facing the faithful (versus populum). This practice, currently observed in all but a relatively few parishes throughout the dioceses of the United States, has proved its pastoral effectiveness. Any confusion caused by a television Mass at variance with the practice of the diocesan bishop will thus be avoided.”

    As far as I know, these norms are still in effect in the Diocese of Birmingham under its new ordinary, Bishop Robert Baker. Mass is still being said versus populum. If it’s ok for EWTN to broadcast the Holy Father celebrating Mass ad orientem, then why isn’t it ok for EWTN to broadcast its own daily Mass ad orientem?

  33. Fr. Steve says:

    Looks like someone should kindly write and ask the bishop if this norm can be droped.

  34. Mark says:

    Conidering the context, at least in English, I really can’t see why it is significant that the Holy Father uses “rise,” “turn,” and “want,” in the present tense…I would like to read something into this, but I just don’t see it.

  35. dob says:

    The Pope has turned towards the Lord. He says that only those who have turned towards the Lord are in unity. Is he asking all priests who are in unity with him and Christ to turn towards the Lord?

  36. Habemus Papam says:

    dob, good question. As Cardinal he stated a smaller, purer Church maybe necessary.