WDTPRS POLL: What direction do you prefer for the altar?

We have had a few entries lately about the position of the altar.  Let’s have a quick poll.

Please pick the best answer and share your reasons in the combox, below.

I believe non-registered reader may be able to vote.

If I had a choice, all things being equal, I would...

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34 Responses to WDTPRS POLL: What direction do you prefer for the altar?

  1. Fr. Thomas says:

    Throughout my entire priesthood (in my sixth year) I have only offered the Latin Rite Mass ad orientem a few times, usually when I offered a “private” Mass, though also having faculties in the Eastern Church it is the only way to offer the Divine Liturgy. I have not experienced any difference based on the direction I am facing. The important thing is to remember what it is that we are doing – giving glory to the God who gives us life and love us beyond all comprehension. Versus populum does not have to be a look at Father time, but the action of the priest can direct the congregation to the sacred events that are between us.

  2. AnnaTrad51 says:

    At our parish it has since it’s founding been “versus Deum’ and through the grace of God will nerver change.

  3. yatzer says:

    I keep getting the uneasy feeling that we are somehow addressing the priest when Mass is celebrated with him facing us, or maybe that we are being supervised since he doesn’t dare turn his back. The Benedictine altar arrangement at a reverent OF Mass comes in second.

  4. Ben Yanke says:

    Yatzer,
    I totally agree. the “benedictine arrangement” is definitely second on the list.

    AnnaTrad51 ,
    You are so lucky!! I wish I was there!!!

  5. Magpie says:

    If I had the choice, ad orientem every time! It helps me to pray, instead of just me and the priest looking at each other.

  6. capchoirgirl says:

    I voted for the “not care” option, because I can’t understand the priest when he’s ad orientem.
    I recently heard some Masses this way and while it was quite nice, I couldn’t. understand.a. thing. I have a cochlear implant so being able to see someone’s mouth when he’s talking is very helpful. It’s really frustrating for me to hear what sounds like a stream of mumblemumblemumble.

  7. DavidO says:

    My preference is ad orientum but I’d be happy with a reverent Mass. Given recent experience, I’d be pleasantly surprised to not see guitars or drums – small steps I guess.

  8. TKS says:

    Ad orientem. Hopefully then I wouldn’t have to see the dozen or so EMHC’s standing directly behind the Priest. It’s bad enough the lectors and MC’s also sit on the altar through a good part of the Mass. Silly circle new church with Tabernacle in another room. Even at daily Mass, I spend most of the time with my eyes closed – not for piety but to limit the distractions.

  9. Prof. Basto says:

    Versus Deum, of course.

  10. Frank H says:

    TKS-

    I can relate to keeping your eyes closed to limit distractions. A few months ago I was a reader, and we sit in one of the front pews off to the side. With my eyes closed during much of the Communion time, I never realized until after communion that an altar server had fainted and was helped away.

  11. I voted for “not care”, because while I would prefer ad orientem Masses, I think it is quite possible for Mass to be celebrated “facing the people” reverently and in a way that does not invite distraction.

    (Although honestly, I don’t need to see the priest eating. Recently, I have found it to be a distraction.)

  12. Fr Matthew says:

    I’d rather participate – and, even more, offer – Mass ad orientem. I’m with yatzer – either as celebrant or as a member of the congregation, when the Mass is “versus populum” I find that I have to make an extra effort to remember when I’m speaking to God and when I’m responding to the people who are facing me. It’s to easy to slip into thinking that I’m addressing the people who are facing me. Of course, at times I am, but most of the time I’m not. I first became aware of that problem back in third or fourth grade, when saying “for the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours…” and I thought in confusion, “Whose kingdom is it? I’m saying this to the priest… no, it must be to God… but the priest was just talking to me, so aren’t I talking to him? Or was he not talking to me?”
    So, IMHO, it’s better to be facing God and for the priest to turn to face the people when he addresses them directly. As is in the rubrics…

  13. lucy says:

    My family has been attending EF now for close to five years – part of that time was 50% OF, and 50% EF. Finally our children insisted that we not return to “that noisy Mass” please.

    I used to think that I would love an ad orientum Mass in the OF, but I have since been to one and found it still lacking in some way, even though it was lovely.

    Over time, I think if ones allows the EF to sink into ones bones, you find that you want only it. It does take time – that’s the key.

    The EF is so beautiful – there’s zero reason to change it. I love it, my family loves it, and it’s brought all of us into a more faithful state of being in love with God.

    The extraordinary quiet is so out of the ordinariness of our lives, that we cannot help but draw closer to God because of it.

  14. frjim4321 says:

    the “benedictine” arrangement is distateful to me because I was taught that extraneous items should not be on the altar. Placing decorations on the altar to me seems to demean the quantum superiority of the Element themselves.

  15. Ad orientem does more to underscore the dignity of the priest and the proceedings, and the priest’s intercessory role — and also the fact that the Mass is the Holy Sacrifice.

  16. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    A reverent Mass is so important. So. Important. I firmly believe that, done properly, versus populum worship is just as moving and edifying as ad orientem. It all boils down to a sense of the Sacred. For us, the people, to know how and when to participate and for Father Celebrant and his ministers to dutifully and properly carry out what they are ordained to do.

  17. Fr. Basil says:

    \\I voted for the “not care” option, because I can’t understand the priest when he’s ad orientem.
    I recently heard some Masses this way and while it was quite nice, I couldn’t. understand.a. thing. I have a cochlear implant so being able to see someone’s mouth when he’s talking is very helpful. It’s really frustrating for me to hear what sounds like a stream of mumblemumblemumble.\\

    capchoirgirl, you have made a VERY good point that I (for one) have not thought of, and I thank you for it.

    One of the most faithful members of our parish is a deaf man, and with the priest facing East (as is the Byzantine use), you’ve made it clear just how much he is missing.

  18. AnnaTrad51 says:

    lucy I could not agree with you more. That has been my families experience over the years.

  19. Ted Krasnicki says:

    As much as humanly possible, the priests’s attention should be toward God after the offertory. It is he who praying to the Lord on behalf of the faithful present, and it would even help him concentrate more on this were he doing so in a soft voice during the Canon (Ratzinger has spoken favourably about this, but the current rubrics may not allow it for the OF). The versus Deum orientation is most suitable for this, not having people stare at him as if he were a performer constantly needing to please the people. Curiously, I have found a Canon spoken/sung out loud facing me a distraction to my meditation at this most sacred moment, as if the priest were speaking to me at a conference table.

  20. pattif says:

    frjim4321 – The “Benedictine” solution was proposed by Cardinal Ratzinger in The Spirit of the Liturgy so that both celebrant and congregation could be oriented towards the Lord, without putting the faithful through the trauma of re-reordering sanctuaries for ad orientem worship. To describe the crucifix as “decorations” seems a little odd to me.

    I voted for ad orientem on the grounds that (as I explain to kids too young to remember it as universal practice), if you were Moses on the mountain pleading with God on behalf of your people, which way would you be facing?

  21. marypatricia says:

    I was tempted to vote for the third option as we are blessed to have two priests in our parish who say a most reverent N.O. Mass and I can remember years ago attending a very rushed 15 minute Latin Mass.
    However I voted ad orientem even though I haven’t attended Mass in that form since the changes after Vatican 2.
    I always like to focus on what the priest is doing but it can be very difficult at times to avoid an eyeball to eyeball confrontation.
    I end up not looking at the altar for fear of embarrasing him which makes it more difficult to concentrate on what is going on.

  22. irishgirl says:

    I voted ‘ad orientum’. I attend the EF Mass exclusively now.

  23. kat says:

    oops, I clicked on the wrong button by accident!
    Versus Deum would have been my choice.

  24. Well, all things not being equal, I’d rather go where Mass is reverent; and I’m not real picky about Form or even Rite. But since all Christians everywhere in all times worshipped toward the east, until various radical changes occurred, I’d rather worship toward the east also — and be buried on the traditional east-west axis too. The way things should be is the way things should be.

  25. MJ says:

    With all due respect to capchoirgirl and Fr. Basil, I don’t buy into the viewpoint that if the priest is facing away from the people he can’t be heard or understood and therefore the laity is somehow missing out.

    Of course, I’m an EF attendee, so the priest is facing away from the laity and the Mass is totally in Latin…

    But this is why we have Missals — to follow along with the priest and unite our prayers to his. The Canon of the Mass (in the EF form at least) is silent except for the bells, the responses, and the Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus…so nothing to “hear” there anyway.

  26. susanna says:

    Versus Deum every time – I think I pray better. I went to a versus populum in Latin once and didn’t like that either. Our TLM priest wears a microphone (don’t they all?)

  27. The results are rather one-sided.

  28. If people are offended when a priest “turns his back to them” just think how Jesus in the tabernacle must feel (that is, if your parish is lucky enough to have a tabernacle in the front of the church).

    Ad orientem all the way!

  29. capchoirgirl says:

    With all due respect to capchoirgirl and Fr. Basil, I don’t buy into the viewpoint that if the priest is facing away from the people he can’t be heard or understood and therefore the laity is somehow missing out.

    Of course, I’m an EF attendee, so the priest is facing away from the laity and the Mass is totally in Latin…

    But this is why we have Missals — to follow along with the priest and unite our prayers to his. The Canon of the Mass (in the EF form at least) is silent except for the bells, the responses, and the Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus…so nothing to “hear” there anyway.
    ***
    But the thing is, MJ, you *can’t* follow along, because you don’t know where he *is*.
    And you really are missing out, because you don’t know where he is in the prayers (depending on how deaf/hard of hearing you are). It is very, very, VERY irritating to hear mumblemumble, and I even have a Magnificat that I use all the time (without it, there’s no way I could attend daily Mass. I’d just be so lost.), but I’m still lost when I go to some EF Masses, especially if the priest is older, doesn’t project, doesn’t enunciate, or have an accent.

    It’s not something I thought about at all until I lost my hearing, and really, it’s frustrating and disheartening to be in *any* situation where you can’t hear, but at Mass it’s just awful.

  30. Genna says:

    You know exactly where the priest is by following his actions. If I happen via the webcam upon Fr. Z celebrating Mass, I can tell where he is in the liturgy, no probs. There are all sorts of little clues like where he’s standing, where the server is, etc. The Latin/English Missal I had as a child had short explanations of the gestures used by the priest at each point as the Mass progressed. I don’t know if the NO Missal does the same as I haven’t got one.

  31. mike cliffson says:

    reverent?
    I think we mostly know what we mean. But anyone who follows Fr Dwight longenwcker’s blog will have noticed recent com.box and posts on this just thiS: externals as reverence, rather than indications of it. Certainly way back when TV was B&W and worked by steam n I was an altar server, many priests gabbled the latin , often got a few other externalds a bit tash, and I am nonetheless uuterly sure they were reverent, very, verymuch indeed, as an internal attitude. The word m’mother used to use was (CF servant etc above): edifying or unedifying i.e., the effect it had on you in the congragation.The priest’s reverence being taken as read,( perhaps wrongly?)I fear that the IDEA ,very anglican,of PERFORMANCE as it were is now part of our post vat 2 heritage: Ef masses are more beautifully and (reverently?) said than in the old days – is there a sort of awareness that way in all of us tilted me-us-priestwards , not Jesus christonoutwards? A bit, anyway.
    And the congregation eventually follow their shepherd – be there Latin , icelish ,spanish, french italian, wierdo, , drums, guitars, bagpipes even , lay readers with specch impediments,Sister X just abit too everywhere, extraordinary ministers in vulturemode near the altar from the consecration on,whatever else, if there’s that silence at the consecration that even hsushes street noise outside , when the whole congregation is actively participating and that priest is not there at all , least of all as himself as it were,
    Wow! [Indeed. From respect, please proofread your comments.]

  32. MJ says:

    capchoirgirl said, “you *can’t* follow along, because you don’t know where he *is*.” I understand and sympathize with how you feel, capchoirgirl, and I am very sorry to hear about your hearing loss.

    We know where a priest is in the Mass by watching what he does. There are signals all throughout the Mass as to what section the priest is in. For example: I may not know specifically which words in the Missal the priest is at-this-exact moment saying while he washes his hands (in the EF he is silent) but I do know “we’re at the washing of the hands so that’s where I read in my Missal” because I can see the altar servers bringing him the cruets and I can watch the priest wash his hands. Similarly, I know we’re getting ready for the consecration because the bells ring once and the servers move closer up to the priest, kneel down, and take a gentle hold on the priest’s vestments.

    So basically there are physical movements the priest performs as well as verbal responses and bell rings throughout the Mass that signal to the laity where the priest is in the Mass. It’s not important that we know exactly what words the priest is saying at-this-exact-moment, but rather that “the priest is on this page” or “the priest is in this section of paragraphs here”. Even if we loose our place in the Missal, we can continue reading until we “sync back up” with the priest.

    Perhaps for a newcomer or a new convert following along would be a bit daunting. But at some point the laity should be able to pick out where the priest is in the Missal just by watching his movements for a minute or two. Children can do this as well.

    St. Padre Pio, I have heard, didn’t use a Missal at all, but rather just united his private prayers along with those of the celebrating priest and placed himself along with Our Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross…if only I could follow his example without being bombarded by all those pesky distractions! ;) Using a Missal is a great way to combat distractions during Mass, I have found.

  33. TJerome says:

    My own view (opinion) is that in the OF the Liturgy of the Word should be done facing the people but the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in which the priest is leading us in the sacrifice, should be facing the Lord. I believe versus populum was the single, most deleterious of the “reforms” because it brought us “Father Entertainer” and the “Group Hug” approach to Liturgy.

  34. Vetdoctor says:

    Can’t get the poll to work on an Android phone