At Cross purposes

Mass toward God

On Zenit there are regular forays into liturgical Q&A.  Recently there was a question about the direction the corpus of the altar Cross should face

"Q: When an altar crucifix is used during the celebration of Mass, ought the corpus to be facing toward the priest or toward the congregation?"

Ya know… this is not a problem when the altar is ad orientem and everyone is facing the same direction, right?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jeff says:

    Yes, Father!

    Versus populum–even if you think it superior–has created so VERY many problems and conundra. One thing its introduction proves at any rate is that one should never underestimate the factor of unintended consequences and unforeseen aspects in any substantial reform. Reformers always need to remember the limitations of human wisdom and the damage that too much change can do.

    I know you’ve thought about what is now being delightfully referred to as the “elephant in the sanctuary” problem: what do you do if you have a high altar facing East and another altar “versus populum” in case you want an ad orientem celebration? Do you “pass around” the “elephant” and studiously behave as though it’s not there? Or do you use the “elephant” but from the outside edge?

    In St. Lawrence in Arlington, the high “altar” which was recently used for the Tridentine Mass turns out not even to have been consecrated and to have been erected recently merely for the tabernacle to rest on! The “elephant” is a real, consecrated altar and has relics within it!

    You can of course, get rid of the “elephant” as Canisius in Chicago has done. But many people in most places just aren’t ready for the priest to “turn his back on them.”

    You can have a light-weight, wooden affair which gets trundled out from somewhere on “holy rollers” whenever versus populum is desired. That’s what we do at St. Mary’s. That seems the best compromise, but it will only work well where ad orientem masses are the norm, or at least the priority.

    How to solve it all? Well, we really should try eventually to find SOME way to dispense with that damned, embarrassing elephant. But we’ll probably have to take him into account for years to come.

  2. Jon says:

    In the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where I’ve often been, the Crypt Church Chapel and lower level side altars all have an elegant processional cross in front of the altar, with the corpus facing the priest. Being thin, with the corpus the thickest part of the crucifix, the people don’t crane their necks about saying “I can’t see Father,” but the priest can easily direct his gaze towards it while praying, and its very evident to the people that prayer is directed toward the Lord, and not a “dialogue” or narrative for them.

    This works fine, as it goes, and is very much in keeping with what the Holy Father wrote on the subject in his “The Spirit of the liturgy.” However voluntary, gradual compliance like this could take centuries. I (and who am I?)think it wiser, while the practice is still within living memory, to simply command that the Mass of the Faithful within the Novus Ordo be celebrated ad orientam and be done with it. Catechesis would take less time than the typical Bishop’s Appeal homily.

  3. CaesarMagnus says:

    The more I study the “Novus Ordo” and the “Tridentine” the more I am convinced that the “Novus Ordo” is strictly a human invention. I believe it is valid and licit because the Church says it is, but I find nothing inspired about the rite except what was kept from the old rite. It greatly disturbs me when Bugnini admits they were doing experimental Masses in the Papal apartments with stopwatches in developing the rite.
    It is just an experiment that has gone out of control.
    The sooner things are reformed, the less damage there will be.
    And I was born in 1972, so I have every reason to prefer the Novus Ordo, it is certainly what I am more familiar with.
    Lord, give us more bishops who are spiritual Fathers, not C.E.O.s.

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