PODCAzT 43: Benedict XVI on Mass “toward the Lord” and a prayer by St. Augustine

[display_podcast] .

In today’s offering we return to the question of the position of the priest and people relative to the altar especially regarding the older form of Mass, the so-called "Tridentine" Mass.  too often we hear that in the old days Mass was celebrated with the "priest’s back to the people", which is of course NOT what was going on at all.  But can you explain what is really happening?

this PODCAzT drills once again into Mass "ad orientem" through the help of Joseph Ratzinger’s book Feast of Faith, originally published in German in 1981.  We hear about how Mass is always an opening out to the whole cosmos and how Christ draws us out of ourselves.  The Holy Cross is the important sumbol to pay attention to in this issue.

I am beginning to grasp more and more why His Holiness wanted the Motu Proprio to go into effect on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross!

We also hear a wonderful prayer of St. Augustine of Hippo which takes its cue from the phrase Conversi ad Dominum, "Turned toward the Lord", with which he would often end his sermons.

It is interesting to read the provisions of Summorum Pontificum in light of this book.  We get a glimpse of what His Holiness is trying to accomplish.

042 07-08-10 St. Augustine on St. Lawrence and how to be a Christian
041 07-08-09 Ratzinger on liturgical silence; silent Eucharist Prayer
040 07-08-02 Eusebius of Vercelli in exile; my column in The Wanderer on detractors of Summorum Pontificum
039 07-07-27 St. Augustine on Christ the Mediator; “for all” or “for many”?
038 07-07-25 Ratzinger on “active participation”; The Sabine Farm; Merry del Val’s music
037 07-07-18 The position of the altar and the priest’s “back to the people” .

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in PODCAzT, SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Paul Murnane says:

    Quick story on ad orientem. My wife is a convert of three years and never really “got” my yearning for ad orientem….until last Wednesday. You see, we normally sit on the chapel side of the church with our 3 little boys, so we see the priest and altar from the side. On the feast of the Assumption, the door was closed, so we had to sit in the main church for the first time. Half-way through Mass, my wife leans over and whispers, “I see what you mean. You almost forget that the priest is offering prayers to God because it seems he is talking directly to us. That’s not right; why do we do it that way?” After a couple of moments, I was able to look at her in amazement and nod.

  2. Timothy James says:

    Could anyone please tell me the difference between “Feast of Faith” and “The Spirit of the Liturgy” ? I know they are both focussed on the Liturgy, but how are they different? Im looking for someone who has actually read both… not just ‘hear-say.’ Thanks!

  3. KA D'Souza says:

    How my first Tridentine Mass got me hooked on ad orientem: I grew up in Nigeria in the 1980s and 1990s, where thanks to the oversight and foresight of bishops like Francis Arinze, the newer form of the Mass was celebrated very reverently and in substantial continuity with the older form. For example, ad-libbing and substituting innovations simply did not happen. Most parishes had at least one Latin Mass every Sunday and at many of the vernacular Masses the congregation would also sing the ordinary chants in Latin. However, I did not even hear about ad orientem until I was in my final years of high school. When my father described it to me, I thought that it made perfect sense for the priest to face the cross and the tabernacle, but I did not experience it until my first year at university when I started attending Mass at a small chapel where Mass is always celebrated ad orientem. This was a very positive experience for me, but I feared it could never be replicated in a parish setting without creating a great separation between priest and people. Then I went to the Tridentine Mass for the first time – a Requiem for an acquaintance. Assisting at my first Mass versus orientem in a large Church, it struck me was that it was not only the priest facing the Lord, but we were facing God with the priest, so that my fears of a great divide were unfounded. The sense of unity of purpose was manifest, in a kind of spiritual togetherness that all other attempts at “community” seemed only to grasp at and approximate. Only a couple of years later, when I read Cardinal Ratzinger’s Spirit of the Liturgy would I understand how profound the truths were which I had only dimly intuited.

  4. mike says:

    The bee’s knees Padre!


  5. mike says:


    You are a Hit junkie – I need to listen at least twice and sometimes 3 times to understand this stuff. Also, its nice to be talked up to.


  6. Geoffrey says:

    Fr. Z,

    Another great podcast! What is the name of that first piece of music sung in English? It was amazing!

  7. Thanks for another great podcast Father. It’ll help pass the time during my walk to work in the morning.

  8. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Wow, Ratzinger very eloquently describes WHY we should face the east. Not just because of what is physically there in the church building, but because of the Christological, eschatalogical, and soteriological implications.

    Someone should make that guy a pope.

  9. Father, you are an extremely good teacher. I would never have thought to stop and provide an explanation of the technical terminology then-Cardinal Ratzinger used, which it really is necessary to know in order to understand the ultimately simple point that he makes in that passage. It’s just another example of the care and consideration that you show for others that really makes your blog continually a great pleasure to read. “A fructibus eorum cognoscetis eos….”

  10. ACS says:


    Is the book, “Feast of Faith” similar to “The Spirit of the Liturgy” or totally different?


  11. William Tighe says:

    They are two very different books. *Feast of Faith* (1986, Ignatius Press; 153 pages) is a collection of eight different pieces, all dealing with liturgy and worship matters, but otherwise rather disparate in their focuses; *The Spirit of the Liturgy* (2000, Ignatius Press; 232 pages) is a coherent and unified work in four parts.

    It is noteworthy that in FoF, while the author deplores in a clear but subdued way celebration versus populum, he nevertheless seems to suggest that placing a crucifix on the altar might possibly serve to counterbalance the mistaken “community focus” of versus populum celebrations; but in SL he is much clearer in enunciating his view that the change in posture was both a mistake and based on a specious historical rationale and on bad theology.

  12. Christian says:

    Yea what was that great piece of music in English? Great podcast.

  13. DoB says:

    Desperately seeking sung & organ Te Deum podcazt you did in july. Any hope? I’m on my knees, I can’t find it on your blog anymore.

  14. DoB says:

    Fr. Z
    Te Deum
    Thank you Father, that’s the one. Would you be kind enough to give me the details of the recording so I can lay my hands on it, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. It really is great.

Comments are closed.