Ad orientem… so needed, so right

The Holy Father once again celebrates ad orientem for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

What I think is important here is not only the image, nice as it is, but also the fact that there was no negative liberal hype about it before the fact.

The last couple times the Holy Father celebrated in the Sistine Chapel, liberals threw a nutty about the use of the main altar, ad orientem worship.

It just seems so.. right.  Am I wrong?

The Holy Father has been implementing bits and pieces of his larger agenda for Holy Church’s liturgical worship.  

A return the ad orientem worship, even through the intermediary stage of the so-called "Benedictine arrangement", will aid in a revitalization of our Catholic identity.

Some of us would like to see more changes, more quickly implemented.  From where the Holy Father is sitting, this is the pace he thinks best.

We have to do these things brick by brick, explaining along the way what is going on, why we are making changes.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Brick by Brick, Our Catholic Identity, SESSIUNCULA and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. swamp_rabbit says:

    My wife and I had the benefit of watching the Mass in the late afternoon (we live in Taiwan). Very beautiful, and the Holy father showed such warmth to the children bringing up the gifts. The commentator, I felt, did a fine job, but when it came to celebrating ad orientem she seemed to walk the fine line between “steeped in history and tradition” and “only because this is the direction the alter faces in the chapel.”

    It was beautiful to see, though, especially as a Catholic who grew up in the 80’s.

  2. Frank Doyle says:

    Let us hope that the Holy Father will soon say the Old Rite

  3. capchoirgirl says:

    I have to say, if I was the pope, and I had the option of looking at that beautiful fresco while I offered the Sacrifice of the Mass..I’d take it.

  4. Andrew says:

    For each timid little step towards sanity liberals take huge strides away from it.

  5. Recorder says:

    More on-topic I found the Sistine Chapel to be a huge disappointment after the Basilica, the Museums (and the hype). The drapery effect is interesting but actual statuary would have been more impressive IMHO. The Last Judgement and the ceiling are certainly masterpieces but hard to appreciate in the tourist scrum. I think what I’m saying is that anybody who had a spare ticket to the next Papal Mass let me know…

    God bless our Pope!

  6. Prof. Basto says:

    The Holy Father has been implementing the reform of the reform brick by brick.

    Most analists suggest (and I don’t disagree), that the Pope has deliberately avoided the use of legislative fiats as a means of introducing changes to the novus ordo with a view to implementing the “reform of the reform” project.

    They suggest that the Pope would be wary of making artificial alterations to the Pauline rite, even if in the right direction (of return to continuity with tradition), because the artificial legislative imposition of the liturgical reform already caused confusion and creativity.

    So, the Holy Father is trying to implement the reform of the reform so far not by means of legislative acts but by means of his practical example. In this way, a pedagogy of return to the sacred develops, a God-centred view of the liturgy is fostered, replacing the community-centred ethos that was arose in the 60’s and 70’s and that is not compatible with Catholic liturgical tradition.


    Am I the only one to fear that, without legislative acts, the Benedictine reform of the reform is in danger of ending together with the earthly life of Benedict XVI?

    Am I the only one to fear that the Pope will soon be 83 years old, and that few among the more 4.900 Catholic bishops worldwide are implementing his liturgical vision?

    Aren’t we perhaps confounded about the future, or overly optimistic in an urealistic way, because we are part of a few who happen to visit a handful of traditionalist Catholic blogs, compared to the total number of Catholics, so that we are focused on what the Pope is doing of good in Rome, and on the eye candy that comes from a small number of traditionalist communities, that we forget the mass that our own parishes and dioceses are still in? That we forget that most Catholics are still unaware of Summorum Pontificum and are still prejudiced against the preconciliar liturgical patrimony? How long will it take for this “leadership by example” to reach parishes worldwide in a massive scale, when the intermediary leaders (bishops, archbishops) are often opposed to the return to tradition?

    So, sometimes I fear that an opportunity is being lost by the Holy Father not issuing at least part of the reform of the reform via legislative act. Only legislation would face bishops with the NEED to implement Rome’s directives. Only legislation would be a guarantee of the survival of the Benedictine reform beyond the Pope’s earthly existance.

    And in some cases, certain changes cannot be made but by legislation (a change in the Novus Ordo offertory prayers, for instance, to replace the current ones – that are totally divorced from the tradition of the Roman rite – with others such as those found in the Tridentine Missal).

    Only by papal legislative act it would be possible:

    – to reppeal the norm according to which the Conference of Bishops sets the posture for reception of Holy Communion. So, I’m thinking here of a papal legislative act establishing kneeling once again as the only form of reception of the Eurcharist in the Latin Church.

    – to extend the Eucharistic fast;

    – to re-establish reception of the Eucharist on the tongue as the only allowed means, reppealing the concessions that allow the communicant to choose to receive in the hand instead. Priests would then be directed to only give Communion on the tongue.

    – to place defined limits on concelebrations (both regarding the number of concelebrants and the occasions for the use of this extraordinary method of celebration).

    – to reppeal all Eurcaristic Prayers of the Pauline Missal, with the exception of the Eucharistic Prayer I, therefore forcing the widespread use of the Roman Canon and getting rid of certain eucharistic prayers that are less reverent, such as those for masses with children that have been approved by the Holy See for some countries.

    – to reppeal the concession made by the Holy See to some countries, according to which the Episcopal Conference can add acclamations to be recited ad libitum – but that, in practice, are always recited – at the end of each paragraph of the Eucharistic Prayer (such acclamations exist in my country and are utterly distractive, as they break the continuity of the Canon at each paragraph.

    – to abrogate the possibility of female altar servers, re-establishing the centuries old tradition of male-only servers;

    – to restrict the role of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to the delivery of viaticum. I’m thinking of a norm according to which only the celebrant, or perhaps also the deacon, and other priests present (even if not the celebrant – but, in this case, the other priests wearing stole, ect) would be able to give Communion during Mass, to the total excusion of lay extraordinary ministers.

    – to establish the role of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion as a male only role, since it emulates an action that is proper to the male only priesthood. The same reason according to which female altar servers are to be discontinued is the reason why it is not proper to have women act as ministers of the Eucharist.

  7. B Knotts says:

    “Brick by brick” is indeed fine, but can someone ship a load of bricks to Portland, Oregon?

  8. Prof. Basto says:


    In the last line of my previous post, where it is written “ministers of the Eucharist” it should read “ministers of Holy Communion, even if in an extraordinary capacity”.

  9. Cricket says:

    Here’s a question for any priests who may be reading this post. At one of the more orthodox parishes in my diocese the very good pastor recently began celebrating the Novus Ordo “ad orientem.” Of course, most of the well-formed congregants were delighted by this. But it occurred to me the person most affected by the change would be the “very good pastor.” I sense it must be a very powerfully moving experience for a priest to be “alone” with Jesus in such an intimate fashion, leading his parishioners in worship. Anybody care to weigh in on this?

  10. bruno says:

    ‘“Brick by brick” is indeed fine, but can someone ship a load of bricks to Portland, Oregon?’

    LOL; I think this suggestion is the basis of one very large industry indeed! Our Priest’s (a very nice man) homilies are 30 to 50 minutes. He is then through the Eucharistic Prayer etc. in about 5-7 minutes.

  11. Sedgwick says:

    From where the Holy Father is sitting, this is the pace he thinks best.

    Is this really the pace he thinks best, or is it simply the pace forced on him by a hierarchy paralyzed by strategically placed enemies of the Church? [Either way, this is the pace the Holy Father has chosen because he deems it to be the best approach.] Pardon me for being blunt, but celebrating the Novus Ordo ad orientem strikes me as somewhat similar to saying grace before a meal laced with arsenic.

  12. RichR says:

    Many parishes need to use the original high altar that generations of faithful Catholics before used for the Mass. It makes no sense to shun decades (or centuries) of continuity to simply embrace versus populum. Quite often, the new altar is less inspiring, less “altar-like” (more table-ish), and less permanent. It is cheaply-built and presents a very stark contrast to the traditional altar behind it.

    May I suggest parishes in such a situation use the old High Altar simply for special occasions (patron saint’s feast day, Holy Days of Obligation, etc…..). Get people use to the idea of it. See what people think. Explain that you are seeking continuity with the past, not separation. A simple explanation of ad orientem worship, combined with a reference to the Holy Father’s efforts as seen above, will go a long way in preparing people for this experience of worship.

  13. ipadre says:

    Thank God for Pope Benedict XVI!

    I think it would be a good service to all if a group of us could create pamphlets explaining all of these things, like “Ad Orientem”, “The six candles and Crucifix on the Altar”, etc…, so that they could be passed out in our churches. (with the pastors permission, if he is not the one who would like to introduce these things)

  14. TNCath says:

    Had the ad orientem position been retained in the first place, implementation of the Novus Ordo may not have been so traumatic and difficult.

    As for the “right pace,” do remember the shock and horror of so many that so many sweeping changes were made after Vatican II. To do the same to restore the ad orientem position would cause the same reactions from those who have never been to a Mass ad orientem. It took us 40 years to get to this moment. It may take another 40 years (or longer) for things to be restored.

  15. Fr Tim Edgar says:

    Father, there are those who oppose anything the Holy Father does. Just look at this: [Non-factor.]

  16. chcrix says:

    The pope proceeds at the pace he thinks is advisable. I am sure no one is more aware of his age than he is.

    But the thing is, though the Pope is an absolute monarch, wise men do not exercise such power with abandon. Not that is, if they want to change things over the long term. Look at all the Bolshies did in Russia. All done with ruthless force. Yet that only solidified the opposition.

    BXVI is aware of what is wrong with the NO. But he does not want to repeat the mistake of breaking continuity which would compound the damage already done.

  17. The Holy Father has many enemies…we need to pray for him. I have a hunch there will be a couple of major legislative acts.

    Prof Basto: I thought the Holy Father already put limits on concelebrants in the Universal Church? I remember something about that last year. I could be wrong..

    Though I do see a few things happening this year.

    1. The repealing of the Bishops’ Conferences to decide the norms for Communion
    2. More changes for EMHC’s

  18. Prof. Basto says:

    Dear Joe of St. Thérèse: No, no limits were placed. We heard that the matter was under study.

  19. frdgss says:

    I started offering Mass publicly “ad orientem” about 6 months ago, following the lead of the Holy Father. I was ordained in the 1990’s and so have only known the post-conciliar Church.

    In my parish, we use the Ordinary Form of Mass in English, with everything up to the Offertory done from the Chair/Ambo. The People do every ministry that the rubrics allow (reading, ushering, children’s liturgy, choir, altar serving, but no EMHCs as there’s no need – and anyway, it’s my privilege to give the Body and Blood of Jesus to them!). Prior to the orientation change, I preached about the matter in a series of homilies I gave about the Mass as sacrifice.

    That recent article by the Bishop of Tulsa (reprinted in the last edition of the UK’s Latin Mass Society’s “Mass of Ages”) on the “ad orientem” position really helped – and I made copies available for my people. The only comments I have received have been positive. The logic and the love of the priest leading his People as together we “turn to the Lord” is irresistable.

    From this priest’s point of view, I must say that I find it a huge relief not to have to “entertain” the People during Mass as a sort of liturgical “emcee” – and I’m sure they don’t want to be looking at me all the time either! The place for “entertainment” is surely after Mass with a cup of coffee – or something stronger after the later Mass!

    As a priest, I find that the whole experience of saying Mass “ad orientem” has become much more recollected and reverent; I can also hear the parents whispering to their children “look, there’s Jesus” as I elevate the Host and Chalice. It’s just wonderful!

    To my brother priests who are thinking of doing likewise, I can only say that this one act has renewed my priesthood and the faith of my People. Do it NOW. You won’t regret it.

    To the People of God – please suggest this to your priest and encourage him. Don’t let the shrill, barren voices of liberalism attempt to stifle our faith; they have had their day.

  20. Mike says:

    Prof. Basto,

    Thanks for that post. Great Q’s.

    Remember the leaven; little grains of sanctity can and will with the Lord’s Grace, make the whole Church, indeed, all creation, rise.

    Those left will be left by their own choice.

  21. Prof. Basto says:

    In the Pange lingua gloriosi praelium we read:

    ipse lignum tunc notavit,
    damna ligni ut solveret.
    Hoc opus nostrae salutis
    ordo depoposcerat,
    multiformis proditoris
    ars ut artem falleret,
    et medelam ferret inde,
    hostis unde laeserat.

    The crisis of faith, catechesis, etc. that the Church of God has been under for the last 40 years, the “smoke of Satan”, as Paul VI himself put it, entered the Church via an hermeneutics of rupture that is intimately linked to the man-centred orientation of the reformed liturgy.

    In turn, this community-centred orientation was inspired and willed by Bugnini, the main author of the artifical reformed liturgy, and replaced the God-centred orientation of the previous liturgy. There was clearly an intended rejection of reverence and of complex gestures denoting the sacrality of the liturgical action, all under the pretext of bringing people closer and of noble simplicity.

    And in turn, this reformed liturgy – and, together with it – the new ethos of man-centred worship intended by Bugnini were introduced by means of papal legislatives acts. Bugnini himself lacked the power to introduce his community-centred liturgy into the world. His Consilium needed Paul VI’s signature. And, perhaps seduced by the idea of a new Pentecost, the idea that the Church under him was at a new beggining, that what was old had to be replaced with what was new, Paul VI executed one of the most impressive discharges of Papal authority, by replacing the Roman Rite’s centuries old liturgy with his own.

    Surely, Paul VI was unaware of the harm he was doing, but he fell for Bugnini’s trap, for the liberal’s trap. For the Church back then, a papal command was a papal command, and so everybody treated the centuries old Gregorian liturgy as if it had been abrogated, the masses embraced the spirit according to which they were at a new dawn, and that the previous history of the Church was to be rejected, and together with the Novus Ordo came, as if in a trojan horse, the fruits of experimentation and of community-centred and community-modified worship.

    The idea of rupture thus created by a liturgical reform in the wrong direction led to all the problems that characterize the crisis of the Church. But, just as a reform in the direction of rupture create bad fruits, a reform in the direction of tradition (the “reform of the reform”) will produce good fruits.

    And the same weapon that was back then used to introduce the ill-advised reform (that opened the doors for the smoke of Satan to enter the Sanctuary), that is, the weapon of papal legislation, can now be used as a remedy, as a medicine, by means of authoritative implementation of the reform of the reform.

    Ars ut artem.

  22. Lee says:

    Prof Basto and frdgss: What great posts!

    For me, one small, crucially important stitch in restoring the thread of continuity in the liturgy would be to revert to genuflecting at “He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man” in the Creed.

    It would go a long way toward helping people to understand- with their bodies- the spirit of the Usus Antiquior.

    There is something humbling and wonderful about bending the knee at these words. And its pretty obvious the whole Church is going to need quite a lot of humility to accept the Benedictine reforms peacefully.

  23. Mitchell NY says:

    I too think the Holy Father is going at a pace he feels comfortable for whatever the reasons. However, that said, as a simple layperson waiting for his leadership and example to extend to parishes in my vicinity it seems rather clear this is not happening. The TLM has been flatly denied, therefore I go to where I can find one. Leading by example, we all know is only part of the equation, or there would have been no reason for SP. Legislation serves its’ purpose at some point and does have an effect, proven by the increase of TLM by some Priests faithful to the wishes of the Holy Father. Without the legislation it looks to many people like this is simply the preference of this Pontificate and this Holy Father to celebrate Mass this way. Whether it be vestments, ad orientem, or other traditional elements added to the mix. It could end tomorrow or next week, or even in 10 years. Many of these returns to tradition are not understood for what they are or are supposed to be without something like a decree to safeguard its’ restoration into future Pontificates. People just think they are one of the many options available in the NO Mass, not normative or ideal goals. One thing Bugnini and Pope Paul VI knew is that in order to push the NO onto the world it would have to be done with more than example, which had even more weight then. Let’s take a look back at his allocutions. Now I am not saying that this Pope should or would do things in this way. But leading by example for a while, issuing a decision or decree on the matter and then moving on to the next point helps to establish those decisions firmly. Whatever is left undone by his earthly presence, could easily be picked up by a future Pontiff. But at least what has been decided is clear and settled, for the most part. Otherwise there is the risk of falling backwards once again. That seems a little unfair to the faithful. We all pray for this Holy Father and his health I am sure and wish him to live to 100, which may happen. But there is a percentage of Catholics who do look to decrees as definitive in decisions on matters of faith and practice. Not all of us want to decide for ourselves. Some of us just want to follow and that is made easier by example AND legislation. I can get to Rome by boat but I must say it will be faster by plane. And that is where I want to go. Just my 2 cents.

  24. Jayna says:

    The only thing that bothered me was what the commentator said. She explained his celebrating the Mass ad orientem by saying that it was simply the way he had to do it because of where the altar is. I was sitting there thinking that he’d do it that way every time he celebrated Mass if he wouldn’t have to deal with a liberal coup.

  25. Brick by brick” is indeed fine, but can someone ship a load of bricks to Portland, Oregon?

    We need some in Boise, Idaho, too. We still don’t have the TLM here; the nearest ones are 300 miles away. (Exception: the SSPX chapel, which I’d like to attend but don’t because the priests are suspended.)

  26. Father G says:

    I hope to see the re-broadcast of the Mass later today.
    I am curious to know if the Holy Father faced the altar from his chair when he said the opening sign of the cross, during the Gloris, the collect, etc., before walking up to the altar.

  27. Jakub says:

    Pallets by pallets(bricks)are needed in Los Angeles…

  28. Jack Hughes says:

    Anitia Moore opl

    I think that you have the St Joan of Arc chapel in Coeur d’Alene Idaho, Unless of course thats the chapelt that you were refering that is 300 miles away , if it makes you feel any better I’ve just started attending an FSSP chapel that is 80 odd miles from where I live and it takes me 2 hours (train and walking) to get there.

  29. Penguins Fan says:

    Professor Basto, I could not put it better myself.

    I wish Papa Benedetto had another 20 years of good health but I doubt God will allow him to be Pope at age 102.

    I also fear for the restoration of Tradition after the Holy Father has gone to his heavenly reward. We must trust in Jesus.

  30. ““Brick by brick” is indeed fine, but can someone ship a load of bricks to Portland, Oregon?
    Comment by B Knotts”

    Try Holy Rosary Church in the Rose District.

    –AT op

  31. Jayna says:

    Father G – I don’t think he did. You’d think I’d know since I watched it, but I was insanely tired after Mass this morning, so I was a little out of it.

  32. Central Valley says:

    Jakub, just to the north of you in the diocese of Fresno, we suffer greatly. You are not alone. If only the California bishops would be loyal to the Holy Fathers desires.

  33. Recorder: My experience, exactly. On a pilgrimage with a gazillion tourists/pilgrims the Sistine Chapel was a real disappointment. The lights were off (understandably); it was chaos (shushing every five seconds which nobody heeded!) and getting pushed through like cattle in a stock yard…I mentioned to someone it was like being in the antechambers of purgatory…but, I am glad, nevertheless, that I was able to be there.
    Great photos. Beautiful, in fact. And “ad orientem” is just wonderful. Thank you, Pope Benedict!

  34. Cricket: I have to tell you that offering both the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form, I have found that “ad orientem” is physically, spiritually and symbolically the only way to go.
    Our little community offers both forms in Latin; English at times; all “ad orientem”.
    When I “help-out” with parish Masses “versus populum” I find myself a bit “dis-oriented”…I just keep my eyes down except when addressing the congregation at the appropriate moments and look at the Crucifix or the consecrated bread and wine; thanks be to God, in the places I celebrate we have the “Benedictine altar” arrangement, so this is possible.

  35. Jack Hughes:

    There is the FSSP chapel in Post Falls, just south of Coeur d’Alene — that’s in the panhandle, about 300 miles north of Boise. Then there is a TLM about once a month in Pocatello, which is about 300 miles east of Boise. Then there is a TLM on the third Sunday of every month in Bend, OR (Bishop Vasa Country) which is about 300 miles west of Boise. Then there is Fr. Erik’s parish in Ogden UT, which is about 300 miles south of Boise (though a quicker 300 miles on account of the 75 mph speed limit on I-84). Such is the availability of the TLM to Boiseans, excepting those who have just given up on the diocese and attend the SSPX chapel in New Plymouth, which is about an hour west of Boise.

  36. Anita Moore OPL: Wow! And I thought WE were rural here in the tundra of north central Wisconsin. So sorry to hear this. May God grant you the availability of the TLM. Prayers here.

  37. Geremia says:

    Are there more ad orientem Novus Ordo masses than Extraordinary Form masses? It appears to be that way here in the Phoenix area where there are 2 EF parishes, one of which does Novus Ordo ad orientem.

  38. Geremia says:

    Fr. Joseph Fessio, student of then-Cardinal Ratzinger:

    I don’t say Mass “with my back to the people” anymore than Patton went through Germany with his “back to the soldiers.”

  39. Jack Hughes says:

    Anita Moore

    If you tell me the name of your Bishop I’ll have chat with his guardian angel

  40. Father Michael says:

    Having preached upon the “Ad Orientem” position and in fact, celebrating it occasionally now in our parish, I would have to add that the resistance comes mainly from those who were in their early twenties when the norms of Vatican II were implemented, or should I say, “forged?” in parishes. By that I mean, “Ad Orientem” was never abbrogated; it was just done away with and folks were told: “well, this is how we ‘do it’ now. That’s all the catechesis most received, and wrong catechesis at its worst. As priest-celebrant, I LOVE “Ad Orientem” for the Mass! I feel the attention is no longer on me and personally I find it so much more reverent and allows me to concentrate on what I am about rather than noticing people scratching themselves or walking about the rear of the church, even at the moment of Consecration. I, too, pray our wonderful Holy Father soon will simply state: “this is the correct manner” and then the bricks can really be laid!

Comments are closed.