An eastward facing observation

Yesterday the Holy Father celebrated Holy Mass for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in the Sistine Chapel.

Not a peep from the usual corners about ad orientem worship.

It’s a given.

Therefore,…. it is time for the next step, your Holiness.

What’s next?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    It’s interesting to think that we seem to be approaching a time, once again, when the idea of a pope who wears ermine, who pontificates in Roman vestments, and who celebrates Mass ad orientem seems so much the norm, that the Church no longer remarks about such things.

    At first, it shocked people to see the pope reintroduce long-abandoned elements of vesture and ceremony. Today it just seems normal.

    As a Catholic who grew up during the reigns of Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II, I was convinced that all such things were gone with the wind, never to be seen again, except on the silver screen. If someone had told me that, immediately following the death of John Paul II would come a pope who would quickly restore all the pre-Conciliar magnificence of the papacy, I never would have believed it. I really thought it had disappeared forever.

    Now, not only is so much of it back, it is so completely back that it is today’s norm.

  2. ShaneC says:

    Brick By Brick indeed.

    If i may offer my own observations. I grew up in a catholic parish/School and while we had wonderful orthodox priests, their liturgical style was a little bit loose for lack of a better word. This was more of a spirit of the age thing i feel. Felt banners and all that hanging on ornately decorated stone walls in a beautiful stone cruciform church..

    In the past 4 years we have seen the following develop ‘brick by brick’

    The parish is under diocesean priests again.

    *Our new parish priest Fr.Fidel melo has been such a blessing, a very true and holy priest. He prays the mass with much reverence.. We are lucky to have him!

    *3 years ago we had a solemn high mass celebrated by visiting priest Fr.Robert ferguson, and this has happened atleast a few times a year every year, as much as he graciously makes his time available. He is a professor of theology at our lady of guadelupe in denton so he has little time, so we are so thankful for what we do get. And more often than not Philip Gerard johnson assists at these masses, and it always lifts the heart to see this seminarian and the future of our priesthood.

    Our other priests in residence have started using the biretta on a reuglar basis, they wear the cassock on a regular basis, and i hear the Roman canon used at almost every ‘high’ style 11am mass on most sundays.

    And lest not forget of major importance our beautiful Music department headed by Mr.Brian Marble ,this man is talended beyond belief, and has an AUTHENTIC understanding of liturgical music..

    Our lady of Grace in greensboro NC is DEFINATELY seeing the Brick by brick approach you speak about, and Our holy father himself is implementing. This is all becoming the norm as the old guard is no longer running the show. Thanks to god!

  3. TNCath says:

    Perhaps the Holy Father will start with a an exhortation on the benefits of the ad orientem position as well as the implementation of the new translation of the Mass and the hermeneutic of continuity in celebration of liturgy during the upcoming ad limina visits of the U.S. bishops, slated for sometime in late 2011 and early 2012.

  4. Tim Ferguson says:

    Perhaps Cardinal Burke will take possession of his titular deaconry in the context of an extraordinary form Mass?

    In the papal arena, I’m hoping that we see the next anniversary of Summorum Pontificum celebrated with a Solemn High Mass coram pontifico in St. Peter’s.

  5. Magpie says:

    It’s really exciting as a young Catholic (29 years old) to watch these developments. As a kid I think I intuitively sensed that there was something up with the Mass. Of course I didn’t know what or why, but I think my sensus fidei was operative from the start!

    The next thing the Pope will do is ask the Church to return to ad orientem and Communion in the hand, kneeling. That’s what I want to see – some directives in that regard.

  6. mdinan says:

    Communion in the HAND kneeling? That’s just plain silly!

  7. asperges says:

    “.. and Communion in the hand, kneeling.” Surely: on the tongue, kneeling.
    .. and then all the Papal Masses ad orientem. After all, much of the first part of the Mass is facing the people anyway in the NO.
    Let us hope so.

  8. mdinan: Communion in the HAND kneeling? That’s just plain silly!

    Don’t be so dismissive.

    This may be a step in the right direction, especially for some people who are younger and who have never seen in their parishes anything other than the “chow line” (not to be dismissive in turn) style, of lining up with hands out.

  9. SonofMonica says:

    mdinan: I suspect Magpie simply mistyped and meant to say on the tongue kneeling, but I don’t find communion in the hand kneeling silly at all. In fact, that’s what we did at the high-church (anglo-catholic) Episcopal parish I used to attend. It seemed very reverent (issues of validity of confection aside), and we were taught to make a throne with our hand and all that.

    Since I converted, I have only received on the tongue, whether kneeling (EF) or standing (OF), and to be honest with you, receiving on the tongue standing feels less reverent than in the hand kneeling. I, like you, would prefer OTT kneeling to be the definitive way Catholics are to receive, but I don’t find the prospect of receiving ITH while kneeling to be silly, even if I’m not for it.

  10. TNCath says:

    asperges said, “and then all the Papal Masses ad orientem.”

    Do keep in mind that the Holy Father says Mass every day in his chapel ad orientem. Also, when he says Mass at the main altar at St. Peter’s, he is also saying Mass ad orientem.

  11. Magpie says:


    I slipped and fell last night in the ice. I hurt myself but I didn’t hit my head.
    I meant, communion on the tongue, kneeling!

    Whew! I am literally LOL.

  12. Q. Communion in the Hand Kneeling?
    A. Midget EMHC’s.


  13. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    TNCath, “Perhaps the Holy Father will start with a an exhortation on the benefits of the ad orientem position … ”

    Exactly what I was thinking. He should also add that certain parts should be said in Latin, regardless. He might even want to go further and do what he did in Summorum Pontificum in clear outlines that COTT is the primary means of receiving it and that any EHMC or parish including bishops who outright refuse or embarass parishoners who do it (like our unfortunate poster a couple of days ago in a Qaueritur) can be reported to the CDF and be sanctioned or lose their ministries. Also that all parishes are to have altar rails, no indults or exceptions. Seriously if he expects the Laity to return to some semblence of traditional worship, he has to “lay down the law.” Asking nicely does nothing.

  14. Banjo pickin girl says:

    magpie, and surely your sense of humor is uninjured. Sorry about the slip and fall. I dread that and wear ice creepers all winter.

  15. Centristian says:

    I was pleased to learn this weekend that my parish will host a Tridentine Mass in March. It will be celebrated at the still-intact original high altar. Ironically, this will represent the first time that the Mass has not been celebrated “ad orientem” in many years, as the old altar, indeed, faces West. Only when the Mass is celebrated “versus populum” at the new altar is it truly celebrated “ad orientem”.

  16. TNCath:
    Good point about the pope always celebrating ad orientem at St. Peters. This is, of course, because of the architecture of the building. Even before Vatican II the Mass there was celebrated toward the people in order for the pope to face east. From what I’ve heard, during the canon the people would physically turn around to face eastward with the pope. This would mean that the people were actually in front of the pope celebrant. I don’t know what they’d do at the elevation, though. Maybe pull out a mirror?

    So if the pope were to celebrate on the other side of the altar at St. Peters, he would not be celebrating ad orientem, but rather ad-westientem (for lack of a better word)! Strictly speaking, I’d bet that many Novus Ordo parishes technically celebrate ad orientem. Just pull out a map!

  17. Centristian:
    I can’t believe how similar our comments are! You must have posted during the short gap while I was editing my comment.

    I am glad for your parish. Brick by brick indeed!

  18. Magpie is literally ROTFL.

  19. mdinan says:

    Fr Z.,

    There was a parish in my Diocese (Rochester, NY) that was recently closed that still used the altar rail for N.O. Masses. I’ve never seen something nearly as absurd as receiving kneeling, then standing up, Christ in hand, and irreverently treating our Lord like a handful of Crunch-A-Munch (a few people did this.) I’d rather see standing, on the tongue than kneeling, in the hand–much less risk of profanation!

  20. MrD says:


    I have attended OLG for decades and agree that it is a wonderful, orthodox church. However, I disagree with your assumptions as to how this has occurred. Correlation is not the same as causation. Also, do not be so quick to discount the efforts and impact of the Marians. OLG has had great Marian and diocesan priests. We have also had some from both that were not.

    The music and Mr. Marble are simply outstanding, that is true.

  21. kallman says:

    Has he not been doing this is the Sistine for some time now? B16 is not a young man (unfortunately) he needs to get on with it and say the TLM in St Peters in front of the TV cameras while he still can. I am sure Mgr Guido Marini can help him out.

  22. ShaneC says:

    # MR.D

    I did not mean to imiply that the marians were anything less than wonderful. I simply meant that at the time, traditional tendencies were not the norm in the american church as we both know. I hold fathers, David, Mark, and walter close to my heart.

    What are your thoughts on the matter? I am curious now.

  23. “Therefore,…. it is time for the next step, your Holiness.

    What’s next?”

    Great question Father!

    When will the Holy Father say that it is a legitimate and indeed truly noble to worship ad orientem or ad Dominum?

    The longer it takes the longer will it take for liturgists and their own “liturgical magisterium” to proclaim that “it is only for the Pope and no one else.”

  24. Father G says:

    I too noticed yesterday that there was almost no press about His Holiness celebrating Mass ad orientem, with the exception of the “Whispers in the Loggia” blog.

    What I would like to see is:

    1) A statement by His Holiness through the Congregation for Divine Worship encouraging more use of celebrating Mass ad orientem. I know of one priest who is hesitant to celebrate Mass ad orientem until there is a more explicit statement encouraging this option.

    2) More frequent celebrations of papal Masses ad orientem-especially on a freestanding altar.

  25. yatzer says:

    Our parish, with both EF and OF masses, uses the altar rail at both. People who can kneel usually do, but a few people do receive in the hand for whatever reason. They always put the Host in their mouths before rising, AFAIK. It works fine for everyone.

  26. Dr. Eric says:

    A public Papal EF this July is too fast and too big of a leap yet, the Holy Father has changed things gradually (“Brick by Brick”). I could forsee a public Papal EF perhaps next July on the 5th anniversary of SP. Or perhaps because the Holy Father promulgated SP on 07/07/07 he is waiting for 12/12/12 for the public Papal EF.

  27. Centristian says:

    For my part, I have no need that the pope should celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s according to the 1962 Missal. Really, who cares what Missal he uses? What I would like to see–regardless of what Missal is used–is the reconstitution of the Papal ceremonial in all its splendour and grandeur.

    1. Send the audience chairs and the sedia gestatoria that get plopped in front of the altar back to the Apostolic Palace and bring back the pontifical throne dais beneath the Cathedra Petri. That implies all the red velvet swags and drapes and tapestries that traditionally hang in the throne’s vicinity, and all the traditional attendants in their proper places.

    2. The Pope is meant to wear either red vestments, or white, only. Let him desist in the wearing of vestments of green or of violet; the pope isn’t meant to.

    3. Let not the Pope fear the vestments of his office. Happily, the current pope is rather fearless in that regard, but there are plenty more papal vestments that have not yet been resurrected that could be.

    4. Let the Pope communicate from the chalice through a golden straw, at the throne.

    5. And all the rest of it!

    In short, let the Bishop of Rome once again pontificate in the traditional manner of the Bishop of Rome, and as far as I am concerned, he can use Eucharistic Prayer III…in Latin, of course.

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