Accidently praying together, or, reason #7873 for Summorum Pontificum

Amy Welborn had a very interesting entry at her blog, Charlotte Was Both.  She writes about a Mass she attended which wound up with the priest as the focus.  Here I jump into the middle of her post with my emphases:

The priest became the center of the Mass – and not in the alter Christus  offering sacrifice mode he’s supposed to – and for the rest of us, there was no escaping him.

But I’ve gone over that before in this space.  Here’s what struck me this time.

The parish has a special intention for which they are praying to the Virgin.

So after Mass the priest led the people in this prayer to the Virgin for this special intention.

He turned around. Away from the congregation. With them.

He recited the words of this prayer to the Virgin, on his knees facing her statue –  which stood in the sanctuary.

He turned , he faced the statue, he prayed.

With us.

I could not help but wonder why embracing this stance and this mode of praying which did not deviate from the given, “rote,” prayer one bit – leading us, but in the same direction –  was acceptable now, but not during Mass.

When it cam time to pray instead of celebrate together, the instinct was to face the same direction together to the one whom they were addressing.  When the priest got himself out of the way, they prayed together.

The imposition of a versus populum position for Mass was probably the single most corrosive thing perpetrated in the name of Conciliar liturgical reform.  That was the opinion of the great liturgical scholar Klaus Gamber.

A reorientation of our Catholic identity requires a reorientation of our liturgical worship.  One way to help reorient ourselves as a praying Church would be to reorient our altars to the “liturgical East”.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    What did the Holy Father Pope Paul VI say–“The smoke of Satan has entered the Church…..” So simple to avoid all this with the beautiful EF but that doesn’t fix the problem for the rest of the suffering Church in the pews. Penance, sacrifice and pray.

  2. MissOH says:

    A reorientation of our Catholic identity requires a reorientation of our liturgical worship. One way to help reorient ourselves as a praying Church would be to reorient our altars to the “liturgical East”.

    From your lips to God’s ear, Fr. Z. The Benedictine arrangement for the altar is one step a very modern (though not the worst) parish near me is using. I think of another parish where, this past school year, I saw a plastic multicolored “tablecloth” placed over the altar in preparation for the school mass….. brick by brick, prayers and sacrifices.

  3. Martial Artist says:

    Gamber was certainly not far wrong, if wrong at all. There is an unconscious (or subconscious) transformation that occurs, at least for many people, when the celebrant faces the people. Regardless of the words prayed, it simply “feels” as if he were addressing us, not God. One can argue all one wants about that not being the case, but my personal observation over the years, including all of those years before I realized God was calling me into the Catholic Church, tells me it is the case. And the Holy Father’s altar arrangement for the altar interrupts that deleterious occurrence by placing Christ on the cross as the visible focus of the prayer which the priest leads—it is an effective first step in moving our focus back to where it belongs, on the God whom we worship.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  4. Mark01 says:

    I visited a Greek Orthodox church today for the first time. Oh my gosh, what a beautiful place to pray together and encounter God. It was like stepping into another place and time. The priest spoke about how he prays with the people, and also how the people are not allowed into the holy of holies. And he was unapologetic about it. It was awesome, ineffable even. If only the Roman Catholic Church maintained it’s traditions like the Greek Orthodox have.

  5. raitchi2 says:

    Idk. about versus populum being the most corrosive reform. If I were to make a deal with the devil, I’d get rid of communion in the hand even if that meant I had to keep versus populum.

  6. Tom says:

    I have been saying it for years: going back to cum populo would be one of the single most efficacious steps in saving the Mass. It changes the very concept of what the Mass is; and when that is restored, much of the rest can naturally fall into place. Pew piety, priestly ad libing, and music are three things which can be immediately effected by simply making the Mass a prayer led by a priest.

  7. Sixupman says:

    Partly rhetorical: I have seen no cogent explanation for the replacement of the “Libera nos” after the “Pater Noster”, nor the excision of the Leonine Prayers after the [Low] Mass – where Priest andCongregation did pray together!

  8. asperges says:

    In the last week I have attended three Masses: two in the (old) Dominican rite and one in the Tridentine rite. This morning I went to the new Mass. Although the new English translations (only partially applied: the collect sounded “old style”) make a difference, I still find the experience alien although I really tried to suppress my natural dislike of it.

    Apart from incompetent servers (mixed), the parade of readers – all of whom read well – and Communion in both kinds with a squad of EMHC (all unnecessary for the numbers present), the action at the altar is definitely overshadowed by the priest who gets no “time off” as in the old rites. He is always on show.

    The example given in the article is good: once he prays with his congregation, leading them, the priest melts away, just as in the old days, even the most curmudgeonly of old-style parish priests became anonymous, almost invisible, after the Credo once he had turned his back. He was the priest at the altar, not Fr X and his 30 minute TV show. How many priest who learn the old rite now, say afterwards (of not facing the people): “What a relief. Time to pray and be a priest, not constantly on show.”

    There is no genuine precedent for “facing the people.” It was pure invention, excuses made for the arrangements of Roman basilicas 1500 years ago where in any case they all faced one way, not each other. Even the poor Maronites, part of the Eastern Catholics for whom there is not the slightest hint of history of versus populum, are stuck with it.

    It has to go as the logical next step of re-sacralisation of the liturgy.

  9. Novum Eboracense says:

    I suppose many of us have had that one experience when it became totally clear that the “versus populum” orientation at Mass was a very wrong-headed innovation of the post-conciliar liturgical reform. One that has inflicted, as Klaus Gamber warned, long-lasting damage.

    For me such a moment came when I was attending graduate school and some friends of friends invited me to attend a celebration of the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church in the University Chapel. When it came time for the chanting of the Eucharistic Prayer, both priest and deacon turned to the East. At that instant, it struck me like a thunderbolt that this was how it must be, how it once was in the Roman Rite and how it must be again!

    Once this were done, we could then direct our attention to other areas in need of examination and reform: the institution of a set formula(s) for the “Oratio Universalis”; the location of the Kiss of Peace (signaculum orationis); the restoration of the Mass Propers and lastly the rationale for “Extraordinary” Ministers of Holy Communion.

  10. mrose says:

    I had a moment Novum Eboracense refers to today while assisting at Holy Mass.

    The parish at which we are registered is an absolutely beautiful Church that was by-and-large untouched in the wreckovation of the 70’s (because, thanks be to God, they ran out of money to wreckovate!). So the only notable “thing” missing is the altar rail…and, of course, they constructed a table ‘altar’ in the middle of the sanctuary. The original high altar, constructed of beautiful marble, with the Tabernacle in the middle of it, remains intact. And every time I go inside the Church, I wish for Holy Mass to be offered at the high altar, in accordance with the design of the Church.

    I try to close my eyes; today, I opened them for but a moment during the Canon, only to see a horrendous 70’s chasuble, wine in a flagon, and priest behind the altar, enveloped in a closed circle completed by the faithful. I recoiled, more deeply perturbed than usual by this arrangement.

    Please, priests, lead us to Calvary and to Our Lord and God.

  11. jeff says:

    The imposition of a versus populum position for Mass was probably the single most corrosive thing perpetrated in the name of Conciliar liturgical reform.

    Amen! Amen! Amen! It has taken me a long time to get to this position, but I am now adamant of it. I fully believe that if ad orientem was brought back that the problems of hideous chasubules, excessive EMHCs, “Come as You Are”, chatty priests, communion in hand etc would eventually resolve themselves.

  12. JonPatrick says:

    I have also come to realize that versus populum is the greatest fault with the Ordinary Form, as it is commonly practiced.

    Reverting to Ad Orientem would also allow the tabernacle to be moved off of the side altar or out of the broom closet or wherever, to the back of the sanctuary behind the table where it becomes the focal point for Christ’s presence again

  13. Sam Schmitt says:

    The other side of the coin is the strange practice of a priest leading a rosary or other devotion “facing the people.” This would have never occurred to anyone before mass facing the people was introduced.

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