Why we need more “ad orientem” worship: “we cannot serve this world with a kind of banal officiousness”


“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …” (Mt. 28:19). But the dynamism of this mission, this openness and breadth of the Gospel, cannot be revised to read: “Go into the world and become the world yourselves!” Go into the world and confirm it in its secularity!” The opposite is true. The holy mystery of God, the mustard seed of the Gospel, cannot be identified with the world but is rather destined to permeate the whole world. That is why we must find again the courage to embrace what is sacred, the courage to distinguish what is Christian – not in order to segregate it, but in order to transform it – the courage to be truly dynamic.”In an interview in 1975, Eugene Ionesco, one of the founders of the theater of the absurd, expressed this with all the passion of seeking and searching that characterizes the person of our age. I quote here a few sentences from that interview:

“The Church does not want to lose her clients, so wants to acquire new members. This produces a kind of secularization which is truly deplorable. … The world is going astray, the church is going astray in the world, priests are stupid and mediocre, happy to be only mediocre people like the rest, to be little proletarians of the left. I heard a parish priest in one church saying: ‘Let’s all be happy together, let’s shake hands all round … Jesus jovially wishes you a lovely day, have a good day!’ Before long there will be a bar with bread and wine for Communion; and sandwiches and Beaujolais will be handed round. It seems to me incredible stupidity, a total absence of spirit. Fraternity is neither mediocrity nor fraternization. We need the eternal; because … what is religion? what is the Holy? We are left with nothing; with no stability everything is fluid. And yet what we need is a rock.”

It seems to me that if we listen to the voices of our age, of people who are consciously living, suffering, and loving in the world today, we will realize that we cannot serve this world with a kind of banal officiousness. It has no need of confirmation but rather of transformation, of the radicalism of the Gospel.

Joseph Ratzinger in Co-workers of the truth: meditations for every day of the year (Ignatius Press, p. 303 – originally from Diener eurer Freude).

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  1. Supertradmum says:

    Reminds me of Bonhoeffer’s “costly grace” as opposed to “cheap grace” from The Cost of Discipleship, which I read at 22, a book which formed me. Here is a quotation: “The price we are having to pay today … is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available at too low a cost. We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale … to the scornful and unbelieving.” Ad orientem reminds us that grace is costly, only received by making God the focus of our lives and not ourselves…And, is not our present Pope the great master of words?
    “Banal officiousness” equals the worship of the “me” (and puppets).

  2. catholicmidwest says:

    We need ad orientem worship so people like me don’t have to look at the priest looking at us, while he tries to figure out how to entertain us and still be *relevant,* while we wonder again what we are supposed to be doing, while………

    All of that is beside the point. We are there to worship God in Mass. He’s there to do what priests do best–say Mass. It’s not that difficult. We just need to get with the program and stop horsing around.

  3. RichardT says:

    That’s superb.

    “banal officiousness” gets right to the heart of it.

  4. jacobi says:

    The turning of the priest inwards towards the congregation was the most damaging tactic of the Relativist Reformers in the post Vatican 11 period . It is a denial of the Transcendent God and of the second coming of Christ.

    It has reduced the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to a commerative meal with the implicit denial of the Real Presence, and so many Catholics have absorbed this thinking without realising it, which of course was the intention.

    The quicker our priests turn back again to the coming Christ, “ad orientem”, the better.

    This must be the first priority of the “Refom of the Reform”.

  5. Legisperitus says:

    Ionesco knew the absurd when he saw it!

  6. Mike says:

    My elderly mother told me recently of a priest in her Boston-area parish that was “wonderful”, and he taught the kids in the parish school how in the “old days” the priest turned away from the people, and then demonstrated that, and then turned around, saying “see how great the change is..for the better”, or words to that effect.

    I suspect he’s not read “The Spirit of the Liturgy”.

    To my mother, I simply said that about friend of mine from boyhood, now a FSSP priest, that my mother knows, “Mom…Fr. So and So…he was right!”

  7. catholicmidwest says:

    You know, I’m only just now realizing the magnitude of what this new translation is to people. The liturgists are (as you call it, Fr Z) having a nutty. They’re apoplectic. You may get much more ad orientem masses sooner than you think!

  8. jhayes says:

    Jacobi said:

    The turning of the priest inwards towards the congregation was the most damaging tactic of the Relativist Reformers in the post Vatican 11 period . It is a denial of the Transcendent God and of the second coming of Christ.

    Jacobi, when Pope Benedict celebrates Mass at the high altar of St. Peter’s, he faces into the nave, looking at the people. You can see this on any video.

    Both he and the people are focussing on the crucifix which stands between them on he altar. They have the same focus even though they are not both looking in the same direction.

  9. leonugent2005 says:

    In my church if the priest ever start offering the mass ad orientem he will be standing sideways with respect to the people. This could actually be a compromise.

  10. leonugent2005 says:

    I worship every Sunday at a Ukrainian Catholic Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. No one has ever thought to reform this liturgy so the direction the priest stands has never been an issue.

  11. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    To my mind, the restoration of ad orientem worship will be the seal of the authentic restoration movement. When it appears in many parishes that utilize the Ordinary Form, then you know that the reforms of Pope Benedict have taken root. What a glorious day that will be!

    Where there is no glory, there is no worship. We must all turn to face the glory of the Lord!

  12. Jim Ryon says:

    Yes, we need more “ad orientem” worship. At the traditional mass after the consecration, the priest elevates the host. I always think of it being symbolic of offering the sacrifice to God the Father in heaven. The red in the new missal says “He shows the consecrated host to the people.” Contrast this with the rubrics in my 1962 hand missal: “After pronouncing the words of consecration, the Priest, kneeling, adores the Sacred Host, rising, he elevates It, and then placing It on the corporal, again adores It; After this he keeps his first finger and thumb together…”
    Yes, we have lost sacredness of Holy Mass.

  13. Robert of Rome says:

    Thanks for posting this, Father.

  14. dominic1955 says:

    When the Pope is saying Mass at St. Peter’s, as many right-thinking academics have pointed out, he is actually facing the east and way back in the day, people would have turned around and faced the east with him (or whoever was saying Mass at one of the old Roman basilicas).

    Also, looking at St. Peter’s (or other basillicas with a similar design) you can tell that even though they have altars “facing the people” there is no intention whatsoever to “face the people” in the same happy-slappy luvfest way that many churches are built or wreckovated after VII. The way we see it today is markedly Protestant in its origination, even though the wreckovators appealed to the way the old basillicas were set up for their innovation.

    Of course, in the present time 50 yrs. after the “reform”, no one appeals to that argument (except a few better read smart-allecks) but rather to the way they “feel” about the closeness or whatever the priest facing them fosters. Priests do not turn back the right way because they do not want to “confuse” the faithful as if leaving them in their Protestant-esque confusion is any better.

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