“It is all the more effective for being so simple.”

I would like to echo what my friend, His Hermeneuticalness, Fr. Tim Finigan posted about ad orientem worship.  HERE


“[T]o explain to an eleven year old server the symbolism of the eastward-facing orientation of the Lady Altar which he used for the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. It is all the more effective for being so simple.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    This is the one thing I’ve had the most difficulty with as a convert. When I was Lutheran and when I was Anglican, ad orientem was the norm and the reasons for it were obvious to me from very early on. So many of the cradle Catholics of my acquaintance – including my wife! – react strongly against everyone facing the same way for prayer. It’s baffling to my why anyone should think that the priest turning his back on our Lord in the Tabernacle to face the assembly while speaking to the Lord on behalf of said folks makes any sense at all. It also makes me wonder what kind of craziness was afoot in the Church in the 70s and 80s that made this bizarro positioning not only common, but wildly popular.

  2. Boniface says:

    I think returning to ad orientam (which the Novus Ordo rubrics clearly indicate is the assumed posture!) is the single reform that would serve as the fulcrum of positive change towards recovering our genuine Catholic sense.

  3. Chick says:

    at the parish where I serve as deacon, this is the norm for the 8 am Mass on Sundays. The other Masses are done versus populum, but the pastor decided we would do this one service “as the Vatican Council envisioned.” Very few complaints have been heard in regards to this and it seems so right.
    No reform is required in order to do this, just a pastor who is willing to give it a try.

  4. Bob Glassmeyer says:

    Last week I attended Mass at the seminary I once attended, with a classmate I haven’t seen in 20 years; glory to God, what a happy day! While Mass was not celebrated ad orientem, several other things were in place, so that, at the end of Mass, I knew I had been to Mass!

    The sedilia faced in to the altar, not toward the congregation, there was absolute silence before Mass, the Mass was offered reverently, and not in haste, the Tabernacle was clearly seen in the center behind the altar, bells were rung at the epiclesis, consecration, and as the priest received the Precious Blood, and the antiphons of the day were chanted.

    Similarly, at our parish, the priest’s chair was moved from the steps behind the altar (where it looked like a throne, and where the celebrant was the center of attention…if not the congregation…the Tabernacle was moved to where the priest’s chair had been, and the priest’s chair is set at an angle, facing the altar and people at the same time. The musicians thankfully are back up in the choir loft, so we don’t have to be distracted with the cantor’s little arm-waving show every Sunday.

    Our former pastor, who began the above changes, would face in toward the altar when praying the collect and other prayers, and the Creed, and would face toward the congregation when greeting them. While there has been resistance, and a droning on of “we’ve moved beyond all that pre-Vatican II” tripe, there is a greater sense of reverence, for which I am grateful.

    I’m learning to take little bits of sunshine where I can. Wanting to put a pencil in my eye doesn’t exactly make me properly disposed to receive Holy Communion.

  5. Charles E Flynn says:

    The same point is made with historically-significant, much more complex diagrams in this humorous posting:


  6. Franko says:

    Spoken as a young man who grew up with the priest facing the congregation at nearly every mass I ever attended, the idea of ad orientem worship makes more sense and is something that I think adds a lot more of a focus on God in the liturgy and less on the priest and community.

    There’s another important thing that I think is unfortunate in the way Mass is performed, and that is in the distribution of communion. As a child I attended Lutheran services with my father and I remember the way the altar rails were used so that communion could be received kneeling, the fact that the Catholic Church seemingly did away with this doesn’t make sense to me. Even as an adult I remember the reverence the people in those churches took toward receiving communion and the way they went out of their way to take it on their knees.

    You’d think the Catholic Church of all Christians wouldn’t have wanted to do away with that. I wish altar rails could make a comeback.

  7. jhayes says:

    the fact that the Catholic Church seemingly did away with this doesn’t make sense to me. Even as an adult I remember the

    The Church didn’t make a universal rule about it. It delegated to the national conference of bishops in each country the right to decide how Communion should be received in that country (subject to the approval of the Vatican).

    However, whatever norm for a country is set by the bishops, any person can choose between standing or kneeling and between receiving in the hand or on the tongue.

  8. yatzer says:

    Even my Episcopalian and Methodist relatives kneel at an altar rail for communion. This standing up and going through a line like at a ticket dispenser to receive the Lord in real Holy Communion is bizarre.

  9. Franko says:

    Well yeah, I do understand that it’s a matter of each conference of bishops. I’m referring specifically to the Church in America, I should have clarified that.

    And while I also do understand that it is acceptable to kneel and/or take the Eucharist on the tongue (I have and encourage Catholics to receive the sacrament on the tongue). The fact is, the assembly-line nature of the way most parishes in the US handle the distribution of communion is not conducive to doing so. The flow of the line I think makes most people feel pressured to just conform and grab the Eucharist as fast as they can. Not exactly a solemn way to receive the body of our Lord.

    Altar rails are great. Even if utilizing them for communion takes extra time. I think the Catholic bishops can count on the faithful to be willing to put in an extra five to ten minutes at the Mass.

  10. mburn16 says:

    “I think the Catholic bishops can count on the faithful to be willing to put in an extra five to ten minutes at the Mass.”

    Considering the number of Catholics who walk right from the communion line to the car, you may be generous in your assumptions. I have no particular quarrel with Ad Orientem worship – although even in a reform of the reform I think we need to put more emphasis on the parts of the mass that are for the people (i.e. the readings and the homily) than I have seen in the EF masses I attended – but I think we should be careful in using cartoons like those above to make a pro-Ad Orientem point. Christ, after all, is most present in the Eucharist – not the Crucifix – and so, even in one of the “in the round” churches where there is little discernible difference between the various liturgical directions, he is always going to be at the center of attention. Arguably, making the consecration more fully visible to the congregation INCREASES focus on Christ, rather than on the Priest.

  11. acardnal says:

    jhayes wrote, “The Church didn’t make a universal rule about it. It delegated to the national conference of bishops in each country the right to decide how Communion should be received in that country (subject to the approval of the Vatican).”

    That decision was misguided. It has led to a lack of understanding and appreciation of Who the holy Eucharist really and truly is. I hope the Holy See mandates that communion can be received on the tongue only and while kneeling.

    When you die and stand before God Almighty for His judgement, will you stand or kneel? I will be prostrate – at least in spirit since I will have no body – begging for His mercy.

  12. Mike says:

    “I think the Catholic bishops can count on the faithful to be willing to put in an extra five to ten minutes at the Mass.”

    Since the First Sunday of Advent 1964, the general trend has been toward truncation of the Mass, extra readings and other embellishments notwithstanding. That trend will not reverse uniformly or instantly.

    The more gradual pace of, and reverent attitude toward, the Holy Sacrifice and Holy Communion at the TLM stand in such stark contrast to the relative herky-jerkiness frequently experienced at the Novus Ordo that it will not surprise me — nor, I confess, particularly sadden me — if the two forms are never reconciled.

  13. RJHighland says:

    I think at some future point in Church history all these modifications to the mass that have been so praised by the modernists in the Church since Vatican II, communion in the hand, versus populum, holding hands during the Our Father, removal of the tabernacle from the center high altar, removal of altar rails, altar girls etc…. will be looked upon like the Church looks at the Arian Heresy, Renaissance bishops and Popes, and the Protestant Revolution. I am just wondering what it will be called by our decendant: the Modernest Revolution, the Church’s Acid Trip, the Hippie Holuzza? I am so thankful we found the Traditional Latin Mass in our area, it is kind of like coming out of trance like the Mystery Inc. gang when they were on Spooky Island, or refusing to eat any more Lotus blossoms at a Vegas Casino (Percy Jackson). But then what do we do with the Canonized Saints that lead the Church during this period and allowed all this to go on and participated in it? Ahhhh now there is the pickle. It is incredible when Anglican’s, Methodist’s and Luthern’s have more reverence for a symbolic piece of bread than the majority of Catholic’s now days have for the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord. But hey when polled most Catholic’s don’t believe in the true presense of our Lord in the mass any more anyway, I wonder why that is? Dahhh. But I’m just a “rad trad” convert from the Baptist/Methodist Church, who am I to judge? I was just thinking, it is said that there are small minority of Anglicans that believe they are recieving the True Presense and there are still a minority of Catholics that believe in the True Presense, I wonder what those percentages look like? That is why with contriversal canonizations there should be an extended waiting period. The Vatican II Popes and Bishops have done to the Church what Democrats have done to the United States, I see the US as 3rd-4th century Rome and the Church prior to the Councel of Nicea during the age of the Arian Heresy. Is Cardinal Burke our Augustine? Who is Arius (My vote Bugnini)? Do we have or recently had a Pope Liberious who was accussed of accepting an on going heresy? (Paul VI) (Liberous did it under duress/torture, I don’t think can be claimed by any of our Vatican II Pope’s). Hey on a positive note, it is a great time to be Catholic and this stuff will make a great movie one day.

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  15. Polycarpio says:

    I agree with mburn16.

  16. Legisperitus says:

    I think the exaggerated size of the crucifix in the cartoon means that it is not to be taken literally as a crucifix, but as a symbol of God’s presence in the liturgical East, and it represents the Eucharist in the tabernacle in any church which is fortunate enough to have one located there.

  17. Nathan says:

    mburn16: Arguably, making the consecration more fully visible to the congregation INCREASES focus on Christ, rather than on the Priest.

    I understand the desire to increase the focus on Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. However, might I offer a few of contrary thoughts?

    1) Does making the consecration more fully visible to the congregation actually increase the focus on Christ, rather than the Priest? First, that doesn’t seem to be borne out empirically, in both East and West, or even in the Presence of Almighty God in Old Testament worship. How did the Christian liturgies develop? St Paul rebukes the Corinthians for going to the nascent liturgy without due reverence, and every liturgy, by the end of even the first century AD moved to make the moment of the offering of the Holy Sacrifice less visible, not more so. Why? IMO, Christian worship takes Faith–that Little White Disk doesn’t look any different right after the Canon/Anaphora than it did before, so to help us in our Faith, the ancient Fathers developed such things as the Ikonostais in the East, and a veritable “wall of sacred ministers” in the West so that the Celebrant takes the oblations up to the Altar of God and comes back down with God Himself. It helps me believe and focus on Our Lord’s presence.

    2) Does my looking at the Consecration reinforce my belief in the Holy Sacrifice? The Protestant reformers who turned around altars did so explicitly to diminish belief in the Catholic teaching of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is for good reason that the Psalmist in Psalm 43 says “I will go up to the altar of God, to God the joy of my youth” instead of “I will go behind the altar of God, to God the joy of my youth.” The Sacrifice of the Mass is an infinitely holier moment than even the High Priest going into the Holy of Holies to offer the sin oblation of ancient Israel, which by grace and love God has allowed us to witness. Are we more likely to believe that we are witnessing the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of the Cross, the full Paschal Mysteries, if we are looking at what is oriented to be an altar or a table? In Reformation England, Cranmer was quite insistent that the change in orientation was quite effective in changing belief away from the Catholic teaching on the Holy Sacrifice; in fact, he used an ambiguous rite and turning altars around to achieve precisely that end.

    I’m personally all for increasing the focus on Christ. I just think that 2000 years of experience in the matter, based on the insights into worship and human nature on the part of a lot of those currently in the Church Triumphant and in the Church Suffering, figured it out a lot better than our generation.

    In Christ,

  18. Nobody complains that the bus driver has his back to the people as he drives his passengers to safety. Why should we when our priest leads us to the promised land?

  19. RJHighland says:

    Excellent post, “it does not say go behind the altar God” priceless! The reflection on why the Protestant reformers moved their altars also was spot on.

  20. Mike says:

    “Wanting to put a pencil in my eye doesn’t exactly make me properly disposed to receive Holy Communion.”

    May I respectfully nominate OP Bob Glassmeyer for a Gold Star of the Day.

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  22. Per Signum Crucis says:

    To pick up on Mike and Nathan’s posts, what if… What if it were to be encouraged or even mandated that the Consecration rite is performed ad orientem? It might not be the most subtle way of making the NO more reverent or ‘reconciling’ the two forms but it would emphasise that Holy Mass is not (or should not be) exclusively about one form or the other. A simple reversal of the past fifty years seems unlikely to happen even on the most favourable of present signals; whilst the goal of a regular EF and NO Mass at a majority of parishes will take two, three or more generations to achieve. Given those realities, a third way should not be discounted.

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