Turning to the East in the Diocese of Lincoln – UPDATED

UPDATED: see below

ORIGINALLY POSTED on: Nov 21, 2014

The late-great liturgist Klaus Gamber, who also influenced Joseph Ratzinger (also known by another name), said that turning around the altars was the single most damaging change that happened in the name of the Council, and it wasn’t even mandated by the Council.  There is no document that required tables be set up.

But I digress.

Great news from the Diocese of Lincoln!

His Excellency Most Reverend James Conley has determined that Holy Mass in the Cathedral of Lincoln will be ad orientem.

Bishop’s Column
Looking to the east
Friday, 21 November 2014
Jesus Christ will return in glory to the earth.

We do not know when he will return. But Christ promised us that he would return in glory, “as light comes from the east” to bring God’s plan of redemption to its fulfillment.

In 2009, Bishop Edward Slattery, of Tulsa, Okla., wrote that “the dawn of redemption has already broken, but the sun —Christ Himself—has not yet risen in the sky.” [I wrote about that HERE]

In the early Church, Christians expected that Christ would come soon—any day. There was hopeful expectation. They were watchful—they looked to the sky in the east to wait for Christ. And because they did not know when he would return, they proclaimed the Gospel with urgency and enthusiasm, hoping to bring the world to salvation before Christ returned.

It has been nearly two thousand years now since Christ ascended into heaven. It has become easier to forget that he will come again to earth. It has become easier to forget that we must be waiting, we must be watching, and we must be ready. [Holy Mass must help to prepare us for death.]

In the season of Advent, as we recall Christ’s Incarnation at Christmas, we are reminded to be prepared for Christ’s coming. In the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent this year, Nov. 30, Christ tells us his disciples “to be on the watch.”

“You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,” Jesus says. “May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”

We remember that Christ is coming whenever we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In the Holy Mass we are made present to the sacrifice at Calvary, and to the joy of Christ’s glory in heaven. But we also remember that Christ will return, and we remember to watch, to be vigilant, to wait for him, and to be prepared.

The Mass is rich with symbolism. The vestments of the priest remind us of the dignity of Christ the King. We strike our breasts, and bow our heads, and bend our knees to remember our sinfulness, God’s mercy, and his glory. In the Mass, the ways we stand, and sit, and kneel, remind us of God’s eternal plan for us.

Since ancient times, Christians have faced the east during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to remember to keep watch for Christ. Together, the priest and the people faced the east, waiting and watching for Christ. Even in Churches that did not face the east, the priest and people stood together in the Mass, gazing at Christ on the crucifix, on the altar, and in the tabernacle, to recall the importance of watching for his return. The symbolism of the priest and people facing ad orientem—to the east—is an ancient reminder of the coming of Christ.

More recently, it has become common for the priest and the people to face one another during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The priest stands behind the altar as he consecrates the Eucharist, facing the people. The people see the face of the priest as he prays, and he sees their faces. These positions can have important symbolism too. They can remind us that we are a community—one body in Christ. And they can remind us that the Eucharist, at the center of the assembly, should also be at the center of our families, and our lives. [As Joseph Ratzinger indicates it also leads to a worshipping body being closed in on itself.]

But [BUT…] the symbolism of facing together, and awaiting Christ, is rich, time-honored and important. Especially during Advent, as we await the coming of the Lord, facing the east together—even symbolically facing Christ together at the altar and on the crucifix—is a powerful witness to Christ’s imminent return. Today, at a time when it is easy to forget that Christ is coming—and easy to be complacent in our spiritual lives and in the work of evangelization—we need reminders that Christ will come.

During the Sundays of Advent, the priests in the Cathedral of the Risen Christ will celebrate the Mass ad orientem. With the People of God, the priest will stand facing the altar, and facing the crucifix. When I celebrate midnight Mass on Christmas, I will celebrate ad orientem as well. This may take place in other parishes across the Diocese of Lincoln as well.

In the ad orientem posture at Mass, the priest will not be facing away from the people. [OORAH!] He will be with them—among them, and leading them—facing Christ, and waiting for his return.

“Be watchful!” says Jesus. “Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” We do not know when the time will come for Christ’s to return. But we know that we must watch for him. May we “face the east,” together, watching for Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in our lives.

Fr. Z kudos to Bp. Conley!

UPDATE 25 Nov:

I saw this photo over at NLM.

Doesn’t it quite simply look… right?

And there’s this!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Fr. Z KUDOS, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Maltese says:

    Maria Montessori (yes, THAT Maria–who initiated the Montessori school method; of which all of my kids were a part), wrote a book, “The Mass Explained to Children”. For me, it was a “Mass for Dummies” book, and I am 42 :)

    In it, she eloquently describes the particular symbolism of the TLM–for instance, the three steps leading up to the altar, the ‘holy of holies’, in a sense: representing faith, hope, and charity. Evelyn Waugh said that not all that takes place at the altar needs to be perfectly clear, as we have come to worship. In France, before the Revolution, there were rood screens in most of the churches, and in the east, of course, the unbloody sacrifice mostly takes place behind cover. There is beauty in mystery.

  2. Kerry says:

    Brick by Brick, 180 degree turn by 180 degree turn.

  3. Kerry says:

    Uh oh, Bill Murray is done for. Did you see those golf pants? Now he has to land a small spacecraft on a comet in penance.

  4. The Masked Chicken says:

    Yea! We need to hurry up and perfect the cloning process. More bishops like this. Can we all move to Nebraska?

    The Chicken

  5. I’m incredibly happy about the good bishop’s decision, but that bit about versus populum having loads of important symbolism is unfortunate. I get it, it’s a kind of political gamesmanship, he kind of has to appease the zeitgeist, but it’s a flat-out untruth. Symbolism is inherited, not invented, and there is precious little evidence for versus populum being anything other than a minor exception to the prevailing norm, going back to the earliest era of the Church.

  6. Kerry says:

    Oops, Bill Murray comment in wrong box. Doh!

  7. RJHighland says:

    Bishop Conley a true shepherd brave enough to go against the norms of a disfunctional Amchurch and lead his flock in truth. Undoing with love and gentleness the deformities brought to the mass by the false shepherds following the council. Brick by Brick and back to the future, thanks be to God. But then you hear the new Bishop of Chicago praising Bernardin and you just have to put your face in your hands. But thank you Father for the great news. It begins by undoing the Cranmeresk modifications to the mass, preaching the true gospel, getting people to regular confession, get people off of missalettes and have them get there own missals and next you have a laity that is ready to dive into the TLM and buying the 1962 missal. Opening a book store at the parish stocked with good books, preferably no Rahner, Kung, Congar, Schillebeeckx or Kasper is also very helpful in the journey back to the faith.

  8. snoozie says:

    OORAH indeed!!!! :)

    God bless, protect, strengthen, guide, and guard this good bishop!

  9. Robbie says:

    As sad as it is to say, this good Bishop probably just put a bull’s eye on his back. Still, turning around the altar would go a long way towards restoring the dignity lost in the new Mass.

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    JonathanCatholic: It’s not gamesmanship or appeasement. We’ve gotten to the point where two or three generations of Catholics have never known “ad orientem.” If the bishop just said, “Yeah, everybody lied to you before,” it would cause scandal (and it would be lying about those teachers who were just saying what they’d been told was true). If the bishop said, “Everything you’ve learned is worthless,” it would discourage people, and make them wonder whether any Church teaching was true.

    Moreover, it’s not untrue that we gather around Jesus. There are processions and incensings around the altar. Priests and deacons and acolytes all get to be very close to Him on the altar. Private Masses and very small attendance Masses can be a very intimate and intense form of worship. The aides de camp around a general feel like his family.

    To me, it seems like a lot of the mistaken practices seem to have been wanting to spread that kind of intimate worship feeling. The problem is that you can’t make intimacy happen on command, just like you can’t make visions and locutions and heartfelt convictions; and it’s not the only good way to worship!

  11. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    JonathanCatholic says, “there is precious little evidence for versus populum being anything other than a minor exception”. Do we know much about what people did during the flexibly pewless, seatless millennium or so, in those exceptional cases when it was not so much a matter of versus populum as so strict an ad orientem that the Celebrant in looking east, looked over the altar and down the nave: did the populus all – or largely – do the same for considerable parts of the Mass, not facing away from the Celebrant, but with him strictly facing east?

  12. jeffreyquick says:

    A nice start. Next step: mandated in the whole diocese, all year around.

  13. Venerator, I can’t make out what you’re asking me, but just by way of example, St. Basil (d. 373) presents prayer toward the East as an ecclesiastical practice and an apostolic tradition. That’s the immediate post-Nicene era.

  14. Joe Magarac says:

    This is great news. But doesn’t the 2010 GIRM require tables to be set up at Para. 299, which calls for freestanding altars and says that the versus populum posture “is desirable whenever possible?” This comes from the instruction “inter oecumenici,” from the Consilium on September 26, 1964, at Para. 91. Archbishop Cupich cites both these documents in a letter that he published recently in Spokane, where he asserts that Vatican II called for Mass to be celebrated facing the people.

    I know that none of the actual council documents call for versus popuum, and that the Roman Missal’s references to turning toward the people suggest that the priest should be facing East at all other times. More than that, I think the ad orientem posture is just better for a whole host of reasons. But I confess that I don’t know what to make of these documents as cited by Atchbishop Cupich.

  15. Matt Robare says:

    I got up early enough to watch the Sun rise the other day. As I was waiting in the cold for my bus, I thought about the Mass.

    It occured to me that on vigils, like Easter and Christmas, a Mass could have been timed such that when the priest elevated the Host it would have coincided with the Sun being high enough for its light to pierce the window, filling the church — hitherto lit only with candles — with the new day. Indeed we might start to think of all the cycles of creation, the precise movements of planets and stars as seen from earth as a kind of reflection of the Mass, with the Sun as the Host.

    To leave the church in light that you entered in darkness would have been a powerful symbol of the idea of Jesus as the New Adam, Baptism as a new birth and a reminder of the future new Heaven and New Earth.

  16. haskovez says:

    The way the letter was written to me sounds like they are just doing this for Advent and Christmas? I hope it is a permanent change as I think we should be doing that in all of our churches, but that isn’t what I got from the Bishop’s letter. If nothing else this is a great way to introduce many more people to the idea of why we should do this why we should return to this practice.

  17. ghp95134 says:

    In the army it was (and still is) said “I am the Infantry; Follow Me!”

    In the Army of Christ the motto could be modified to: “I am your pastor, FOLLOW ME!
    You can only LEAD if you are facing your objective.

    Adapt: RLTW (Rangers Lead the Way)
    To: PLTW (Priests Lead the Way)


  18. Chick says:

    @Joe Magarac the paragraph of the GIRM you cite says “The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.” The question remains whether it is the circum-ambulation of the altar or the facing the people which is desirable. In light of the multiple instances in the rubrics of the GIRM that include instructions such as “Facing the people, the priest…” it is apparent that there is an underlying assumption that the priest had not been facing the people elsewise such instruction would be unnecessary.

  19. Joe Magarac,

    Fr. Z has several times corrected this deliberate GIRM mistranslation several times. “Deliberate” because the Congregation for Divine Worship–in response to a specific question–long since issued a unambiguous reply with a pointed grammar lesson about understanding dependent Latin clauses correctly, stating plainly that the “whenever possible” clause refers to circumambulation of the altar (in incensing, for instance), not to versus populum celebration.

    It’s hard to believe that a prominent archbishop is ignorant of the fact that not only was versus populum celebration not mentioned in any Vatican II document, the topic was never even mentioned in the Council discussions, neither in any plenary session (so far as available accounts indicate) nor in any of the 50+ liturgy commission meetings of which minutes were kept.

  20. Priam1184 says:

    I was not alive then so can anyone out there who was explain to me the mechanics of how versus populum even got started? Was everything ad orientem one day and the next Sunday you showed up and the altar was a table and the priest was facing toward you? Did it happen everywhere at once or was it a gradual thing? Was any explanation given at the time? I’m not talking about people in in 1985 or 1995 who said that “Vatican 2 changed all that,” but I am curious if anyone remembers the experience of the days, weeks, months, and years when all of the changes were being made. Was any attempt made to justify it or did everybody just go along with it because it was the ’70s (or ’60s I’m not sure when exactly it happened) and they wanted to be hip and cool?

  21. The Masked Chicken says:


    Where did the notion versus populum notion come from? Let me guess, the U. S.?

    The Chicken

  22. dans0622 says:

    What is desirable, according to the GIRM, is that the high altar be separate from the wall. Besides the proper interpretation/translation of GIRM #299, “laws concern matters of the future, not those of the past, unless provision is made in them for the latter by name” (1917 Code, c. 10, 1983 Code, c. 9). So, any church constructed before “Inter oecumenici” did not have to be “renovated” so that the altar was made freestanding. Unfortunately, this legal principle didn’t seem to matter.

  23. jhayes says:

    any church constructed before “Inter oecumenici” did not have to be “renovated” so that the altar was made freestanding

    Existing churches are covered in 303:

    303…In already existing churches, however, when the old altar is so positioned that it makes the people’s participation difficult but cannot be moved without damage to artistic value, another fixed altar, skillfully made and properly dedicated, should be erected and the sacred rites celebrated on it alone. In order that the attention of the faithful not be distracted from the new altar, the old altar should not be decorated in any special way.

  24. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Masked Chicken: Actually, my understanding is that “versus populum” came from a tragic misunderstanding of archaeological and written historical reports about the handful of early Christian churches that faced west, and from the really old way they did things at St. Peter’s (which faced west for various site-related reasons, since they couldn’t move the site away from St. Peter’s grave).

    Later on, they found evidence that facing East was actually so important at St. Peter’s that the people turned toward the East and the priest said Mass toward the East, behind their backs and thus toward their backs. But apparently the new archeological and historical info wasn’t as exciting as the wrong info had been.

  25. Latin Mass Type says:

    In order that the attention of the faithful not be distracted from the new altar, the old altar should not be decorated in any special way.

    Our old high altar is “decorated” with the tabernacle. This altar is free standing and could have been moved away from the wall but wasn’t.

    The smaller altar is also freestanding. And lightweight. (I think it might fold, too, but we haven’t tried that.) It’s easy to move it off to the side for recent EF Masses!

    A recent NO Latin Mass was celebrated ad orientum at the high altar. The one with the tabernacle. The one with the crucifix above it.

  26. frjim4321 says:

    Calling it whatever you want, the presider still has his back to the assembly.

  27. frjim4321 says:

    Calling it whatever you want, the presider still has his back to the assembly.

  28. jhayes says:

    Our old high altar is “decorated” with the tabernacle. This altar is free standing and could have been moved away from the wall but wasn’t.

    In gothic cathedrals like Chartres , Beauvais, etc, the high altar was at the far East end of the choir (the walled area reserved for clergy) beyond the choir stalls. That altar typically remains in place because it is a major work of architecture The new altar is now fifty feet or more closer to the people and located in the crossing, so it can be seen by people sitting in the transepts as well as the nave.

  29. samgr says:

    But Mass isn’t about the presider, is it frjim4321?

  30. amsjj1002 says:

    Priam1184, Archbishop Sample on one of his talks —
    Bishop Alexander Sample speaks at Men of the New Evangelization Conference 2012

    said when he was a teenager, he’d be wondering what was going to be different this week? what have they come up this week? It gave me the impression it was an “inspired by the moment” kind of thing. But maybe they thought they were fulfilling what the Council wanted.

    In my neck of the woods, from what my family said, they followed the priest b/c they trusted him, not b/c they wanted the changes, but they were obedient, and so these things happened. Not sure if the priest himself knew what the documents actually said (we live in a pretty poor area) but he too was probably obedient to what he thought what was asked for.

    I could understand being obedient, I don’t understand deliberately throwing things out just to change.

  31. MaryMargaret says:

    Priam, I was pretty young when the change from ad orientem to versus populum happened, but it was a real shock to me! I don’t remember any talk about the change at all. One Sunday, it just happened. I was 10 0r 11, as I recall.

  32. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    JonathanCatholic & The Masked Chicken,

    “Where did the versus populum notion come from?” In modern times, perhaps Austria/Germany looking back to, and freely extrapolating, the peculiarities of the old St. Peter’s Basilica? In the English translation of Pius Parsch’s book as The Liturgy of the Mass (1940 impression of 1936 ed. scanned at Internet Archive) in the reconstruction of the Ordo Romaus I by Fr. Kramp (p. 159), “The Pope stands at the altar – we would say behind the altar – looking across the altar table towards the choir and the people.”

    Assuming that this is accurate, due to the ‘geography’ of old St. Peter’s, so that the Pope would be strictly facing east from behind the altar and looking along the nave – and any other old churches with such an unusual actual orientation – I was wondering if ‘we’ know anything about this ever involving the populus also, at one point or another during the Mass, also turning to face actual east. In the pre-pew/seating days – up till at least the late Middle Ages – I suppose this would have been physically possible without too much difficulty, but do ‘we’ know if it was ever a practice?

  33. St. Rafael says:

    Calling it whatever you want, the presider still has his back to the assembly.

    and that is a beautiful thing.

  34. Let the priest turn his back to the assembly. Then I won’t have to try to discern the August Sacrifice through the prism of his stinky personality.

  35. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Fr Jim,

    Indeed the back of the priest will face the congregation, but — to borrow an idea from Thomas Cranmer as portrayed by Leo McKern: “What did that back facing the congregation betoken?” If it betokens that he’s paying more attention to God and not allowing himself to be distracted from the awesome responsibility he has on his shoulders, surely this is meritorious, not unfriendly. To portray it as unfriendly is to misunderstand it. Drivers in vehicles face the direction of travel, not the passengers in the vehicle. This is right and proper, and many accidents could be avoided if the driver didn’t answer his cell phone while driving, or resisted the temptation to send text messages while driving…. In neither case is an evil being committed by performing the action (speaking on a phone or sending a text message) but neither is properly done when driving.

  36. majuscule says:


    The people in the pews in front of me all have their backs to me.

    And I have my back to those behind me.

  37. Patikins says:

    frjim4321: “Calling it whatever you want, the presider still has his back to the assembly.”

    So? You say that as if it’s a bad thing. It’s not. I’d rather have the priest with his back to the assembly. I want him to focus on the sacrifice of the mass not on being visible to the people. I hate it when a priest scans the congregation and makes eye contact during the elevations! He should have his eyes on the Blessed Sacrament in his hands at that time. Mass celebrated ad orientem would put an end to that.

  38. robtbrown says:

    Joe Magarac,

    Do you have a link to the Cupich document? I have looked on the site but didn’t find it.

  39. Hidden One says:

    frjim4321: “Calling it whatever you want, the presider still has his back to the assembly.”

    Calling it whatever you want, the guy in pew 10 still has his back to the girl in pew 12. [To which I reply, “Good.”]

    Father, the matter of priestly orientation does not center around anyone’s back. [You are right, but not even close to the way you intended.]

  40. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:

    Calling it whatever you want, the presider still has his back to the assembly.

    Some years ago a woman I knew–neither theologian nor traditionalist–said to me of the versus populum stance: There’s too much of him (the celebrant) in it, a grand example, IMHO, of the sensus fidei.

    Of course, some years later JRatzinger said about the same thing.

  41. Charles E Flynn says:

    From http://www.adoremus.org/Interoecumenici.html :

    Inter oecumenici

    Instruction on implementing liturgical norms

    Consilium (of Sacred Congregation of Rites) – September 26, 1964
    – See more at: http://www.adoremus.org/Interoecumenici.html#sthash.MgwgO4lr.dpuf

    Chapter V. Designing Churches and Altars to Facilitate Active Participation of the Faithful


    90. In building new churches or restoring and adapting old ones every care is to be taken that they are suited to celebrating liturgical services authentically and that they ensure active participation by the faithful (see SC art. 124).


    91. The main altar should preferably be freestanding, to permit walking around it and celebration facing the people. Its location in the place of worship should be truly central so that the attention of the whole congregation naturally focuses there.

    Choice of materials for the construction and adornment of the altar is to respect the prescriptions of law.

    The sanctuary area is to be spacious enough to accommodate the sacred rites.

  42. Charles E Flynn says:

    @Priam1184 ,

    In my parish in Rhode Island, what we called at the time of its introduction the “English mass” was alternated with the Latin mass, every other mass, when the changes took place.

    Because I lived a short distance from the church and had been an altar boy for several years, I had the task of changing the prayer cards and making sure that the altar that was set up properly for the type of mass to be said. If I recall correctly, this went on for a few months, to give people time to adjust, and then we never had another Latin mass. I recall serving as an altar boy at only a few English masses, and then I was recruited to become a lector.

  43. The Masked Chicken says:

    “In my neck of the woods, from what my family said, they followed the priest b/c they trusted him, not b/c they wanted the changes, but they were obedient, and so these things happened. Not sure if the priest himself knew what the documents actually said (we live in a pretty poor area) but he too was probably obedient to what he thought what was asked for.

    I could understand being obedient, I don’t understand deliberately throwing things out just to change.”

    This is the, “I was just following orders,” defense. Many people trusted priests, back then. They were the most trusted profession in society. It had been bred into the laity. Liberals confused the priests who then passed those aberrations onto the laity. Sadly, if we had had a truly informed laity, as Vatican II had wanted, the laity might have asked why these things were happening and there might have been a backlash against the absurdity of the changes.

    From the Star Trek original series episode, “And the Children Shall Lead,”:

    STARNES [on monitor]: I’m being influenced to do things that do not make sense. I even went so far as to call Starfleet Command to request a spaceship to be used as a transport. It was only when I couldn’t tell them what I wanted to transport that I began to realise that my mind was being directed. I decided to send a dispatch to Starfleet, warning them. God forgive us. Must destroy ourselves! Alien upon us. The enemy from within. The enemy!
    SPOCK: He never completed the entry, and the dispatch was never sent. Except for scenes of family life, games and picnics with the children, that is the complete record. Whatever overwhelmed them must have done so with incredible speed. Otherwise, the professor would have provided details of the experience. He was an excellent scientist and tireless in his pursuit of the truth.
    KIRK: That could be what destroyed him.
    SPOCK: Possible, Captain. Evil does seek to maintain power by suppressing the truth.
    MCCOY: Or by misleading the innocent.
    KIRK: Misleading the innocent? I wonder.

    I am not saying that all or even most of the liturgical changes made after Vatican II were evil, but one does get the sense that, in some cases, we were played. If someone ever writes a book on the liturgical mess of the last 50 years, I hope they include this quote. At its best, the original Star Trek was prophetic.

    The Chicken

  44. RJHighland says:

    Simply put the shift of the altar to a table, changing the way the mass was presented and changing the language and other forms of the mass was simply a Protestantization of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. De-emphasize the true presence in the Eucharist was the goal of the changes by Cranmer in the 1500 as it was for the hierarchy of the Church after Vatican II. You destroy the mass you destroy the faith, it has worked pretty well, just look at the empty churches and the churches being put up for sale. They thought by making the mass more Protestant friendly they would draw many of the scattered flock back into Holy Communion with the Church, we can see how that all worked out. It has caused a mass exodus not only in Europe and Protestant North America but have you seen the recent stats in South and Central America. “…the present crisis in the Church will not be overcome until there is a return to the traditional Latin liturgy, a revival of the true social teaching of the Church, and a restoration of the study of St. Thomas Aquinas in our seminaries and colleges.” Fr.Kenneth Baker, Editor Emeritus, Homiletic & Pastoral Review. Thankfully a few of the Cardinals, Bishops and priests are heading that advice. Thank the Lord for Pope Benedict XVI, he has freed the mass from its captivity. That is why the modernists brought in the NO like a blitzkrieg because it doesn’t hold a candle to the TLM and these wonderful, loving disobedient hippie/modernists would scream obedience to those that saw the NO mass for what it is.

  45. Unbeknownst to pew Catholics at large, there was much ferment among certain liturgical elites throughout the first half of the twentieth century, and their experiments included celebration of Mass facing the people, in isolated locations in both the U.S. and Germany, frequently in Benedictine monasteries and at Catholic youth gatherings, but also in a few scattered parishes. Some luminaries such as the famous priests Pius Parsch and Romano Guardini were associated with this movement, many of whose leaders felt later that their aspirations had been betrayed by many of the post Vatican II developments.

    In any event, by the time of Vatican II, the idea of versus populum celebration was in the air among certain cognoscenti, even if it never emerged openly in discussions of the bishops at the Council. It seems unlikely that a definitive document will be found that originally authorized the move from ad orientem to versus populum. But the article appended (in part) below indicates the ad hoc way it happened in a single parish – my own in the early 1960s – where the turn around was made without any documentary authorization whatsoever.

    Our Archbishop Paul Hallinan (Atlanta) turned out shortly thereafter to be (as I understood it) the sole U.S. episcopal member of Msgr. Bugnini’s famous Consilium that was devising what was later introduced as the Novus Ordo. Apparently ours was Ab. Hallinan’s “experimental parish”, and it seemed to us that we were way ahead of the liturgical curve. In the mid 1960s we saw several years early all the liturgical innovations that came later. The reception of them in our parish was sharply divided—indeed, bitterly opposed by some–but I understood that our enthusiastic pastor reported enthusiastic acceptance to our enthusiastic archbishop, who allegedly reported in Rome—seemingly on the basis of our one little parish in an isolated academic community in Georgia—that the innovations were enthusiastically accepted in the U.S. (Perhaps our role was greatly exaggerated in our own provincial eyes.)

    St. Joseph’s Athens — A Parish Of Liturgical Progress
    The Georgia Bulletin, October 24, 1963

    “The next step began at a farmhouse six miles outside of Between, Georgia. You may have difficulty finding it on a map. After dinner the wife of the house mentioned that the dialogue Mass was going so well at St. Anna’s Chapel, she though it would be wonderful if Mass could be said facing the people. To be truthful, I was shocked. How could a good Catholic have such a radical thought? As I drove home to Athens those twenty-nine miles I kept thinking of reasons for saying no. I was a bit tired, but I could not think of any. Then I thought of the answer. Father Harrison comes to say Mass at St. Anna’s every Sunday. He is much more sensible than I. I was sure he would know the reasons for saying no. To my surprised he was delighted with the idea. He had said Mass that way in the Catacombs. All my defenses were gone. When that happens to a pastor the only solution is to present the problem to the chief shepherd, the archbishop. How clearly I could see the wisdom of Christ in appointing bishops.”

    “The archbishop sat back in his chair. He held his pipe in his hand and his office was filled with a few seconds of what is labeled silent meditation. Finally he smiled and said; I don’t see why not, if it helps to bring the people closer to God. In those few words he seemed to summarized all liturgical change.”

  46. RJHighland says:

    One other thing I love reading all of the peoples personal experiences in their parshishes when the transition was made from the TLM to the Novus Ordo. Whether you prefer the Novus Ordo or the TLM it is an incredible personal history of those events in time. I did not come into the Church until 1997 so I have no personal experience with that time only what I have read and learned from people that experienced it. My wife grew up only knowing the Novus Ordo but she is the one that started our move toward the TLM mass when she felt called to recieve Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue back in 2004 at an EWTN conference and that one event has sent us on an incredible faith journey.

  47. robtbrown says:

    Charles Flynn,

    Was the link directed to me? If so, I meant a link to the document produced by Cupich.

  48. robtbrown says:


    There were several reasons for the liturgical changes. One major factor was the two World Wars, the consequences of which opened the door to the Community of Man ideology, which is, IMHO, the foundation for the crazy Ecumenism of the past 50 years.

    And there were in Counter Reformation theology certain lacunae that made it convenient for the Community of Man ideology to enter.

  49. The Masked Chicken says:

    If you want the excruciatingly detailed history of versus populum, I recommend a two-part series by Helen Benofy at Adoramus Bulletin called, The Day the Mass Changed. It may be found, here:


    The Chicken

  50. Matt R says:

    I would add that in most churches, the sanctuary is not large enough for the sacred rites. Sure, there are churches where a Solemn High Mass or Solemn Vespers, both in the older form, are tight squeezes, but nevertheless do-able. On the other hand, take the altar off the wall, and you can’t do it.

    I also believe that with respect to the provisions of I.O., no one in Rome will stop a parish that uses the original altar in its original place. Now, taking out a low altar might be problematic. But it’s defensible, especially if one points out the limitations of space created.

    A parish near me recently removed its table altar, and it was replaced with the original altar, finally ripped from the wall. At least they left the praedella in place so that one day it might be restored.

  51. Charles E Flynn says:


    No, I just thought people might want to see the original text in its context.

    I do not see Bishop Cupich’s document among his writings on the diocesan Website:


  52. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    You wrote:

    “One major factor was the two World Wars, the consequences of which opened the door to the Community of Man ideology, which is, IMHO, the foundation for the crazy Ecumenism of the past 50 years.”

    You might be right about this. After WWI, something similar was proposed with the League of Nations (which, unlike the U. N., floundered) and the World Council of Churches. Why was the Church not taken in by this ideology, back then?

    The Chicken

  53. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dear Masked Chicken,

    Thank you very much for linking the splendidly detailed Benofy articles!

    She writes, “Note that none of the advocates of Mass facing the people mentions the history or the significance of the priest facing East, ad orientem.”

    Given much of the other evidence marshalled, I suspect this was not a matter of awaiting the light of ‘ressourcement’ but of silently avoiding discussion or explanation.

    Do you, as a science fiction buff, know the old Quatermass televsion series? If I recall correctly, in one the professor says, “Let me explain. I’m a scientist.” But, rather than being the prelude to an explanation, that seems to be intended to be the sufficient explanation! I get a similar impression where the liturgical ‘experts’ cited are concerned: ‘Let me explain, I’m an expert.’

  54. robtbrown says:

    The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    You wrote:

    “One major factor was the two World Wars, the consequences of which opened the door to the Community of Man ideology, which is, IMHO, the foundation for the crazy Ecumenism of the past 50 years.”

    You might be right about this. After WWI, something similar was proposed with the League of Nations (which, unlike the U. N., floundered) and the World Council of Churches. Why was the Church not taken in by this ideology, back then?

    The theology (good and bad) that went into (and out of) Vat II began to be developed between the two wars.

    The Church was not yet taken in by that ideology because the Counter Reformation Church had not yet run out of steam.

  55. robtbrown says:

    Charles E Flynn,

    Neither did I. That’s why I said I didn’t find it on the site.

  56. robtbrown says:


    Keep in mind that Garrigou LaGrange was much opposed to certain aspects of the Counter Reformation Church (1). Some years ago, I looked into the reception of The Three Ages when it was published, and it was not as positive as might be thought. There was serious Jesuit and Carmelite opposition, which, in no particular order, included:

    – The synthesis of the Virtues and Spirituality
    – The Universal Call to Holiness, incl the laity (this began with the work of Fr Arintero OP)
    – The restoration of the balance between Ascetic and Mystical Theology, the former having previously usurped the latter (cf. Tanqueray)

    (1) Of course, Fr Garrigou was also opposed to many of the aspects of theology that went into and came out of Vat II–he well understood their Protestant roots.

  57. robtbrown says:

    Also Nb that in 1920:

    The thought of Einstein, Freud, and Husserl had not yet penetrated (and undermined) the By the Numbers, Square Cornered world of Rationalism.

  58. Per Signum Crucis says:

    For the principal Masses in the principal churches at the principal Feasts and Sundays to be celebrated ad orientem seems eminently sensible so kudos indeed. Bp. Conley’s letter of explanation is an excellent template for others to follow.

  59. arickett says:

    Nice to know that TLM bishops over step there authority too. What would you be saying if they had banded the use of Latin for advent.

  60. dans0622 says:

    jhayes: yes, that is what the GIRM 3rd edition says. As far as I know, that is a new paragraph and is not found in the prior two editions. So, pastors of any churches that now still have only the old, pre-conciliar altar “should” take # 303 into account. I don’t think there are many of those churches. In any case, I was intending to refer to all the “renovations” which took place in the 60s-70s, due to Inter oecumenici and perhaps the GIRM of 1970….long before the GIRM, 3rd edition. I appreciate the chance to clarify.

  61. dans0622 says:

    aricket: how, exactly, has Bishop Conley overstepped his authority? I don’t see any indication of that whatsoever. Do you think he is forcing the Cathedral priest(s) to say Mass ad orientem? I don’t see evidence of that.

  62. jhayes says:

    As far as I know, that is a new paragraph and is not found in the prior two editions.

    It was added in the GIRM that accompanied the 2002 Missal


  63. arickett: “Nice to know that TLM bishops over step there [sic] authority too. What would you be saying if they had banded [sic] the use of Latin for advent.”

    Has a “TLM bishop” been mentioned anywhere in this post or thread?

    Is is your impression that a bishop would be overstepping his authority in asking his priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem? As apparently envisioned in the OF rubrics (with nothing to the contrary stated in any authoritative document that I’m aware of).

    Or that a bishop would not be overstepping his authority in banning Latin, the one language whose use by any priest is approved in various authoritative documents.

  64. Papabile says:

    It would seem GIRM 303 was developed with the principles outlined by the CDW – in partiular the 3rd mentioned principle – in 332, Vol. 29, No. 5, May 1993, pp. 245-249

  65. Allan S. says:

    Having just seen the photo, I can actually see a pretty good reason to prefer versus Populum…oy vey.

  66. The Masked Chicken says:

    Love the Mass. Hate the Church design.

    The Chicken

  67. Siculum says:

    Yes, it looks right.

  68. StnyPtGuy says:

    Allen and Chicken: The Cathedral of the Risen Christ dates from 1963-1965, so it’s what they — including Bps. Bruskewitz and Conley — have been stuck with since then. Note that they have had Perpetual Adoration there since 1959, before it was the Cathedral parish — that’s older than I am. I can live with this, given their fruits.

    Getting back to the matter at hand — Bp. Conley’s announcement. Superb announcement. I would have gone one step further. I would have said, “All the priests of my diocese now have unlimited authority to celebrate ad orientem. Use prudence in implementing it in your parishes, but you don’t need to check back with me when you want to start it.” Given the unique situation of the Lincoln Diocese, with two superb teaching bishops, I think such an announcement would cause little stir there.

    [No. That statement implies that priests need permission to celebrate ad orientem. They don’t. Perhaps a reminder that all priests always can celebrate ad orientem.]

  69. iPadre says:

    “the presider still has his back to the assembly”

    As if it has some deep theological meaning. The pilot has his back to the people. Maybe the cockpit should be in the back of the airplane, but then, the passengers will have their back to the pilot. I guess we’ll just have to have Mass in a big circle so no one has their back toward anyone else. And that will limit the size of the church, so we’ll have to go to house Masses so the circle doesn’t get too big, or we would not longer be a loving, caring community of faith. Yikes, that reminds me of Sister Feelgood in the seminary.

  70. Stephanus83 says:

    I feel lucky to be where I am. My parish Priest in Columbus, OH celebrates all masses (except one) ad orientam. My parish also has the extraordinary form of the mass. My wife grew up in the Russian Orthodox Church. The first time she went to a Catholic mass she couldn’t understand why the Priest was facing away from God. I never thought twice about it until her comment.

  71. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf,

    Acknowledging that the Mass celebrated ad orientem does just seem right — logical, even — I think something in the picture is jarringly incongruous with that right-ness: the Resurrexefix.

  72. Mike says:

    “Calling it whatever you want, the presider still has his back to the assembly.”

    Thus distinguishing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass from, among other things, a hootenanny or a political meeting.

  73. PCali says:

    Just as a separate note from the discussion on Ad Orientem, altar placement, etc., I had the pleasure of being one of the servers at the Mass, and there was a small contingent of seminarians and priests from OLGS Seminary in Denton in choir: roughly ten seminarians from over there and three priests.
    As well, there were ten to fifteen of us from SGGS Seminary in Seward sitting in choir and serving. It was one of the most edifying things I’ve heard/seen in Fraternity-Diocesan interaction when I saw smiles of happiness on the seminarians’ faces after the liturgy, and heard one of the Fraternity priests mentioning to another person in the sacristy that it was the most beautiful liturgy he had ever seen at the cathedral.
    I don’t know about you all, but I find that extremely hope filled, considering that in most places there’s a pretty sharp divide betwixt Fraternity priests and seminarians and their Diocesan brethren.
    Also, having been to the Cathedral of the Risen Christ many times for liturgies, I have to say that it has become much less repugnant to me in its design due to the fact that every Mass I’ve seen celebrated there has been reverent, breathtakingly beautiful, and has had faithful Catholics in attendance, who have shown the proper reverence for the Eucharist. Seeing the beauty of a living catholic faith tends to make you forget the look of the church, and even tends to beautify it somewhat.

  74. PCali says:

    *The Mass pictured in the update, that is. It was the diocesan kickoff Mass for the Year of Consecrated Life, which actually begins next weekend.

  75. Josemaria says:

    Renovation is only a matter of time.

  76. pseudomodo says:

    I have noticed that whenever a person or group is addressing the Holy Father sitting on his throne, they are always facing toward him and not with thier backs to him. If that were to occur I think the master of ceremonies would go over and immediatly begin to aggressivly school them in the appropriate papal court protocol!

    If appropriate ettiquite in an audience is good enough for the pope, it should be good enough for God.

  77. Joseph-Mary says:

    One of the pastors in my town (to whom I and another person sent him the article about Bishop Conley) has decided that he, too, will offer holy Mass ad orientem during Advent. Brick by brick.

  78. Grumpy Beggar says:

    In response to the update:

    It could look right to me , but definitely not alright : Notwithstanding the fact that Mass is being celebrated within the Cathedral of the Risen Christ , I agree 200% with Chris Garton-Zavesky’s comment above ; so , right- perhaps, but far from perfect. Neither does an altar crucifix appear to be visible to the congregation, nor even visible at all anywhere in the scenario (although , maybe it’s view is being obscured by the presider or a concelebrant, but it really seems not- would have to be a perfect angle if it was).

    One cannot separate Christ crucified from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is supposed to be confirmed/reflected in the symbols we use. Even proper celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass requires the visible image of Christ crucified to be present. This isn’t something new either:

    An excerpt from Catholic Encyclopedia, with this link Altar Crucifix for anyone who would like to read up a little more on the subject:

    “The crucifix is the principal ornament of the altar. It is placed on the altar to recall to the mind of the celebrant, and the people, that the Victim offered on the altar is the same as was offered on the Cross. For this reason the crucifix must be placed on the altar as often as Mass is celebrated (Constitution, Accepimus of Benedict XIV, 16 July, 1746). The rubric of the Roman Missal (xx) prescribes that it be placed at the middle of the altar between the candlesticks, and that it be large enough to be conveniently seen by both the celebrant and the people (Cong. Sac. Rit., 17 September, 1822). If for any reason this crucifix is removed, another may take its place in a lower position; but in such cases it must always be visible to all who assist at Mass (ibid.)”

    I am reminded of a spiritual director I had until seven years ago, who belonged to a religious order of missionaries. At that time he was a chaplain in a large palliative and long-term care institution. One day his community erected a huge, beautiful, Ressurexa (without even a cross) above the tabernacle in their main chapel. A while later, a large crucifix which had also occupied an adjacent space came down. So my spiritual director went to his Provincial, and asked him to please have the large Crucifix put back in the main chapel, adding that , ” Christ is still crucified in His Mystical Body – I see Him in the patients I minister to each day.”

  79. PCali says:

    Grumpy Beggar: I can testify that there was a roughly four foot crucifix (That’s including the base) on the altar, and you can see it right next to the bishop’s hand in the photo of the elevation.

  80. Kathleen10 says:

    Great commentary on this thread!
    HenryEdwards, the narrative you provided is illuminating, we can see right through that now can’t we. How convenient that in your Georgia parish versus populum was actually the request by the laity. That worked out well for the change agents. It wasn’t “their” idea, “Mrs. Higginbottom requested it!”. Then, gosh, try as they may, they just couldn’t find one reason not to ditch ad orientem, and they tried! They really tried.
    Apparently VII was distorted, and those who wanted “change” which meant destruction used it to do just that. Well, we’re all on high alert now, and blind trust is a thing of the past. Still, I wonder that rather than react to things we need to get out in front of it, being proactive now rather than reactive. There is a large, vocal force promoting change still. How is that to be countered this coming year, now that we know requests and polls obviously matter and can be used to make the changes the power structure actually wanted all along. Now that we’ve seen a few heads roll, this counterargument really can’t come from within the church, unless someone is up for a bit of white martyrdom. Who does that leave? Unfortunately, us. Truly, nobody may listen or even care, but shouldn’t we try?

    iPadre, what a great comment. lol!

  81. Robbie says:

    I’m impressed the Bishop is wearing Roman vestments and lace. Don’t see that too often in the NO.

  82. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Cali says:

    “Grumpy Beggar: I can testify that there was a roughly four foot crucifix (That’s including the base) on the altar, and you can see it right next to the bishop’s hand in the photo of the elevation.”

    Thanks for the correction PCali : That makes a lot more sense now. I zoomed in on the photo by clicking and can see some of its outline. Even outside the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass , there is still supposed to be an image of Christ crucified present in the church. One is still left wondering how it’s effectiveness might be effected when placed in the vicinity of, and dwarfed by, a Ressurexefix which is clearly on steroids.

    Despite the fact that Vatican II never touched this aspect, in 1964 the instruction “Inter Oecumenici,” issued by the Council in charge of enacting the liturgical reformed desired by the Council in No. 91 prescribes: “It is good that the main altar be detached from the wall to be able to turn around easily and celebrate ‘versus populum.'” From that moment, the position of the priest “toward the people,” although not obligatory, became the most common way of celebrating Mass. Things being as they are, the Holy Father proposes, also in these cases, that the old meaning of “oriented” prayer not be lost and suggests that difficulties be averted by placing at the center of the altar the sign of Christ crucified (cf. “Teologia della Liturgia,” p. 88).

    Espousing this proposal, added in my turn is the suggestion that the dimensions of the sign must be such as to make it very visible, under pain of lacking effectiveness (cf. M. Gagliardi, “Introduzione al Mistero Eucharistico,” Rome, 2007, p. 371). The visibility of the cross on the altar is implied by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal: “There is also to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation. It is appropriate that such a cross, which calls to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord, remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations” (No. 308).

    OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF , Placing the Crucifix at the Center of the Altar

  83. PCali says:

    Grumpy Beggar:
    No problem.
    I haven’t any dispute with your comment about there needing to be a crucifix present at all times. I just wanted to confirm that there was, in fact, a fairly large crucifix present which could be easily seen over the bishop’s head by the congregation.

  84. PCali says:

    Grumpy Beggar:
    No problem.
    I haven’t any dispute with your comment about there needing to be a crucifix present at all times. I just wanted to confirm that there was, in fact, a fairly large crucifix present which could be easily seen over the bishop’s head by the congregation.

  85. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Hi again PCali.

    Thanks for the responses. I didn’t perceive any dispute at all – I guess I just have this (may I say “natural”) aversion for these gigantic Ressurexefixes , after what my spiritual director had related to me . . . and all the ones I’ve seen tend to be humongous , while the size of Crucifixes in the same location usually doesn’t compete.

    Since you had the best vantage point, can I ask one more thing ?

    I can’t see one at all in the in the pic posted , but would you have happened recall whether there was a seventh candle present on the altar at all ? . . .(When there is, it commonly gets placed behind the crucifix).

  86. PCali says:

    Grumpy Beggar:
    Yes there was a seventh candle for the bishop, never fear. I lit it myself. The candle was in front of the crucifix this time, though, since the Mass was Ad Orientem.

    I don’t have any particular liking for ressurexifixes either, and I would shed nary a tear were it suddenly gone from the cathedral. I think that the cathedral being the “Cathedral of the Risen Christ” makes it unlikely that that would happen, though, for a pretty good while. The back wall of the sanctuary is actually just mesh with thin boards with the choir and organ behind it, so there isn’t much to mount a new crucifix on.

  87. mmromani says:

    Ad Orientem is certainly a right and just posture for the sacred liturgy. About three years ago, I wrote this and, in light of the recent developments in Lincoln, I think it bears repeating:


    It was a blessing to have met Bishop Conley while I was at the Society for Catholic Liturgy Conference in Colorado Springs. The topic of this year’s concerned Liturgy and the Temple. The main message is that there is Someone greater than ourselves. The manner in which we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, including posture and music, does matter.

  88. Uxixu says:

    FrJim echoes a way too simplistic argument that is ultimately erroneous. The celebrant DOES turn to face and address the faithful numerous times in the Extraordinary Form, when he is not praying to the King of Kings & Lord and Master of All. This is implicit in the GIRM for the Ordinary Form as much as it’s explicit in the Missal of St. John XXIII in the Extraordinary Form…

  89. Pnkn says:

    Are there reasons for not having a Ressurexifix at the entrance to the nave, facing the altar ?

  90. Legisperitus says:

    Chris Garton-Zavesky: It’s even weirder than other “Resurrexifixes” I’ve seen, in that our Lord is off-center and below the Cross, with His arms raised in an asymmetrical fashion, as if saying “Ha-ha, missed me!”

    We can certainly hope, since Bishop Conley has had the fortitude to introduce Mass ad orientem, that that piece of art will not long endure in his cathedral.

  91. Christine says:

    frjim4321 said, “Calling it whatever you want, the presider still has his back to the assembly.”

    How can you lead anyone anywhere if you are facing them?

  92. MouseTemplar says:

    I’m just extremely curious as to the reactions of the parishioners as this starts to roll through the diocese. There will be spittle flecked nutties in significant number, I imagine.

  93. Joseph-Mary says:

    “Presides….back to assembly”
    This comes from poor theology of what the holy sacrifice of the Mass is. Anyone can be a presider. What we need is a priest. And a priest is one who offers sacrifice. A presider is just over a meeting assembly. The faithful do not come as an assembly to a meeting or just “to share a meal at a table”.

    And when the priest faces the people, he may have his back turned to GOD! That is if he has not removed the tabernacle from its proper place to a corner or down the hall.
    With the facing towards the tabernacle and hopefully the Crucifix the priest, too, can better pray the Mass with less distraction because he is not on display . As one priest friend told me: he was chastised by his confessor for trying to be “the brightest candle on the altar”.

  94. FPhilip says:

    I must add that I have a concern about the Bishop’s use of Sacred Scripture. The New American Bible (which we use at all of our Masses, at least in the USA) does not show that Christ promised to return “as light comes from the east.” Neither does the 1885 version of the Haydock Douay-Rheims which is signed by many bishops of the USA of that time. Christ states, in both Matthew and Luke, “as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west” [Matthew 24:27] and “as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other” [Luke 17:24]. There are very fundamental differences between the Bishop’s intended meaning of “light” and the actual meaning of “lightening.” The focus in Matthew is not one of direction, but of wide-spread visibility from the ground of the heavens [see Rev 1:7 where every eye will see him]; the focus in both Matthew and Luke, as regards the use of “lightening” is on the rapid/immediate/random / unexpected occurrence, with no real agreement on a particular direction from which He will come (lightening is random, and Christ’s coming will not be predictable – he does not want it to be predictable). Christ ascended up, and the disciples were looking up as He ascended and were told that he would return the same way [Acts 1:11], and Jesus was taken “up to heaven” [Luke 24:51, Ephesians 4:10]. Also, in the Epiclesis, we call on the Holy Spirit to come down from on high, not from the east. I understand the sentimental desire to honor our patristic fathers’ words, but I do not understand the bending of Sacred Scripture in order to support a practice which, as far as I can tell, has not been in use before – sort of came out of the blue. It gives me pause…and concern for the safety of some of the folks who will be twisting about in the pews or on the edge of the steps in front of the altar (and the altar is “liturgical east” as far as I know). Why not have everyone look up into the clouds? I’m sorry, but…Why? Why? Why?

  95. FPhilip says:

    Joseph-Mary – on turning backs to God, I have seen where the altar, in the center of the sanctuary which is in the center of the nave, has the tabernacle in front of the altar, between the priest and the people – so that both priest and people are all facing the tabernacle during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That seems to handle the scruples associated with the feeling that one’s back is to God. You know, when we leave the nave of the parish, we all turn our backs to the Tabernacle to leave the building. God knows that this is practical and we must carry on our duties, even while he is present to us in our hearts. I think that when we focus too much on putting God in a single location (and He is never in a single location as far as we can tell), we sort of create a false sense that we are being disrespectful to Him when we are orienting our bodies in a certain way. I think that as long as we are being obedient to God and His properly-assigned authorities who have been given license to loose and bind, I think we are okay.

  96. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    Surely the iconography is depictive of St. Luke 24:50-51: ” et elevatis manibus suis benedixit eis. Et factum est, dum benediceret illis, recessit ab eis, et ferebatur in caelum.”


    Interesting question: both ‘astrape’ and its translation as ‘fulgur’ in St. Matthew 24:27 seem to have a range of meaning that would allow Bishop Conley’s translation without any “bending of Sacred Scripture “: does “sentimental desire to honor our patristic fathers’ words” mean that you have consulted commentaries on this understanding of the verse by Antique native Greek and Latin speakers? And how does one determine that the “focus in Matthew is not one of direction,” among other things? (Obviously the sun’s first breaking the horizon is “rapid/immediate” with an effect “of wide-spread visibility”.) I am not sure I follow what you mean by “a practice which, as far as I can tell, has not been in use before – sort of came out of the blue.”

  97. arickett says:

    Hello again
    Sorry it has take so long for me to reply I don’t connect to the Internet very often.

    The article said the Bishop determined this I take to mean only ad orientem masses as Fr Z states above the priest is allowed to face ad orientem without bishops permission the obverse is also true.

    A little time with Google shows the Bishop enjoys the traditional mass. Quote below for those with limited time.
    ” Now we have a bishop who is not only a friend of the Extraordinary Use of the Mass, like Arch. Burke, but one for whom the EU was an important part of his ministry. The EU is part of new bishop(s). It is part of the mainstream of the church. This is great news for fans of Tradition.”

  98. FPhilip says:

    Venerator Sti Lot,

    The commentaries of the Navare Bible support my position; I suspect that the commentaries of the 1885 Haydock Douay-Rheims will also, as the Navarre commentaries follow them closely.

    From where in Christ’s own words as documented in the Gospels do you find the word or meaning of “sun’s first breaking” as you state, and who, in their right judgment, would ever be led to believe that the breaking of the sun’s light could ever be rapid/immediate? It is not – it very slowly comes over the horizon and is absolutely predictable unlike lightning. You see, you are not agreeing to accept the truth of the meaning of Christ’s actual words. How could one expect one who twists or stretches His words to be truthful at all? I’m sorry, I mean no disrespect here, but I must put this out there – we are not to play with the Lord’s own words – no. We must not ever do that. I trust that the Church’s interpretation of “lightning” and not “light” is trustworthy, especially since I have established the use of the word “lightning” even to the 1885 version of a very good and Church-approved early American edition of the Bible. Let us not try to deny these realities. Thank you for your time here.

  99. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    Thank you for the additional commentary reference!

    I was (as I thought obvious) quoting your interpretative words, and, whether or not in my “right judgement”, it is my (memory of my) perception, on a clear day with visible horizon, that “the sun’s first breaking the horizon is ‘rapid/immediate’ with an effect ‘of wide-spread visibility’ ” which, so far as I can see, is perfectly compatible with your now saying, “it very slowly comes over the horizon and is absolutely predictable”. “It […] comes” and “first breaking” are easily distinguishable, and however “slowly [it] comes”, there is an “immediate” (and, in that sense, “rapid”) difference between the light preceding it and the first visibility of the sun itself – which is a “wide-spread visibility” with differences in illumination from what preceded it.

    I am certainly accepting “Christ’s actual words” in St. Matthew 24:27 as represented by ‘astrape’ and translated ‘fulgur’ (and by ‘exerchetai’ translated ‘exit’).

    I am questioning the constraints you place – partially, it appears, on the basis of what I take to be two conscientiously prepared commentaries, mentioned by you – upon those words.

    I am glad you “mean no disrespect”, whether to myself or Bishop Conley – a reader could easily be mislead by such expressions as “who, in their right judgment” and “you are not agreeing to accept the truth of the meaning of Christ’s actual words. How could one expect one who twists or stretches His words to be truthful at all?”

    Are you certain that you, in (as I take it) honestly following those commentaries, are not one who, in effect, “twists His words” by improperly excluding what seems to be Bishop Conley’s translation (or quotation from a translation) of them?

    You might have extended your respect as far as explicitly answering my two direct questions, [1] “does ‘sentimental desire to honor our patristic fathers’ words” mean that you have consulted commentaries on this understanding of the verse by Antique native Greek and Latin speakers?” and [2] “And how does one determine that the ‘focus in Matthew is not one of direction,’ among other things?”, and addressing my observing (in the hope that you might be so kind as enlightening me) “I am not sure I follow what you mean by “a practice which, as far as I can tell, has not been in use before – sort of came out of the blue.” (My apologies if I expressed [1] insufficiently clearly: I was thinking of Patristic commentaries, perhaps as included in a catena.)

    To be truthful to the point of possibly appearing a bit pedantic, you have presented no evidence that “the Church’s interpretation of ‘lightning’ and not ‘light’ is trustworthy”. It never occurred to me to question that ‘lightning’ was a translation of ‘astrape’ and ‘fulgur’ deserving of ‘Nihil obstat’ in a Bible translation or commentary. I take it (in my limited knowledge of Greek and Latin) that it is a good translation, and one reflecting what the dictionaries I have consulted indicate the most frequent senses of those words. But do these commentaries explicitly exclude the other senses ‘astrape’ and ‘fulgur’ have, in admitting, or preferring, ‘lightning’? If so, on what basis?

    To try to understand more precisely “the Lord’s own words” in the fullness of their possible meaning, is not “to play with” them.

    But perhaps you and/or other readers can recommend a good online catena or other Patristic commentaries?

  100. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    With apologies: “misled” not “mislead”!

  101. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Fr. Z,

    If you will indulge a bit more attention to what seems a translation from St. Matthew 24:27 provided by Bishop Conley and FPhilip’s “concern about the Bishop’s use of Sacred Scripture”, here are links to online translations of relevant portions of St. Thomas’s Catena Aurea and Summa Theologica (Second Part of the Second Part, Question 84):


    (and, for the text [Lectio 6]:


    and (with the text as well as English translation):


    Briefly, as the Catena is translated, the reference, where clear, seems always to be to ‘lightning’. St. John Chrysostom notes two features: lightning “is in an instant of time visible throughout the whole world”. St. Jerome adds an application: “believe that the Catholic Faith shines from east to west in the Churches.” St. Augustine, similarly writes, “By the east and west, He signifies the whole world, throughout which the Church should be. In the same way as He said below, Hereafter shall you see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, so now He likens His coming to lightning, which uses to flash out of the clouds. When then the authority of the Church is set up clear and manifest throughout the whole world, He suitably warns His disciples that they should not believe schismatics and heretics.” Origen provides a variety of possible senses: “Truth is like the lightning that comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west. Or this may mean, that truth can be supported out of’ every passage of Scripture. The lightning of truth comes out of the east, that is, from the first beginnings of Christ, and shines throughout even to His passion, which is His setting; or from the very beginning of creation, to the last Scripture of the Apostles. Or, the east is the Law, the west is the end of the Law, and of John’s prophecy. The Church alone neither takes away word or meaning from this lightning, nor adds anything to its prophecy.” It is worth noting that three of these understand a distinct ‘directional reference’ in “comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west”, seeing it in each case as having a chronological sense which might (I think) be described as teleological as well in each instance.

    In Q. 84, Article 3, Reply to Objection 3, the third reason for “a certain fittingness in adoring towards the east” is given as “on account of Christ Who is ‘the light of the world’ [John 8:12; 9:5], and is called ‘the Orient’ (Zechariah 6:12). Who mounteth above the heaven of heavens to the east (Psalm 67:34), and is expected to come from the east, according to Matthew 24:27, ‘As lightning cometh out of the east, and appeareth even into the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.’ ” [“propter Christum, qui est lux mundi et oriens nominatur, Zach. VI; et qui ascendit super caelum caeli ad orientem; et ab oriente etiam expectatur venturus, secundum illud Matth. XXIV, sicut fulgur exit ab oriente et paret usque ad occidentem, ita erit adventus filii hominis.”] Here, “out of the east” is again taken ‘directionally’, reinforced (so to speak) by St. Zechariah 6:12, to which 3:8 could be added.

    None of this explicitly addresses the possibility of translating ‘fulgur’ (for ‘astrape’) as “light” rather than as “lightning” in verse 27, though the Reply easily links “lux”, “oriens” and “fulgur”.

    Perhaps it is worth noting two other uses of ‘astrape’ in St. Luke: in 10:18, where the “ek tou ouranou pesonta” pretty clearly specifies a reference to “lightning” in the ‘astrapen’ (translated as “fulgur de caelo cadentem”), and in 11:36 where “ho lychnos tei astrapei” (translated “lucerna fulgoris”) inescapably does not specify a reference to “lightning” in “tei astrapei”.

    Again, while Greek- and Latin-speaking Fathers seem readily to understand ‘astrape’ and ‘fulgur’ respectively in verse 27 as ‘lightning’, having gone this bit further in ‘reading up’, I have not yet encountered any discussion explicitly excluding the possibility of understanding either more broadly as ‘light’ (in a way allowing the reader/hearer to think of either ‘lightning’ or ‘(the) sun(light)’), and so am – always under correction – not convinced that Bishop Conley’s is here a distressing or alarming use of Sacred Scripture.

Comments are closed.