I bring to the readership’s attention a letter that was issued by His Eminence Robert Card. Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. A priest friend reminded me of this letter in an email.
It has a couple great points which all of you should know.
One of the most important things in the letter is His Eminence’s support of ad orientem worship for Holy Mass.
The Prefect wrote:
Contrary to what has sometimes been maintained, it is in full conformity with the conciliar Constitution—indeed, it is entirely fitting—for everyone, priest and congregation, to turn together to the East during the penitential rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations, and the Eucharistic prayer, in order to express the desire to participate in the work of worship and redemption accomplished by Christ. This practice could well be established in cathedrals, where liturgical life must be exemplary (cf. §41).
There are no documents which require that the main ad orientem altar of a church be destroyed or that a table be set up in front of it. As a matter of fact, if the main altar is of note and is clearly the focus of the church and sanctuary, it is absurd and theologically confused to set up a separate altar.
We should all be ready with reasons why ad orientem worship should be reintroduced.
To get up to speed on catechesis you might start by listening to some PODCAzTs (esp. #37, #43, #48, I made about the altar and ad orientem worship.
Every priest needs to have at least these three resources. Fathers, if you don’t have these books, buy them now with these links. Readers, get these books. Start reading groups to study them. Be the maquis!
Klaus Gamber’s The Reform of the Roman Liturgy.
Michael Lang’s Turning Towards the Lord.
Joseph Ratzinger The Spirit of the Liturgy.
Klaus Gamber thought that the single most damaging change to our Catholic worship and identity after the Council was the switching around of altars. Surely he was right.
You will also need some clarity about the infamously mistranslated GIRM 299 on the orientation of the altar. HERE
Good, serious priests, concerned about their flocks and how they are shaped by our all-important sacred worship are making the choice to celebrate Holy Mass ad orientem. (For example HERE.) Some of them take a lot of heat for it. Some of them even endure persecution from other priests and even – horribile scriptu – their bishops! Bishops should be the first to celebrate ad orientem and teach their priests about the value of ad orientem worship. Of course that means that they will have to, in many cases, learn it themselves and then be willing to feel the heat from liberals who prefer liturgy to be horizontal and closed in on themselves.
These priests need support. Others need careful, respectful and prudent urging to come around themselves.
Ad orientem! It just makes sense!