Card. Sarah: “it is essential that the priest and faithful look together towards the east.”

He doesn’t, in this case, mean the Eastern Churches.

An argument can be made that the wholly unnecessary and uncalled for turning around of altars in the wake of Vatican II was the single most damaging innovation that occured.   This was NOT called for by the Council Fathers, nor was it truly for the good of the people.

But that’s what we got and enormous damage was inflicted on the Catholic identity of millions.

In the UK’s best Catholic weekly, the Catholic Herald, I saw today a piece by the great Robert Card. Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship:

Vatican liturgy chief urges priests to celebrate Mass facing east

Cardinal Robert Sarah made the comments in an exclusive interview with Famille Chrétienne

The Vatican’s liturgy chief has called on priests to celebrate Mass facing east.

In an interview with the French Catholic magazine Famille Chrétienne, Cardinal Robert Sarah said that the Second Vatican Council did not require priests to celebrate Mass facing the people.

This way of celebrating Mass, he said, was “a possibility, but not an obligation”.

Readers and listeners should face each other during the Liturgy of the Word, he said.

“But as soon as we reach the moment when one addresses God – from the Offertory onwards – it is essential that the priest and faithful look together towards the east. This corresponds exactly to what the Council Fathers wanted.”

Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, rejected the argument that priests celebrating Mass facing east are turning their backs on the faithful “or against them”. [Thank you.]

Rather, he said, all are “turned in the same direction: towards the Lord who comes”.

“It is legitimate and complies with the letter and spirit of the Council,” he said. “As prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, I wish to recall that the celebration versus orientem is authorised by the rubrics, which specify the times when the celebrant must turn to the people. It is therefore not necessary to have special permission to celebrate facing the Lord.

Cardinal Sarah’s remarks echo an article he wrote a year ago for L’Osservatore Romano, in which he said it was “altogether appropriate, during the penitential rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and the Eucharistic prayer, that everyone, priest and faithful, turn together toward the East, so as to express their intention to participate in the work of worship and redemption accomplished by Christ.”

The cardinal added in the article that Mass facing east could be “implemented in cathedrals, where the liturgical life must be exemplary”.

God bless Card. Sarah.

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31 Responses to Card. Sarah: “it is essential that the priest and faithful look together towards the east.”

  1. catholictrad says:

    Next thing you know, he will call for the return of “useless repetition”, i.e. “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”, “Domine non sum dignus”, “Agnus Dei…”, “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus…”

    But seriously, does this mean the return of the high altar?

  2. APX says:

    I find when the OF is celebrated ad orientem, it’s substantially easier to bear. I don’t like when priests try to “engage” me during Mass, and I really abhor the oscillation at the consecration.

  3. JARay says:

    What a wonderful, clarion cry!

  4. RobS says:

    This provides some calm after a bit of dread from seeing John Allen’s starry-eyed retweet of “Card. Tagle might be out next pope!” this morning.

    Of course nobody knows at this point, but Sarah is such an obvious choice that it is mind-boggling that anyone besides him would get a second thought.

  5. Guillaume says:

    I met the Cardinal last year in Rome. He truly is a man radiating the mysterious Presence of God. Since that day, I have been praying for him. He would be a wonderful Pope…

  6. Macgawd says:

    Does a priest currently need permission from his bishop in order to offer Mass ad Orientem? There seems to be some confusion on this point.

  7. Fr. Bryan says:

    “Does a priest currently need permission from his bishop in order to offer Mass ad Orientem? There seems to be some confusion on this point.”
    — Technically, I think the answer is No. But in terms of what is practical, or expedient regarding the relationship between the priest and his bishop, I think the answer is yes. This is why an official universal clarification or directive from CDW would be very welcome news.

  8. CradleRevert says:

    Wise words from our next Pope.

  9. Hidden One says:

    A priest who is willing to have someone potentially destroy his entire ecclesiastical career need not worry about permission to offer Mass ad orientem. However…

  10. monnica says:

    The Cathedral in our diocese was recently restored inside, with pieces from a church by the same architect and of similar dimensions that was closing, and a high altar put in place. I would love to see this logical next step taken.

  11. robtbrown says:

    Fr. Bryan says,

    “Does a priest currently need permission from his bishop in order to offer Mass ad Orientem? There seems to be some confusion on this point.”
    — Technically, I think the answer is No. But in terms of what is practical, or expedient regarding the relationship between the priest and his bishop, I think the answer is yes. This is why an official universal clarification or directive from CDW would be very welcome news.

    The answer is: It depends.

    In the US parishes are owned by the bishop (with a few exceptions), giving him authority over arrangment inside the church, including the liturgical picnic table. He also has authority over liturgy in his diocese (subject to the Holy See), so he can stop a priest from ad orientem celebration, even if the picnic table is used.

    In religious houses or chapels not owned by the bishop, he has no authority over the interior arrangement. He can, however, not permit masses open to the laity.

  12. Ages says:

    Does a bishop really have the authority to order priests to do something the rubrics do not call for? I know in the Eastern churches it is the mind is that the liturgy belongs to the church itself, not the bishop, and the bishop would not have the authority to tell priests to face away from God.

  13. Robbie says:

    Every time I read something about Cardinal Sarah, one word comes to mind: papabile!

  14. Benedict Joseph says:

    Our parish priest, who always offers the Novus Ordo Mass, for the past two years has done so ad Orientem. It has proved to be a wonderful support for greater reverence among the congregation. A simple solution to the chaos that reigns in so many parishes.

  15. wolfeken says:

    At some point, I hope priests who still offer the novus ordo will simply follow the advice of the head of CDW and stop asking for further clarification on facing liturgical east. For goodness sake, just do it.

  16. St. Rafael says:

    The pastor of the parish is the chief liturgist for the parish. He has the authority to make liturgical decisions. He can celebrate Mass Ad Orientem without permission. A bishop cannot force what is not the liturgical norm or liturgical law. He can recommend things like altar girls, versus populum, and EMHCs, but a bishop cannot force them on a priest.

    [That’s the optimistic view.]

  17. thomas jd says:

    We face the east in anticipation of Our Lords return . The Roman missal makes it clear to all that facing the east is the preferred method. Look to the directions regarding facing the congregation.
    Pope Benedict XVI called ad populum unprecedented clericalism.

  18. andia says:

    Some churches have the altar so the priest is facing East.but not the people, I am not sure how it would be handled in such churches….especially for those parishes where they could not completely gut the building and re-orient everything.

  19. andia says:

    In my diocese there are parishes where the priest faces east and the people do not – with out a wholesale gutting of these churches – I am not sure what could be done to accomplish this.

  20. jaykay says:

    thomas jd:agreed. The 2002 IGMR does seem to make it clear that the “default position” is not facing the people. Hence, it refers in various places to “Sacerdos, versus ad populum…” e.g. 149. If the default position is ad populum then specifying that at times he be so turned is redundant. The obvious conclusion being…

    Well, of course, according to the hermeneutic of discontinuity beloved of many of our brethren and sistern of a certain disposition it’s a case of Roma locuta est, causa aperta est.

  21. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “He doesn’t, in this case, mean the Eastern Churches.” But (correct me if I am wrong) he as easily could be including some of the the most familiar Eastern Liturgies, where the altar is free-standing, but the Celebrant stands on the western side of it facing east (although I am not sure how often an iconostasis obscures this from simply being seen, rather than known).

  22. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    andia,

    This might be made problematical by some pew designs, but my guess is, if there is room to kneel, and there are not particularly tricky ‘hair-trigger’ kneelers, it should also be possible to stand and face true east at the appropriate time (though it would have been a lot more flexible before the mediaeval proliferation of pews parallel with the altar).

  23. vox borealis says:

    Wonderful words which will be immediately ignored. The prefect of the CDW says one thing, and just about every priest and bishop, including the pope, continue to do something else.

  24. MrsMacD says:

    God bless Cardinal Sarah!!!

  25. Luvadoxi says:

    Robtbrown, do you mind clarifying this, “He can, however, not permit masses open to the laity.” Are you saying he can close masses to the laity, or he cannot close masses to the laity? I’ve always wondered–can there ever be a private mass; in other words, can anyone prevent the laity from being present at the Sacrifice?

    I loved visiting Sts. Gregory and Augustine in Oxford, England. Ad orientem, and no “liturgical picnic table.” The sky didn’t fall in, the world didn’t end!

  26. cwillia1 says:

    andia, apparently in ancient churches where the priest faced ad populum and ad orientem at the same time, the people turned away from the priest and to the east for the consecration. The modern practice is to consider the altar as liturgical east although really, if possible, churches should be properly oriented.

    It is an apostolic tradition for the faithful to face the east for private prayer. We can and should do this on our own.

  27. aquinas138 says:

    Venerator Sti Lot, in some churches of the Byzantine rite, at least, the Royal Doors on the iconostasis are open throughout the Divine Liturgy, so the priest is seen to be facing East. This is the case among Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholics. On the other hand, Russian tradition is that the Doors are only open when it is necessary to pass through them. There’s a lot of variation on this point across traditions. The altar is freestanding so that concelebrating clergy may stand at the sides and so that the altar may be incensed on all four sides. During certain services, the iconostasis remains closed, but the eastward orientation of prayer is still preserved. When someone who is not a priest leads a service, such as a deacon or reader leading one of the Little Hours, he stands in the nave facing the iconostasis.

  28. robtbrown says:

    Luvadoxi,

    A church in a diocese that is not a parish is called an oratory. The bishop has the authority to say whether or not it’s public.

  29. Father G says:

    “It is therefore not necessary to have special permission to celebrate facing the Lord.”

    I know of one fellow priest who would love to celebrate Mass ad orientem but is hesitant to do so until there is an official statement from the CDWDS.

  30. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    aquinas138,

    Thank you for all the detail! (I had the impression that there was a fair bit of variation, but also a clear sense of how little I know for certain.)

    Is ‘orientation’ always actual, as is the ancient (as I take it, pre-Great Schism) churches to which cwillia 1 refers?

  31. KateD says:

    Thank you, Cardinal Sarah!!!