Turn towards the Lord!

The esteemed scholar and liturgist Klaus Gamber said that the single most damaging thing that happened in the wake of the Council was the shifting around of orientation at the altar.   In The Spirit of the LiturgyJoseph Ratzinger picked up on Gamber’s work and wrote his own exceptional explanation of the significance of ad orientem worship.  He advocated a return to ad orientem worship, but in a way that was peaceful, not like a abrupt way that changes had been imposed on the people of God – changes never called for by the Council Fathers – virtual overnight and without explanations.  As a transitional phase, Ratzinger suggested what has come to be known as the “Benedictine Arrangement” of  candles and crucifix on the altar.  My friend Fr. Lang has a helpful book about Turning Towards the Lord.  Over the last few year a growing number of priests (sometimes with the help of, sometimes with the interference of bishops) have been taking their parishes to ad orientem worship.  I know one parish where this was implemented, along with the installation of an altar rail.  Now, there, virtually everyone kneels to receive Communion on the tongue, parish registrations are up, and the average age of the congregation is plummeting.

Our re-orientation of our liturgical worship of God is of central importance for the revitalization of our Catholic identity.

The revitalization of our Catholic identity – and therefore our ability to influence the world around us – is only possible through a renewal of our liturgical worship.  No great undertaking we enter into as a Church (macro or micro) will succeed without it being rooted in proper sacred liturgy, whence comes what we need to initiate and sustain all our good efforts which are pleasing to God.

Recently His Eminence Robert Card. Sarah drew attention to ad orientem worship in aninterview with French Catholic magazine Famille Chrétienne.

Picking up on that interview, and the fact in Providence, RI there is a parish where Mass is said ad orientem, the diocesan newspaper of the same Providence has an article that features comments of my friend Fr. Jay Finelli.  HERE

A snip:

“We’re worshipping with the people in a common orientation,” he said. “We’re going toward the Lord.”

Initial reactions to the changes at Holy Ghost were mixed, but Father Finelli said parishioners have come to enjoy the practice. More importantly, he said, returning to their liturgical roots has benefitted the parish spiritually.

“In the beginning a few people had difficulties,” he said. “But now it seems to have led to a — how can I express this — a deep spirituality. There’s more of a reverence, there’s more of a prayerfulness on behalf of the whole congregation.”

Father Finelli said the practice is also beneficial for priests, who are reminded of their role in the liturgy by facing God as the people do.

“It shows us that we, the priests, aren’t the focus,” he said. “We’re not important. We’re just a vessel of the Lord being used by him for the people.”

Though he said he thinks the celebration of the liturgy ad orientem could be practiced in any parish, Father Finelli advised priests considering it to thoroughly teach the meaning behind the practice before instituting any changes. He believes that much of the discomfort with changes following the Second Vatican Council as well as discomfort with the return of pre-Vatican II practices in recent years stem from a lack of education.

“After the Second Vatican Council, there was no discussion and it caused a lot of anger, pain and hurt,” he said. “But if we teach the people as we should — why are we doing this, why is this important — of course some might not like it in the beginning, but eventually I think it really sinks in.”

Fathers! Get on this!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    In the Lutheran churches of Scandinavia the norm is ad orientem worship and to recieve communion on the tongue kneeling at the altar rail. This is totally a non-issue here! So when a Catholic priest celebrates a Mass in a borrowed Lutheran church, no catholic parishoner bats an eye when he uses the high altar.

  2. Fr. Bryan says:

    Education and formation is the key. I have already (almost a year ago) placed the altar in the “Benedictine arrangement”. 6 candles and a crucifix on the altar. There was some pushback on that, but it was explained, and now they are used to it. Considering Card. Sarah’s article, I think it is time to begin educating the folks some more, and start working toward the end-goal of ad-orientem worship of Almighty God. Going to take it slow, and explain it well.

    [That’s the spirit!]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  3. Father Flores says:

    I remember you posting links to some material used by a fine priest to prepare his parishioners for ad orientem worship. (Such as on pilgrimages we gather around to prepare but we all face the same direction to move forward). Are those available still? Also, what resources would you suggest that help ease parishioners into the proper form of worship. (I’ll keep browsing your tags to help load up as well)

    [Maybe HERE]

  4. Mike says:

    VexillaRegis‘ comment above awakened a memory from my early teens, when a secular youth group I belonged to (4-H, I believe) attended Sunday services at the local Lutheran congregation. That’s the first time I can recall seeing a high altar used for its professed purpose, having been barely out of diapers when the Catholic practice of ad orientem worship was effectively abolished for a quarter century.

    One wonders somewhat apprehensively what is planned for the Holy Father’s commemoration of the Reformation next year.

  5. surritter says:

    I’m in the Archdiocese of Detroit, and I know of one parish (in Rockwood) that always has the OF Mass ad orientem. It’s no big deal; I’m not sure why people think that a congregation would riot if a priest were to rearrange his sanctuary in this manner. Certainly a little explanation or catechesis should precede things so that the gray-haired libs who might object can’t use the red herring of “he’s turning his back on the people!” But after that, I would bet that more people give good feedback than bad feedback.

  6. iPadre says:

    I have received email from a few priests requesting any literature I used in going ad orientem. You can find my ad orientem brochures here: http://www.ipadre.net/projects/ad-orientem-brochures/

    Please use them freely! We must all work together for the good.

  7. St. Rafael says:

    It needs to be said over and over again that the right to celebrate Ad Orientem belongs to every single Catholic priest. It is his choice and legitimate option. Any priest can celebrate Mass Ad Orientem without permission from his bishop. It’s his right, with or without permission or knowledge of a bishop. Cardinal Sarah and the CDW need to officially say that in a document. [No.] Cardinal Sarah has done a great job promoting Ad Orientem, but he has failed to clarify and give priests the green light to just do it.

    [It is already spelled. If you say it in a document, you can unsay it in a document.]

  8. Matt Robare says:

    Bishop Athanasius Schneider is going to that parish later this month. I hear there’s going to be a Pontifical Mass from the Throne, too.

  9. HealingRose says:

    Turn towards the Lord…too bad our Tabernacle is in a side chapel and half of the congregation has their backs to Him. I find it even more troublesome that all of the consecrated hosts are moved to a chapel in the basement right after Communion, before Sunday evening Mass has ended, and several people go just after Mass to kneel in front of an empty Tabernacle. I was told that people had places to go and didn’t want to be waiting after Mass an extra 10 minutes.

    I just get so frustrated! I am SO tempted to say to them: I’m sorry reverence and respect for our Lord is uncomfortable for you, but IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. I am often to the point that I cannot control my anguish for the loss of outward reverence, that I will sometimes have to leave Mass due to anger or just kneel and cry.

    My mom is an Eucharist Minister and argues people are internally reverent, that you can see it in their eyes/face when she is helping distribute Communion, and she suggested I sign up, too. I think I rather hold up a sign next to the Tabernacle before Mass that says, “This is God, not a symbol. Genuflect here.” Is it considered a sin if I decide to make a sign to display at Mass? Maybe just a large button or bright T-shirt with it written on instead? Do I need official permission to campaign for the Lord? I want to educate people and so we quit procrastinating about ACTing with reverence. Actions speak louder than words. A sinner’s talk is cheap, it is how he acts that show what he is really about.

  10. iPadre says:

    Matt Robare, Bishop Schneider is coming to my parish. But, Mass from the Faldstool.

  11. Seamus says:

    Paragraph 299 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (“The altar should be built separate 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 whenever possible.”) needs to be amended.

    [It needs to be changed because that translation is WRONG.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  12. majuscule says:

    Speaking of Bishop Schneider’s visit to the US, I saw this on Facebook. I’m not sure if I can give a direct link so I’ll just cut and paste:

    Have you had the privilege to attend a Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form (The Traditional Latin Mass)? Bishop Athanasius Schneider (from Kazakstan) will be in town in Los Angeles and will visit the FSSP community of Los Angeles. He will celebrate a Pontifical High Mass at Saint Victor’s Catholic Church on Sunday June 26 at 7PM.

    Address is: 8634 Holloway Drive West Hollywood, CA 90069

  13. HealingRose says:

    With newer churches often built in untraditional styles, can mass be celebrated ad orientem when the Tabernacle is no where near the altar? What about churches that do not follow an East/West layout for either the altar and/or the Tabernacle? Does ad orientem require that by turning towards the Lord, the priest would also be facing East?

  14. zebedee says:

    I’ll be sending our parish priest one or both of these books. While I suspect that he leans a bit “liberal” on church teachings, he’s led the parish in having the church renovated which included moving the Tabernacle directly behind the altar. He’s also talked about the importance of making our church beautiful as an aid to creating a proper environment for worship. Another change is that at Sunday Mass the Our Father is now sung in Latin. So there’s a good chance that he would be open to ad-orientum worship (and there have been musings about what are some other projects that the parish could carry out – high altar anyone?). Thanks for the inspiration Father.

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