Brick By Brick – Altar By Altar: Turning again to the liturgical East again

In my email today I had more than one note about pastors shifting their sanctuaries to ad orientem worship.

One note said:

Starting this week, our Table altar is going into storage and all Masses at our parish will be ad orientem (OF).

I really want to publish the names and places, but I am worried that these priests will be persecuted if their decisions are widely known.

Support your good priests in their sound decisions, especially if they are contemplating shifting to ad orientem worship.

Card. Sarah was surely right in his talk in London last year.   Priests should teach and teach and teach some more, and then – where possible – move to ad orientem worship.  And where it isn’t possible, because the layout of the sanctuary, there’s nothing wrong with consulting an architect to see what might be done.


Just I have have received notes about parishes going ad orientem, I’ve also noticed more discussions of our “post-fact” or “post-truth” world.

Can ad orientem worship help to combat the “post-fact”, “post-truth” craze in the Church and, therefore, wider society?   Yes, I think so.  This is why libs hate ad orientem  so much, and why the fear it and the Extraordinary Form.

The other day I saw at one of my favorite blogs, A Clerk of Oxforda great post citing “Chaucer’s brilliant, dizzying, disturbing poem The House of Fame, and its vision of what we have recently started calling a ‘post-truth’ world – in which stories spread and circulate regardless of whether they are true or not.”  Under that post, the writer mentions Piers Plowman:

In the opening scenes of Piers Plowman, when the dreamer falls asleep on the Malvern Hills, the very first thing he sees in his dream is a tower on a hill, standing in the east against the sun. It soars high above the ‘fair field of folk’ which is this world, where all classes of people are busily engaged in ‘working and wandering’. That tower, [in the East] the dreamer later learns, is the dwelling-place of Truth. The figure of Holy Church explains to him that Truth is nothing less than God: father, creator, provider of all good things in the world. The more human beings are like Truth, upright and honest in all their dealings, the more they are like God and his most trustworthy of treasures:

‘Whan alle tresors arn tried,’ quod she, ‘Treuthe is the beste.
I do it on Deus caritas to deme the sothe;
It is as dereworthe a drury as deere God hymselven.
Who is trewe of his tonge and telleth noon oother,
And dooth the werkes therwith and wilneth no man ille,
He is a god by the Gospel, agrounde and olofte,
And ylik to Oure Lord, by Seint Lukes wordes.’

‘When all treasures are tried,’ said she, ‘Truth is the best.
I appeal to [the text] ‘God is Love’ to prove the truth;
It is as precious a love-gift as dear God himself.
Whoever is true of his tongue and says nothing else,
And acts accordingly and wishes no man ill,
He is god-like, says the Gospel, on earth and in heaven,
And the image of Our Lord, by St Luke’s words.’

Christians have long believe that when Christ comes, He will come from the East.   We need a clear liturgical East in our places of worship as we raise our prayers and petitions to the Lord.

Here are a couple of good resources.





About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    In what an European (and WDTPRS) commentator termed (in another blog) a “bombshell”, the Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne celebrated the OF Mass of Candlemas this year ad orientem at the high altar of historic Cologne Cathedral, with a couple of bishops as concelebrants. The Mass was chanted (largely) in German, but with one of the finest choirs in Europe singing the ordinary of the Mass in a Latin setting. Showed the opposite extreme (from the more usual examples) on the OF spectrum (with no altar girls or EMHCs, etc). This quite exemplary OF Mass can be viewed in its entirety (here). The availability of some beautiful OF Mass screenshots (maybe rivaling the usual beautiful EF Mass screenshots) is apparent.

  2. PTK_70 says:

    “And where it isn’t possible, because the layout of the sanctuary, there’s nothing wrong with consulting an architect to see what might be done.” This puts in mind something I heard as a young officer: we can put a man on the moon, we should be able to [insert project or task here].

    Would our genial host be willing to give a shout out to the state, region or country wherein these hopeful changes have occurred?

  3. While I am in complete, full, 1000% agreement with ad orientem, I find the first note posted a rather heavy-handed approach: “Starting this week, our Table altar is going into storage and all Masses at our parish will be ad orientem (OF).”

    Where’s the catechesis that would persuade the people in the pews that ad orientem worship is THE best approach to worship? There’s a lot of folks, especially young people, who would be very open to ad orientem worship, but an unannounced, uncatechized “I’m doing what I want because I want it and I know it’s right” fits right into the caricature of everything that’s wrong with “the old church.”

    Perhaps a more gentle, pastoral approach would prove more appealing. For example:
    1) some “pre-catechesis” in the bulletin raising the fundamental issues during the 2 months before the end of the ecclesiastical year;
    2) some “catechesis” in a few homilies during the last few weeks before the end of the ecclesiastical year;
    3) introducing it at all Masses during Advent (I seem to recall some dioceses doing this) and, after the secular New Year, inviting some feedback from the folks in the pews about the experience. (I’m willing to bet, there will be many positive responses.)

    Some may recall how “guitar” Masses were foisted on the people in the pews. It all started with an “experiment” at one Mass that suddenly became normative at all Masses, except for the 6:00 a.m. Mass because guitarists need their sleep!

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