“Ad orientem” worship: help against clericalism

“[A] common turning to the east during the Eucharistic Prayer remains essential. This is not a case of something accidental, but of what is essential. Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord. It is not now a question of dialogue but of common worship, of setting off toward the One who is to come. What corresponds with the reality of what is happening is not the closed circle but the common movement forward, expressed in a common direction for prayer.”

Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Ratzinger  US HERE – UK HERE

Ad orientem worship has nothing to do with nostalgia, or with archeologizing, or a diminution of the role of laity, the importance of their presence, at the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass.

We have to “learn a new kind of seeing”, as Ratzinger said in Spirit of the Liturgy, seeking a new kind of seeing.  But in so seeking, we must avoid the disaster of sudden imposition, which was part (not all) of the problem of the errant reforms after the Council.

I am reminded Richard of St. Victor in his work on contemplation: “Love is the eye and to love is to see”, or more precisely “where your is love is, there is your eye” – Ubi amor ibi oculus – Benjamin minor 13 – sometimes cites as “Amor oculus est, et amare videre est.”

These days there is a massive effort of indirection to distract the Catholic lay faithful, who increasingly see what their power is, from recognizing the problem of active homosexuals in the priesthood. Instead, shaking their bunch of keys with one hand and pointing in the other while shouting, “Look! A squirrel!”, they are trying to impose “clericalism” as the ultra-problem.

For a moment let’s consider the negative sort of clericalism that is part of the The Present Crisis. There is a good kind of clericalism, in a healthy clerical identity. Let’s admit there is a negative clericalism. Surely it rose, in its present form, with constant focus on the priest who is forced by versus populum celebration to become the center of attention. The older form of Holy Mass kept the priest under tight control and made sure that he, as a person, wasn’t the focus.

Versus populum turning of Mass creates an expectation for the priest to perform and to become the reference point, who hectors (with the help of amplification) into a
“self-enclosed circle” as Joseph Ratzinger describes, but with the priest at the center, not so much as alter Christus but as “Just Call Me Bob”, who just happens to dress up in robes and sit facing the people in a finer chair than Caesar ever had.

Libs and their liturgists don’t want any of this to get out and about on, you know – the internet – to the rank and file, to Joe and Mary Bagodonuts in the pews.  They know that, once it registers and catches on, it will grow.

There was an article in the Fishwrap a few days ago, in which the contributors attacked the late Bishop Morlino and the present Bishop of Gallup, James Wall.  That was an attempt to bully bishops and scare them into not considering ad orientem worship, or to resist it.  It is on the rise.  They want bishops to know who’s really in charge and, if they get involved with “turning eastward”, then the Fishwrap will target them.

I say, ¡Hagan lío! and then ban Fishwrap from diocesan parishes and schools.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. RK3 says:

    Ad orientem celebration of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is also good for another reason which some may be unaware of.

    There is a harassment tactic that is somewhat unknown but may to be more common than most people realize. In the business world, this tactic is known as “mobbing”, group stalking, or coordinated stalking. It can cause serious harm to the targeted/stalked/mobbed person.

    This tactic is also apparently used by certain government bureaus and/or departments; those that engage in the tactic are almost always plain-clothed government employees. One goal of the tactic is to coerce the targeted person into getting angry, frustrated, depressed, otherwise emotionally distressed, or to act in whatever way the government bureau or department desires. It is a form of control, but it is a very evil form of control.

    Persons attempting to mob or stalk a priest may use annoying gestures, noises, or movements during the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in attempt to provoke the priest or to “nudge” the priest to act according to the way the parishioners want him to.

    Let me give you an example of how this may be used: a priest on the Left coast may preach regularly against homosexuality, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and the Leftist political party. A group of angry libs may get together and decide to try to “mob” the priest on a regular basis in attempt to either get him to commit a crime through being provoked to anger, to force him out of that parish, to force him out of the priesthood, or whatever other intended response the mobbers may desire.

    Regular use of annoying gestures, movements, or noises during the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass might be one tactic they use to mob/coordinate stalking. While such actions sound harmless, over a long period of time regular use of those actions by the mobbers may wear out, frustrate, or anger the targeted priest.

    One way to counter mobbing is ad orientem worship. Of course, the main reason for worshipping ad orientem is because one when worships God, one should face in the direction where God is- in the tabernacle. But, ad orientem worship may also help a priest to avoid being visually provoked by those who may try to mob, harass, stalk, etc.

  2. Ms. M-S says:

    Five hundred years, fifty years aren’t too long from the perspective of salvation history. One of the great tides of the Reformation and of Vatican Two (Vatican Too, if you like) was to wash away that identity of the priest during Mass as Alter Christus and to replace it with one of First Among Equals. The Eucharist becomes a gathering to give thanks as we sing from We Give Thanks and listen to the priest remind us and God that we are a thankful people. Sadly, in many places, the Mass reminds one of a quasi-religious gathering at a Thanksgiving table where grateful family and friends may hold hands and, facing inward, call out their individual concerns and bits of gratitude. If a priest is present, he may well be asked to lead the prayers, but the circle around the table know that this is a polite formality because they can do it for themselves, among themselves. The real point is the gathering of the family, isn’t it?
    Last weekend we attended a NO Mass in Great Falls, Virginia, where the priest, by the simple act of celebrating the Mass ad orientem, brushed aside a major abuse and reoriented the congregation in proper worship. May God bless this priest and increase his numbers. They’re heroes in salvation history.

  3. Toan says:

    During Mass, I’ve long felt a certain closeness to the priest when he celebrates ad orientem. He’s facing the direction I’m facing, therefore I share more in common with him than when he’s facing me.

  4. William says:

    When I went to my first TLM — At Holy Trinity German parish in Boston during the indult — I remember thinking that the priest had a more glorified position in one sense, in a sense that would lead young men to want to become priests, a heavenly sense. Yet in another sense, the priest’s position was lowered, for he was another mere sinner, leading the worship, but not the star of the show. So he was raised an lowered at the same time. As a priest, an alter Christus, he increased; but as a man, a mere moral, a sinner, he decreased.

  5. oledocfarmer says:

    We’re coming up on a good 50+ years of crazy. And nothing’s crazier than the priest offering Holy Mass to Almighty God with his back turned to….Almighty God.

    St. Josemaria used to say, “piety has its good manners.” Turning the back to I AM WHO AM ain’t good manners.

    Let’s a stop to this puerile nonsense tout de suite. Bishops, you know what must be done!

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