More on liberal liturgists’ attacks on “ad orientem” worship, bishops and priests who support it

Yesterday, I commented on the smarmy piece at Fishwrap against ad orientem worship and against Bp. Morlino and Bp. Wall.

“An another thing!”, as the saying goes.

Consider this.

If your life is centered on Christ, you would more than likely be offended to see a priest turn his back to Him.

If, on the other hand, you are centered on yourself, you would be offended to see a priest turn his back to you.

Another point.

Say there was a Mass offered for the intention of surviving WWII veterans.  At such a Mass a WWII vet in a wheelchair is placed in the sanctuary, perhaps – for the sake of the argument mind you – near the tabernacle.  The average immanentism-lite congregation of your modern parish would probably be outraged were the priest to turn his back to the old warrior in the wheelchair, while not giving a second thought of the slight to Christ in the tabernacle.


This has to be dealt with.

The great theologian and liturgist Klaus Gamber commented that of all the things perpetrated in the name of the Council, the most damaging was the turning about of altars, the shifting of Mass versus populum.

Card. Sarah was 100% right – and within his rights – to invite priests to return to ad orientem worship.

Of course this should be done with catechesis, explanations.  The preparation doesn’t have to be exaggerated, but the terrain has to be prepared.   There will always be a few who squawk, but they are more than likely the sort of person who is happy only when she is unhappy.


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  1. Sandy says:

    The whole idea of not turning your back on the Lord is just one reason I cringe at the “sign of peace”. I never turn my back to the altar, where the Jesus is now waiting for us to receive Him, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. (I keep a low profile during the sign of peace as much as I am able in any way.) Once at Sunday Mass, a man was with his family behind us (he is not a Catholic, but the rest of the family is). He said quite loudly to his altar server son at the sign of peace, “They never turn around.” It was hurtful and I explained to the wife after Mass, with tears in my eyes, that I don’t turn my back on Jesus after the intimate moments with Him at the Consecration. She knew what was said by her husband and was shocked. I hope it was a teaching moment for someone, and offered it up for that intention.

  2. veritas vincit says:

    Of all the complaints that traditionalist Catholics have about the celebration of the Norvus Ordo Mass, none make as much sense to me as the priest facing the people instead of ad orientem. As a new Catholic convert, it struck me as odd that the priest would be praying to the Lord while facing the congregation. I remember one priest that seemed to have his gaze fixed on a spot above our heads, as though that was where Our Lord was. Everyone on the congregation facing the same direction while the priest prays, makes so much more intuitive sense.

  3. Lurker 59 says:

    “This has to be dealt with” – Fr. Z

    Yes absolutely. It is also much deeper as turning the altars around also turned the eyes and hearts of the people around and inward upon themselves. The Mass can be structured, and is commonly so structured, that it places a spotlight upon people, making them feel as if they were the center of attention and they will take real affront and umbridge if they are not given “their due”. They see it as a place where they get recognition and honor rather than a place where they serve. The classic example is what happens if a priest were to attempt to simply reduce the number of EMHC.

    But this inward-turning also can seep into the average pew sitter. Being concerned about how others will perceive them, being concerned about perceiving others. thinking that one has a vital roll in the Mass instead of understanding that it is the Mass that has a vital roll in oneself, thinking Mass is ruined if father doesn’t give a good homily, there is a million ways in which one is tempted to focus on themselves rather than Christ.

    I submit that the simple act of the priest constantly looking at the people and offering the Sacrifice of the Altar towards the people promotes and encourages the people to follow his gaze and look at themselves as the center rather than Christ being the center.

  4. Simon_GNR says:

    I don’t object to versus populum celebrations, though I would prefer ad orientem. The problem of turning one’s back on the Lord (in the tabernacle) can be avoided in large churches and cathedrals by having the tabernacle containing the reserved Blessed Sacrament in a separate side chapel suitable for the purpose. At Westminster Cathedral, and St Marie’s Cathedral in Sheffield (England) this arrangement works well. [Here’s the problem. The image of “turning back to the people” has long been exposed as a canard. The idea of turning one’s back to the tabernacle is also not really the problem. Yes, that’s a problem, but there’s a bigger issue. The bigger issue is facing “liturgical East”. That’s the real key.]

    The trouble is that most churches don’t have such a side chapel and then you have the problem of the celebrant having his back turned to the Lord in the tabernacle. My solution: allow – but don’t mandate – versus populum celebration where the reserved Blessed Sacrament is in a separate side chapel, but do not permit it otherwise. Turning one’s back on the Lord does not look good.

    No doubt the Church had good reasons for placing the tabernacle behind the centre of the high altar, but its being there tends to conflict with the simple fact that the reserved Blessed Sacrament has NO PART to play in the Mass. The celebrating priest is bringing into existence the Body and Blood of the Lord by the miracle of transubstantiation: if the Holy Body of Christ is already there present on the altar (or just behind it) , one might ask why there is a need to consecrate more bread.

    Most celebrants use (I could perhaps say “misuse”) the reserved Blessed Sacrament by using it as a ready-made supply of consecrated hosts simply, it seems, because no-one can be bothered to make a good estimate of the number of communicants there will be and so how many consecrated hosts will be needed at a particular mass. The reserved Blessed Sacrament is there for two purposes only: (i) holy communion outside of Mass – viatecum for the sick and at the Good Friday liturgy, for example and (ii) Eucharistic adoration. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (85) states:

    “It is most desirable that the faithful… receive the Lord’s Body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass…” Rarely have I seen a celebrant make any attempt to do what the GIRM states is “most desirable”.

  5. yychay says:

    sigh. the primary essence of the the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the Holy Sacrifice, not the meal aspect. The Church has always mandated that people must hear Mass every Sunday but they only need to receive Communion once a year at minimum (Easter Duty). This proves that receiving communion for the Faithful is not an essential aspect of the Mass, the SACRIFICE is. It is desirable to have as many Masses as possible with the number of priests because the Holy Sacrifice is a meritorious act of adoration, reparation, thanksgiving and supplication, whether the Sanctissimum is reserved or not is totally not relevant because it is reserved for the purpose of Communion, and does not “sacrifice itself”; does not fulfil the essential aspect of the Holy Sacrifice. The reason why the Sanctissimum was moved to the High Altar instead of a Side Altar (no matter how grandiose the furnishing around that tabernacle) was to establish the centrality of the REAL PRESENCE of the Flesh of God, against the Calvinist heresy of symbolic Presence and against the Lutheran heresy that the Real Presence was only temporary for the duration of the service. After Protestantism has been eradicated from the earth, then we can safely restore the old arrangements of Side Chapel or Side Altar Tabernacle.

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