Ad Orientem in Tulsa
Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has decreed that all Masses he celebrates in the cathedral will henceforth be ad orientem, facing East, back to the people, facing the high altar. (H/t to David Gibson at Commonweal.) For those of you a few years ago that thought that Pope Benedict's motu proprioon the Latin Mass, Summorum Pontificum, wouldn't amount to much, well, here we are. That's a photo of Bishop Slattery from the diocesan website.
Here's the bishop's full statement. And the salient parts:
In the last 40 years, however, this shared orientation was lost; now the priest and the people have become accustomed to facing in opposite directions. The priest faces the people while the people face the priest, even though the Eucharistic Prayer is directed to the Father and not to the people. This innovation was introduced after the Vatican Council, partly to help the people understand the liturgical action of the Mass by allowing them to see what was going on, and partly as an accommodation to contemporary culture where people who exercise authority are expected to face directly the people they serve, like a teacher sitting behind her desk. Unfortunately this change had a number of unforeseen and largely negative effects. First of all, it was a serious rupture with the Church’s ancient tradition. Secondly, it can give the appearance that the priest and the people were engaged in a conversation about God, rather than the worship of God. Thirdly, it places an inordinate importance on the personality of the celebrant by placing him on a kind of liturgical stage.
Even before his election as the successor to St. Peter, Pope Benedict has been urging us to draw upon the ancient liturgical practice of the Church to recover a more authentic Catholic worship. For that reason, I have restored the venerable ad orientem position when I celebrate Mass at the Cathedral.
Contrast that with what the newly appointed archbishop of Westminster said to the Latin Mass Society, as reported in the London Tablet editorial:
Archbishop Nichol gives no shred of encouragement to those who want the Tridentine Rite to replace the newer version. Conference participants “will wholeheartedly celebrate the Mass in each of these forms”, he instructs them bluntly, adding: “The view that the ordinary form of the Mass, in itself, is in some way deficient finds no place here.” People who hold that view are “inexorably distancing themselves from the Church”, he says. There is no scope, in other words, for “Tridentine Rite” parishes that set themselves up in the spirit of being “more Catholic than thou”. Recognising the threat of such moves, Archbishop Nichols is seeking to nip a potential schism in the bud. His firm leadership in Westminster is one that other bishops in England and Wales – and elsewhere – will welcome. The Catholic Church does not need its own version of “culture wars”, and in his message the archbishop in effect declares a priest’s personal tastes or preferences to be irrelevant.
Furthermore the distinctive feature of the Tridentine Rite, and the single most pressing reason why the bishops at Vatican II wanted it reformed, was the absence of any role for the laity. They were little more than spectators of what the celebrant was doing at the altar; in practice this meant many of them concentrated on their own private devotions. Archbishop Nichols insists it is an “established principle of good liturgy” to encourage the active participation of all those taking part in the Mass, a principle needing “careful consideration and application by every celebrant”. Implicit in this directive is the rejection of any discrimination against girls and women among those who assist at Mass, such as altar servers, readers and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. That some Tridentinist priests have banished females from the sanctuary or lectern in the name of authenticity has more than a whiff of misogyny.
Thus has Archbishop Nichols neatly answered virtually every objection to the motu proprio, and the Tridentine Rite can henceforth take its proper – and necessarily marginal – place in the life of the Catholic Church. Indeed, he has made it accessible to those who are fully committed to Vatican II. This timely display of clear leadership from the new president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales bodes well.
Will one vision of the Mass will win out? Can they co-exist? John W. O'Malley, SJ, in his latest book What Happened at Vatican II? wisely eschewed talking about the "conservatives" and "liberals" at the Council and instead used the more neutral terms "minority" and "majority" when speaking of the voting on the various documents. At the end of his book, Fr. O'Malley remarked that the minority view has never really gone away.
The central question is this: Does the liturgy conform to this norm of Sacrosanctum Concilium, promulgated by the Second Vatican Council:
Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.
In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.
If the Council had wished to imply interior disposition, there were other words at their disposal. To choose this rare word, which appears infrequently even in Papal documents and there only to refer to external action (singing) by the full assembly does not suggest to me that the Council's intentions were for the more silent and contemplative roles given the congregation in the celebration of the Tridentine liturgy.
Ad orientem tends to obscures the assembly's view - robbing them of the opportunity of using one sense to experience God's actual (active!) presence on the altar. Nor does facing one another during liturgy necessary imply a conversation "about God" is going on - monastic choirs traditionally face each other, and as a regular participant in such for more than two decades I'm fairly sure what is going on in that liturgical setting and we're not talking about God or to each other - but praying to God.
I thought that our Church taught that in the liturgy, God was present in many ways, not only in the Eucharist in the tabernacle. The priest is in persona Christi, but the Word is also God's presence. The congregation literally are the people of God who make up the Body of Christ, and the altar itself also is a sign of God's presence and a remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus. So it seems to me that no matter which way the priest faces, he is facing God, both symbolically and literally. So is the priest facing God if he has his back to the people? Yes. Is he also facing God when he faces the people? Yes.
And when it comes to God's presence, the altar is no slouch. That's why the priest venerates it at the start and ending of the Mass. But it's not only a symbol of God's presence - and of our ancestors, the martyrs upon whose bones the sacrifice is offered - it also doubles as a table around which priest and congregation share a meal. Although some may argue that the symbolism of priest and people together worshipping God may be strengthened by the ad orientem posture, the symbolism of the meal at a table seems lost, or at least weakened, if the priest's back is turned.
If the priest is, by definition, facing God no matter which way he faces, then doesn't it make sense to preserve the meal symbolism along with the symbol of priest and people worshipping God together? Not that the tabernacle isn't a special place and the Eucharistic presence of Jesus a special presence, but I remember reading that the temple veil was torn in two from top to bottom about 2,000 years ago. Emmanuel is with us, and no longer locked in the ''holy of holies.''
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However, Mass is not just a redoing of the Last Supper. It is also representing (for lack of a better term) the sacrifice on the Cross on Good Friday. So it would be incorrect to try and exactly copy the Last Supper in Mass, because there is more to Mass than the Last Supper.
I'm extremely glad that Bishop Slattery is encouraging Mass celebrated facing the same direction as the people. Brick by brick the liturgy is being renewed.
The example of the Roman basilicas, proffered without mention of the Judaic model nor the recognition of the priest and people facing in the same direction as an expression of the ''ordinary'' priesthood of the people (so that in those very basilicas it was indeed the practice for the congregation to do a 180 during the canon of the Mass!) is rather misleading.
Ad Orientem is the ancient way of celebrating Mass - still in use in the Orthodox and Eastern Rites. (behind an iconostasis no less!) In use in high Anglican churches, even close to you Father, right down at St. Mary's off of Times Square. You might go check it out.
The central question is - are we talking to the priest when we pray at Mass or all talking to and praising God together. The more the priest can take himself out of the picture, move aside and be *with* us as we pray, the better. This priest as MC routine is incredibly tiresome. I'm not offended by a priest praying in the same physical direction as I do during Mass. I'm offended by priests being surprised that gazing at their faces and listening to their ad-libbing and responding to THEM in my prayers is not the center of my liturgical prayer life.
It's really that simple.
In regards to the third excerpt, was there some statement requiring celebrants to face the people? Can the faithful not be engaged when the priest is facing opposite the congregation. The excerpt mentions education. Is this somehow related to facing the people?
However, if I were saying a rosary during the Tridentine Mass, I do not see what business it is of the diocesan thought police or what grounds it would be for forbidding the old Mass. The Tridentine Mass sactified countless saints and millions of laity and was celebrated to packed churches across America prior to its suppression in 1969.
Bishop Nichols' much lauded statement that the Novus Ordo is not to be looked down upon by those who go to the Tridentine Mass is ironic in light of the many liberal Novus Ordo Catholics who look down with Pharisaic disdain at the ''dinosaurs'' who attend the Tridentine Mass. A bit more charity and objectivity would have served Bishop Nichols better.
The current hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America and Britain often forgets that the Lord has not given the bishops the power to delete or destroy anything that saves souls. Moreover, the notion that the Church was bettered by the suppression of the Tridentine Mass flies in the face of the devastated vineyard we see in the Church today. For some reason, ecclesiastical tyrants, who feel they cannot or should not regulate extreme innovations in the Novus Ordo, on the Left, feel they have the authority to tyrannize those priests and people who very much desire the Tridentine Mass.
The Tridentine Mass may or may not remain ''marginal.'' As the victim of forty years of suppression its current marginality is not necessarily a sign of its debility. Time will tell. Until then, let us pray that intolerant liberals will recover some sense of humility and Catholicity and give full freedom to the venerable Tridentine liturgy.
The vision of us all being 'gathered around the altar of sacrifice', or perhaps of the family gathered around the table to be nourished with the head of the family presiding, better reflect, to me, the purpose of the Mass than my memories of the priest doing something magical, in whispers, with his back turned, and and the 'action' hidden from the congregation. (Although I do have a problem with the priest having his back to the tabernacle.)
One advantage in the old days of having the priest turn his back to you: you could read the paper, catch a snooze, clean your nails, play with your baby, sneak out for a smoke and a chat with your friends, and make the rosary rounds.
No one really expected you to pay ATTENTION to what was going on — except, of course, the collection.
If there ever was a vivid example of “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” these liturgical inanities are it.
If Slattery et al think that this action will somehow cause the heavens to part and all of the problems of the church vanish in one big poof of incense, they need to stop smoking whatever it is they are using.
I would add three considerations:
1. Is it not possible that both Archbishop Nichol and Bishop Slattery, as the local ordinaries who have prime responsibility for the liturgy in their dioceses, have each discerned what the relevant pastoral needs of the particular situation call for?
2. It is clear that celebrating the Eucharist "ad orientem" is fully compatible with the "novus ordo." Some indeed suggest that "ad orientem" is the presumption of the "General Instruction on the Roman Missal."
3. I agree that "active participation" is the goal of liturgical celebration. But, as Pope Benedict has stressed time and again, this means above all an entering into the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ which the liturgy re-presents. The pastoral discernment concerns what mode of celebration best fosters this? One cannot presume that what seemed beneficial 35 years ago is equally so today. Isn't that what discerning the "signs of the times" is about?
Besides, the whole 'active participation' bit has been overblown. We should all know by now that the Latin word used there is 'actuosa,' which means 'actual.' One can actually be participating even if one is not raising one's hands or singing along with badly written hymn tunes. (In fact, I would argue that those who suffer through the trite and banal or even downright heretical hymnography which characterizes so much of American Catholicism today are 'actually' participating in the sufferings of Christ Himself.)
If this is true, we must also say that we can't assume what seemed beneficial 50 or 60 years ago is equally so today, either. We have to be careful not to fall into the heresy of Angelicaism - where everything was right the way I think I remember it, or how I read in a book it was, or was told by someone who may (or may not) have been there - in the 1950s.
As I have said before, the Mass of John XXIII should be made more available, however that availabilty should include celebration in the venacular and should not exclude female lectors, eucharistic ministers or alter servers.
However, the notion is about more than being gathered around Jesus (body, blood, soul, and divinity). In an unpolished way we might say that the sense of Catholic worship in the Mass is the offering of the sacrifice of Christ to the Father.
The sense of Christ among us and God living among us (God's immanence) is absolutely indispensable. Yet, there also needs to be a greater sense (than there is presently) of an outward orientation to the Father, who is utterly transcendent and outside us. Both the immanence and transcendence are held together in the ad orientem position:
We turn toward the Father to offer the sacrifice of Christ to Him, just as Jesus offered himself on the Cross to the Father. In turn, after offering this worship to the Father, Christ's sacrifice, his living presence among us is given to us as food.
How can a bishop do take it upon himself to make these changes, Father Michael asks. Actually, if you read the rubrics of Paul VI's Mass they actually assume that the priest and the people are facing the same direction: i.e. it was taken for granted in the '69 Missal that the ad orientem posture was normative.
The bishop has every right to offer Mass in this posture. The last three popes have never stopped offering daily Mass in the ad orientem posture. Actually, any priest can offer Mass in the ad orientem posture.
The hard work of many liturgical historians, not least of which is the eminent Jesuit, Josef Jungman, is that the ad orientem posture is the norm for the 2000 year history of the Church. Ad orientem is the normative posture in both the Eastern and Western churches without distinction. This is hardly a medieval addition accretion.
Not to mention that it is difficult for the elderly & hard of hearing to figure out the particular stage in the celebration that the back-to-the-congregation presider is at, since the length of various stages differs depending on who is doing the presiding... Some priests can do an entire Sunday Mass is 40 minutes, while others can take 60-75 minutes...
Dear Mr. Sanchez:
No, I'm not equating anything, actually. Thanks to some very good liturgy professors in theology, I'm fully aware that the "Novus Ordo" Rite, the "Latin Mass," the "Tridentine Mass," the "Mass of John XXIII," the "Pre-Vatican II Mass," the "Vatican II Mass," the 'English Mass,' 'Mass in the vernacular,' etc., are complicated terms referring to specific rites that are often conflated, confused and used inaccurately.
What I am saying is that Summorum Pontificum has encouraged certain new kinds of developments--mostly an encouragement to use older forms rather than the Mass that is now most familiar to most parishioners--in the vernacular, with the priest facing the people, which is precisely the opposite of what many (mainly liberal) commentators said at the time. That's what I meant by it referring to predictions of the motu proprio not "amounting to much." No matter what you think of it, it would be hard to imagine Bishop Slattery's recent decision without that motu proprio.
Dear Fr. Imbelli,
Yes, that's a good point about reading the 'signs of the times.' But whether the People of God want, or wanted, these new reforms is, I would argue, still up for debate.
James Martin, SJ
PS I would also ask posters to keep their ad homimen arguments to a minimum. I've already deleted several (not about me, but about priests, bishops, cardinals, popes and posters who like or dislike certain kinds of Masses, and why they like or dislike them). Remember Ignatius's Presupposition.
And I do agree with Terry that the priest and people can face the same direction if their gaze converge on the sacrifice, or as Ratzinger proposes in his book facing a crucifix on the altar. The monks at Benedictine College have a wonderful suspended crucifix that bears two corpuses: one that the priest faces and one that the people do. I say it's time to turn to Christ and not worry so much about what the priest is doing...
Well, for that matter, whether the People of God wanted the reforms of the 1970's is still up for debate, too. Reform happens. Why not let's go with this a little bit and see how it works, rather than getting all worked up about it? It's not like they're suddenly taking away the guitars and submitting us to exclusive organ music.
I sure do wish someone would "reform" the "sign of peace." Move it to the start or mass or - better yet - do away with it altogether. THERE is a "reform" that many of the poeple of God neither wanted not want. Let's be fair. I've had to shake hands when I didn't want to for 40 years. You priests can face east for a little while.
Since most RC churches today are built facing everywhere but east then why the obsession w/ him facing away from the assembly? I find it specious when I hear that we can ''better'' offer the sacrifice to God this way. Really? In the ad populum posture aren't both the priest and assembly facing the Eucharist on the altar and offering it to God? This is full participation. They are facing the Eucharist together. How can the assembly participate when facing the rear end of the priest? It's simply a smokescreen to drag us back. I find those priests and bishops who insist on ad orientem are actually quite full of themselves, and they feel they are the only important characters in worship. In my opinion the laity who follow this nonsense are gullible w/ inferiority complexes. You want ad orientem, go to a TLM and leave this established tradition of ad populum (dating back to early Christian times) in the present Mass alone. Bravo to Archbishop Nichols, I guess that's why you're the archbishop of England (and Wales) and Slattery a bishop in a small diocese. I feel sorry for those parishoners. No money in the basket for that ego maniac. And I hope you read this Slattery.
According to the USCCB, the diocese of Tulsa was found to be not compliant with Article 12, "not providing safe environment training to children" in the Annual Review Of Child Safety. There were only three other non-compliant dioceses, they were in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Lansing, Michigan and the Archdiocese of San Francisco, but those three had remedied those issues by December 19, 2008, Tulsa had not. What a sin of omission. Ad orientem won't do the bishop any good w/ that millstone around his neck.
I'm neither a liturgist nor a theologian by any means. I'm just a stupid Catholic high school graduate. So excuse me if I sound ignorant when I ask the following questions. If as Catholics we believe that the priest, who presides at the Eucharist, transforms/consecrates the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, then isn't the priest including the assembly actually accomplishing the same thing when the presider is facing the assembly and the assembly is facing the presider during the Liturgy of the Eucharist? Shouldn't the bread and wine which is now Jesus, be the center of our attention, instead of a crucifix hanging on a wall? Are not the presider and assembly facing God at the same time during the consecration when the priest and assembly are both facing each other?
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is first and foremost a re-presentation of the sacrifice on Calvary. It is not a communal meal or reenactment of the last supper. The council doucments and the Roman Missal both presuppose an ad orientem posture.
With all due respect, this is not a case of bishops or priests making changes. Ad orientem has always remained a valid and licit form of celebrating the liturgy. Nothing in Vatican II proscribed ad orientem, and far from being a change, it is an orientation that is part of our long Catholic tradition.
If you read Joseph Ratzinger's book Spirit of the Liturgy you will see that a literal facing towards the east is not necessary, but rather by facing towards the tabernacle the priest and laity together face in the direction of the Christ, who is the Rising Sun. It is a symbolic directional orientation and one with a richness of theological implication. The Eucharist is the eschatological force drawing all of creation towards the final redemption when Christ returns, and by together facing the tabernacle and symbolically facing east, we together anticipate that return as we adore Christ in our spiritual worship.
You can see from the comments that I wasn't the only one who was confused, so please forgive my dullness. Relating a story about a bishop choosing to perform masses ad Orientam to commentary about another bishop related to the Tridentine mass (not the Motu Propio) could be seen to create some confusion.
In fact, the third post creates even more confusion by alleging that a norm from Sacrosanctum Concilium is violated by a celebrant facing the East.
It causes one to suspect that the issue is already decided for you, and perhaps for your audience. One might think that it is more about altering power structures behind the euphemistic screen of 'full and active participation'.
I think that one can genuinely debate how facing the people or facing away from the people can impact the celebration of the mass. But it is hard not to see the irony in those who would lower the power distance between people and hierarchy resorting to questionable legalistic attempts at gumming up the wheels of change in the Church. But I don't want to jump to any conclusions.
The first is the importance of architecture, some churches are built in a way that turning the altar around simply doesn't work, and some are built in a way where facing the people is the only logical choice.
The second point is the amount of time the priest actually has its back towards the people during ad orientem. If you take the one hour sunday mass as the norm, my guess would be somewhere between 20-20 minutes. These are even further interrupted for certain prayers or acclamations where the priest turns around to face the congregation.
So the discussion shouldn't be whether the priest has his back to the people during mass, the discussion should be whether the priest has his back to the people during the eucharistic prayer (and the Our Father).
Archbishop John R. Quinn
During the Mass of the Catechumens, priest and people face the same direction, because he is worshiping with them. During the Readings, everyone faces the Lector. Then, after the celebrant comes forward to receive the Offerings, he takes them to the far side of the altar and conducts the Mass of the Faithful facing the people, because he is now re-enacting the Last Supper.
IOW, it seems to me that both orientations make excellent liturgical points, so why not make the best and appropriate use of each? One leading the multitude toward God by being at their head; the other facing the multitude, teaching them and showing them.
One reader suggested that when the priest faced the altar from the people-side the congregation was snoozing, reading the paper, or doing their nails. How stupid the reader supposed those old pastors were I don't know, let alone the fellow congregants. There were none at my parish. But supposing they existed, what happened to them when the priest started facing them? Perhaps now they no longer attend.
As far as the Latin goes, I can follow the Latin better when I am in a country that does not speak English or German. But I have been in a basilica where the Mass was conducted in ancient and traditional Malayalam and there is nothing that can compare for musical beauty.
Westminster diocese attacks Tablet for stoking up 'culture wars' over Latin Mass
By [url=http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/author/damianthompson/]Damian Thompson[/url]
Last updated: August 21st, 2009
[url=http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100007183/westminster-diocese-attacks-tablet-for-stoking-up-culture-wars-over-latin-mass/#postComment]Comment on this article[/url]
Tablet has been sternly corrected by Bishop Alan Hopes, auxiliary of
Westminster diocese, for an editorial a couple of weeks ago in which it
suggested that Archbishop Vincent Nichols was trying to control
supporters of the traditional Latin Mass in order to relegate them to a
“necessarily marginal” place.
[url=http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/willheaven/100005972/the-tablets-juvenile-editorial-is-an-insult-to-archbishop-nichols/]As Will Heaven said at the time[/url],
the Tablet grossly misrepresented the Archbishop’s message to a
training conference for priests learning to say the older form of the
Roman Rite. And now Bishop Hopes has responded on his boss’s behalf, in
a letter published in this week’s issue. He writes:
[quote][The Archbishop] is not ‘seeking to nip potential schism
in the bud’ or suggesting that the place of the Tridentine Rite is
‘necessarily marginal’ …
And, regarding the Tablet’s implication that the Archbishop shares
its view that worshippers at the older Mass do not participate:
[quote]… ‘active participation’ has always been understood to
be internal and external. To reduce participation to solely external
signs is both a simplification and a misguided attack in the ‘culture
wars’ you seek to avoid.”
In the 1970s, a lot of people had some terrible ideas about the direction Catholic liturgy should take. The worst of them have fallen by the wayside because Catholics weren't interested in them. Now, people are staying within the bounds of tradition, so things can only get so bad. And, we'll see what people like. If they aren't interested in Ad Orientem mass, it'll be a passing fad.