Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Entirely Fitting

Bishop Alexander Sample on "ad orientem" Worship

Also this from Cardinal Sarah,  the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship  in the June 12 edition of L’Osservatore Romano

Contrary to what has sometimes been maintained, it is in full conformity with the conciliar Constitution—indeed, it is entirely fitting—for everyone, priest and congregation, to turn together to the East during the penitential rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations, and the Eucharistic prayer, in order to express the desire to participate in the work of worship and redemption accomplished by Christ. This practice could well be established in cathedrals, where liturgical life must be exemplary (cf. §41). Of course it is understood that there are other parts of the Mass in which the priest, acting in persona Christi Capitis, enters into nuptial dialogue with the assembly. But this face-to-face has no other purpose than to lead to a tete-à-tete with God, which, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, will become a heart-to-heart. The Council thus proposes additional means to favor participation: “acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons and songs, as well as…actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes” (§30).


  1. Will you, then, celebrate ad orientem from now on Father? If not, what prevents you?

  2. This is a wonderful sermon by Bishop Sample: a clear and unequivocal explanation of ad orientem worship. Since he gave this sermon he has been appointed as the Archbishop of Portland, Oregon, and the people of this diocese are delighted with his coming. He is one of the new breed of educated and articulate younger bishops who are not fixated with the discredited baggage of the 1960s/1970s.

    He is not alone in the USA. Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa, Oklahoma., has said that he wants "to recover a more authentic Catholic worship," and has returned to the ancient custom of ad orientem, in which the celebrant at Mass does not face the people in the pews, but turns to face the altar. Bishop Slattery said this change where the priest faced the congregation had had unforeseen, negative consequences that he hoped to counter by reverting to the ad orientem tradition.

    Bishop James D. Conley, in Nebraska, in November 2014 announced that “the symbolism of facing together, and awaiting Christ, is rich, time-honored and important. Especially during Advent, as we await the coming of the Lord, facing the east together - even symbolically facing Christ together at the altar and on the crucifix - is a powerful witness to Christ’s imminent return. During the Sundays of Advent, the priests in the Cathedral of the Risen Christ will celebrate the Mass ad orientem. With the People of God, the priest will stand facing the altar, and facing the crucifix. When I celebrate midnight Mass on Christmas, I will celebrate ad orientem as well. This may take place in other parishes across the Diocese of Lincoln as well. In the ad orientem posture at Mass, the priest will not be facing away from the people. He will be with them - among them, and leading them - facing Christ, and waiting for his return.

    In February 2007 Cardinal Archbishop Schoenborn said The celebration "with the back to the people" is not a turning away from the faithful but facing in the same direction in prayer, expression of the path we walk towards God as pilgrims. Vatican II did not say anything about the direction of the celebrant. It wasn't until 1969 that the GIRM said (Nr. 262): "The main altar should be built separated from the wall, so that it can be walked around easily to make the celebration versus populum (towards the people)". The oldest direction for prayer is towards the East, towards the rising sun which symbolizes the Risen Christ. The orientation, ie the "Eastwardness" of churches is one of the "original laws" of church architecture. St. Peter's in Rome faces westward for practical reasons. therefore the Pope celebrates facing the doors, which are in the East, and because of that towards the people. It is good to remind oneself what "orientation" means.

    Thankfully, the novelties introduced in the 1960s and 1970s are now being exposed for what they are and more and more prelates are taking courageous action to restore the authenticity of Catholic worship and should be supporting their priests who wish to do so.

  3. You have my full support, Father, however you choose to implement the Council's clear instruction. You will know what to do, and when to do it.
    God Bless you, Father.

  4. Let us hope that our Hierarchy are led to listen to this & other voices of sense as the EF is NOT just tolerated!!

  5. As you know, I have celebrated every Mass (other than school Masses where all is set up before I arrive) ad orientem AS INSTRUCTED BY THE RUBRICS OF THE MISSAL. Some (though few) are very hostile to this and it affects their whole dynamic with their priest, but I have a sincere belief that it is the correct thing to do. Why do so many choose to face the people across a work bench littered with spectacles, hymn books, bulletins etc? Facing the people intrinsically makes the Mass a dialogue between priest and people rather than the whole community facing God in adoration, supplication and impetration.


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