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 proprio on 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.

Comments

Anonymous | 8/25/2009 - 2:16am
Dr. Dale:  Your comment about the Tulsa Diocese not complying with the Charter for the Protection of young people is very misleading, and even defamatory to Bishop Slattery. If you deal with those reviews, you know that paper work must be filled out and turned in by parishes. It has happened that Safe Environment training is faithfully being followed in a diocese, but that a particular parish hasn't turned in the reports. The reasons could range from the training not being done, to the change of leadership where the new pastor doesn't forward the reports, to the parish coordinator of Safe Environment having lost the reports in his/her office. Please allow a liturgical debate to be a debate without the attempt to cast aspersions on and besmirch Bishop Slattery with the "molester" insinuation. It is a dirty trick, makes no point, and is more a comment of your character than that of the Bishop of Tulsa.
Anonymous | 8/25/2009 - 1:53am
As I see it, Summorum Pontificum was really just a realization of the strong desire among Catholics for aspects of traditional worship.  Rather than decreeing the exact form of Mass that he preferred,  the Holy Father is allowing the whole Church to organically direct the Mass, within approved liturgically-sound boundaries.
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.
Anonymous | 8/24/2009 - 8:14am
I am surprized that people try to justify 'ad orientem' by saying 'one is to face the tabernacle'.  The tabernacle as we know it was invented after the 16th century Concil of Trent inthe Milan Archdiocese by the Archbishop Saint Charles Barromeo.  And his justification was not piety, but rather to prevent the Eucharist from being stolen.  Before this time, the Eucharist was stored in 'Sacrament houses' separate from any altar, or 'Eucharistic doves' hanging over the altar or in another place, or an 'aumbry', a cupboard usually in the wall of the apse, or maybe even in the sacristy.  It should be added that Pope Benedict XIV in a document named "Certiores effect" (13 November 1742) strongly advised that the Eucharist should be distributed to the laity as consecrated in the Mass they were attending - and so not from the tabernacle.  As has been noted, the altar, by its consecration (read the Ritual) is the center of the Eucharistic worship space during Mass, and from which ever side one faces the altar it is still the same altar - the "porta caeli".
Anonymous | 8/23/2009 - 11:20pm
I map googled the cathedral.  It is in a bit east/north east and west/southwest axis. When the bishop is in an AD POPULUM position he is facing EAST/northeast (orient), WHEN HE IS AD ORIENTEM HE IS NOW FACING WEST/SOUTHWEST!!!  So much for the "orientem" excuse.  As far as "liturgical east" I guess that's "make believe east".  The good bishop and his Trad enablers need to buy a compass!
Anonymous | 8/22/2009 - 10:32pm
Alas, America is slow in catching up with the news.  The article in the "Tablet" which the article in "America" quotes has been repudiated by the Archbishop of Westmnister.  Time for an apology for misrepresenting the statements of the Archbishop:



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]
[url=http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/category/religion/]Religion[/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/#comments]128 Comments[/url]
[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]


The
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’ …
[/quote]
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.”
[/quote]
Anonymous | 8/22/2009 - 10:20am
But why not this:
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.
Anonymous | 8/21/2009 - 9:40pm
Great move by the Bishop who is simply following what the head of the Catholic Church, our wonderful Pope, has indicated should be done.  May all the bishops begin to bring the Church back from many of the grave errors of the last 40 years that were not to be found anywhere in the actual documents of Vatican II.  Can we finally start to end the experimentation of the Spirit of Vatican II. 
Anonymous | 8/21/2009 - 5:29pm
Whatever is to be said about the merits of facing east, the Pope always faces the people in the celebration of the Eucharist in St. Peter's Basilica, in St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major and St. Paul Outside the Walls.  The most ancient churches in Rome have their altars facing the people, such as St. George in Velabro, Cardinal Newman's titular Church, and Santa Maria in Cosmedin.  To celebrate the Eucharist with back to the people is not papal practice in Rome. The chapels in the catacombs also have the altar facing the people. Apart from whatever other valid reasons there may be, antiquity is not a compelling reason for celebrating the Eucharist with back to the people.
Archbishop John R. Quinn
Anonymous | 8/21/2009 - 3:34am
As someone who grew up in a parish which hasn't turned around the altar (one church due to preference, the other due to architectural reasons) I'd like to bring up two further issues.
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).
Anonymous | 8/20/2009 - 2:18pm

Fr. James,

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.

Anonymous | 8/20/2009 - 11:44am
Jim McRea,
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.
Anonymous | 8/20/2009 - 11:39am
Fr. Michael,
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.
Anonymous | 8/20/2009 - 10:32am
I feel closer to Jesus at a shared meal remembrance of His sacrifice.  The pomp and facing away seems some sort of hierarchical posturing, not related to the man from Galilee.  Nowhere is it written Jesus turned his back on his disciples to bless the bread!
Anonymous | 8/20/2009 - 9:52am
Bravo Bishop Slattery!! The tide is indeed beginning to turn.
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.
 
 
Anonymous | 8/20/2009 - 6:29am
"... 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."
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?
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 10:27pm

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.

Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 9:45pm
Lets be honest.  Trads use the term ad orientem to give the appearance of legitimacy to their argument.  It's not ad orientem, very few churches are build on an east/west axis.  And stop using the Eastern Church as an example.  They are truly build on an east/west axis.  In the early church when churches were indeed on an east/west axis if the people faced west the pope faced east toward the assembly (ad populum) as at St. Peters in Rome and several of the major basilicas in Rome. Almost half of the churches were this way.
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.
 
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 9:23pm
"But whether the People of God want, or wanted, these new reforms is, I would argue, still up for debate."
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.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 8:16pm
it's amazing how polarized folks can get over this. I grew up with the dialogue Mass and have not really connected with the few Tridentine low Masses that I've attended. The first time I ever saw a priest use Liturgical East was one year during Lent - the priest led the confiteor on the steps of the sanctuary. It was extremely powerful experience of confessing our sins together. That said, the priest who feels the need to entertain is not common in my experience - some do, most that I've seen don't. The same is true for doing what you like with the priest's back turned - in my experience people act pretty comfy facing him also (about kathegardner's comment, which equates the congregation with schoolchildren, I will say nothing).
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...
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 8:09pm

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.
Peace,
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.  

Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 7:38pm
Repeated investigative experiments have consistently documented that educators who routinely face away from their students & into the blackboard hinder their students from long-term learning.  This posture prevents them from observing the students' reactions to see if they are getting the point of the instruction... Similar to the clergy & congregations...
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...
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 5:37pm
I can see that this might upset some priests who like to perform before the admiring people rather than worship with the people.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 5:36pm
I love Fr. Michael's description of the miracle that takes place at Mass.  And his statement that ''The notion is that of gathering around the altar to see, adore and worship Our Eucharistic Lord,'' is wonderful.
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.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 4:55pm
Ad Orientum is fine, although now not all altars face the east - or if they do it is because the people are in the eastern part of the church.  The geographical direction is unimportant, what is imporatant is the ancient practice of facing the tabernacle, which some parishes have exiled to a separate chapel.  Moving Jesus was upsetting to some people, although I can see the merits of the change to encourage the thinking about the Mass as a shared meal.  Jesus did not face away from his disciples at the Last Supper or in the subsequent breaking of the bread.
 
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.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 4:49pm
"One cannot presume that what seemed beneficial 35 years ago is equally so today."
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.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 4:19pm
Umberto is right. Father James is equating a bishop celebrating the Novus Ordo ad orientem with the Extraordinary Rite of the Mass. I can't make the logical leap at all and I don't understand how he confused the issues. Archbishop Nichols was clearly talking about the Extraordinary Rite. Bishop Slattery was clearly talking about the priest's position at a Novus Ordo Mass. He did not say he was offering the Extraordinary Rite. If Father James doesn't understand that one can offer the Novus Ordo facing ad orientem (and even in Latin), then something is amiss.
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.)
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 4:14pm
It's hard to imagine Jesus telling the disciples to "Take this, all of you, and eat it; this is my body, which will be given up for you" while He had his back turned to them.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 3:54pm
I think Mr. Sanchez is on target regarding the jumbled nature of this post.
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?
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 3:23pm
And if facing East still has the priest facing the congregation — then what? Make the pew potatoes do a 180? Reorient the entire sanctuary at no small cost?
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.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 3:02pm
If the priest/celebrant faces the altar & the congregation faces the altar aren't we both facing in the same direction?
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.)
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 2:51pm
The notion that those who assist at the Tridentine Mass are zombies who do not ''participate'' in the liturgy is a very old prejudice. I follow the Tridentiine Mass assiduously with my missal, as do most of my fellow Latin Mass parishioners. Our participation may surpass the ersatz participation of some people at some Novus Ordo litrugies in which noise and movement are taken as signs of devout participation.
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.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 2:31pm
Hip hip hurrah for Bishop Slattery!  I am not old enough to have memories of pre-Vatican II Church and I am not a fan or promoter of the TLM...I like the vernacular and the less rigid rubrics, thank you. But I have attended an (English) Mass with Liturgy of the Word facing the people and Liturgy of the Eucharist ad orientem. What a fantastic use of body language and psychology to have these two postures during the Mass! You really experience the nature, worship and purpose of each part. May it spread far and wide.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 2:24pm
Sorry, but I just can't agree with the "priest as MC" characterization. I'm old enough to have been an altar boy both pre- and post-Vatican II, and while the posture of the priest facing the congregation was initially surprising to me, there was also a wonderful feeling because active participation in the Mass extended beyond the altar rail and out into the entire congregation. I wouldn't trade that communal spirit for anything, but I have nothing against those who prefer the Tridentine Rite. I am concerned, however, about Bishop Slattery's comment that ad orientam is the "recover[y] [of] a more authentic Catholic worship." "More authentic" is precisely the type of characterization that will unfortunately help to create a division in the Church predicated on fault lines as to who is and is not liturgically pure.    
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 1:43pm
This post is puzzling.  The three excerpts are completely unrelated.  Is the good Father suggesting that celebrating the mass ad orientam is solely a feature of the Tridentine rite?  Celebrating the mass ad orientam is the normal form of celebrating the Novus Ordo, although it is not the practice in North America.  By contrasting the first and second excerpts the good Father seems to be suggesting that celebrating ad orientam is somehow to be identified with the Tridentine mass.
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?
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 1:40pm
I"ve never attended a pre-Vatican II style Tridentine Mass so can't speak from experience. I do know many who have derived great pleasure from the experience, sights, sounds and smells. My concern as I read this is that we are returning to the notice of  distance and inaccessible God, as if we have to aim our prayers at a God floating somewhere off to the east. Will this diminish our sense of God as within and among us, the God who is present in our real lives and relationships?
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 2:40pm
I have been a priest for more than 30 years. I have never considered myself to be the focal point of the Mass. The Altar of Sacrifice is in plain view of both the priest and the people. There they can see the gifts of bread and wine placed on the altar and understand that as they gaze a miracle takes place through the power of the Holy Spirit and the sacramental action of the Church as the priest, standing in persona Christi pronounces the words of consecration and the bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The notion is that of gathering around the altar to see, adore and worship Our Eucharistic Lord. Nothing is more humbling for a priest than to stand in the person of Christ in the midst of the assembled faithful and gaze with them upon the Sacred Host and Precious Blood. I do not understand how priests (bishops) take it upon themselves to make such changes.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 1:26pm
Kudos to the Bishop.  We are all there to worship Almighty God. It seems many of our dear priests and laity have gotten into the habit of thinking we are there to be entertained.  This might help return the focus on God rather than the priest.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 12:53pm
I have never wished for a return of the Latin Mass, but I admit to having believed for a while, now, that the priest needed to go ad orientem, and I know others like me who feel the same way.  The reason?  Too often mass seemed like the priest "performing" for us, rather than leading us in the sacrifice of the altar.  Personable priests benefited from this, rather cranky priests did not, but in all cases the focus was too much on the priest and not on the worship, itself.  And in one nearby parish, Fr. Dramatic seemed to think each mass was an audition for Hamlet.  Turn him around, and lets get back to focusing on the worship, and not the priest, that's what I think!  This will feel weird for a little while, but ultimately I think it will be a good thing.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 12:37pm
Ditto to what Tom said.
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.
Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 11:57am
Three cheers for Bishop Slattery!
Anonymous | 8/24/2009 - 2:15pm
This article may help in the understanding of ''ad orientem'' and its historical usage.  [url=http://www.sacredarchitecture.org/articles/the_eschatological_dimension_of_church_architecture/]www.sacredarchitecture.org/articles/the_eschatological_dimension_of_church_architecture/[/url]
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.
Anonymous | 8/24/2009 - 2:06pm
Several people have stated the Mass is a 'redoing' of the Last Supper and obviously Jesus faced the disciples so the celebrant at Mass should celebrate facing the people.
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.
Anonymous | 8/20/2009 - 12:07pm
Fr. Jim,
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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Anonymous | 8/19/2009 - 9:55pm
I would argue that while the "actuosam...participationem" that the Novus Ordo rite hoped to encourage could be translated as "actual participation" the sense of the Latin is of deeds, and motion. The Latin actuosam is not a frequently used word, when it is used the meaning is not interior disposition, but physical action. The root word in Latin refers to acting and dancing; the meaning is often construed to be "extravagant gesturing". The confusion, in my humble opinion, is that "actually" has come to mean in American English "truly" or "genuinely" rather than the meaning that hews more closely to the Latin from which it derives "of or pertaining to acts; exhibited in deeds, active". 
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.