Friday, August 5, 2016

More on Facing Ad Orientem

So the dust has settled somewhat following Cardinal Sarah's controversial, but really not-so controversial, comments on the Sacrifice of the Mass being celebrated ad oreintum, that is towards liturgical East facing the altar. There was an interesting thread I had been following over at Catholic Answers, and after enough time had passed, I finally decided to jump in after reading some confusing statements from an European priest and another person.

The discussion was in regards to Cardinal Nichols comments on what cardinal Sarah had said. In short, he formally deterred his priests from saying the Ordinary Form (OF) of the Mass ad orientem. This of course, is something that the Church has already spoken about, and proved that the Church does not necessarily favor one (ad orientem or versus populum) over the other. In the thread I replied to, the charge was made that the Church now favors worship facing the people. This of course couldn't be further from the truth, as seen in the link above. My reply follows after the jump, and I'll probably make this into an article at some point, but for now, I'll just post my direct comments on the issue, which is alos supported by various quotes from Doctors of the Church who talk about the use of ad orientem during the Holy Mass is actually an apostolic tradition.

I've found this entire exchange most fascinating. Father and Otjm have had some good points. Confiteor Deo and Gavin had some good point as well. Overall, I see that latter's rebuttals to be much more compelling. There seems to be, at points, a talking past each other in this thread. But I am in full agreement with many of the points Gavin has made recently. [One of those points being:  Many liturgists consider celebrating Mass ad orientem essential to the rites. Cardinal Ratzinger made precisely this point in The Spirit of the Liturgy:
"Not surprisingly, people try to reduce this newly created role by assigning all kinds of liturgical functions to different individuals and entrusting the "creative" planning of the liturgy to groups of people who like to, and are supposed to, "make their own contribution." Less and less is God in the picture. More and more important is what is done by the human beings who meet here and do not like to subject themselves to a "pre-determined pattern.
"On the other hand, 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 towards 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."]
Now, if I may be allowed to make some comments on what I've seen on the last couple pages here...

First, I usually attend the OF every Sunday (and the past month and a half during the week when I was off work), and at no point does our priest turn ad orientem. I also attend the EF (Extraordinary Form) once in a while after being at a parish for two years that offered it every Sunday (along with 2 Spanish Masses and 2 English Masses each Sunday); and I attend the Byzantine Divine Liturgy at the very least once monthly, most often during the weekdays as the nearby Ruthenian Catholic parish often celebrates the Divine Liturgy on major and simple feasts, as well as some regular weeknights

That being said, I would love to see some of our Eastern Catholic brethren give their thoughts on this discussion. Every Eastern Catholic parish I've been to has celebrated the Mass, the Divine Liturgy, facing towards the altar in a common direction. Especially in the Byzantine Rite, I've noticed how important this is, especially when the priest comes out at the end of the Divine Liturgy to make the ambon prayer.

I am curious, are they less enlightened then we Latin Catholics? Despite having our liturgies overwhelmingly face towards the altar along with the East for centuries (notwithstanding the examples given by Otjm), I've heard Latin Catholic say, and I quote "That's not our tradition anymore." As if! Like Gavin, I don't mind the OF at all, as the issue of Mass being said ad orientem isn't simply EF vs. OF. However, if the Latin Catholic Church has been so greatly blessed by the many changes (positive and negative) that have come with versus populum liturgy... where does that leave our Eastern Catholic brethren? They overwhelmingly haven't turned around. Are they in the liturgical backwaters since they haven't embraced the openness of the Mass being offered facing the people? Are the people at these parishes not participating enough? Because by and large, be it the Ukrainian or Syro-Malabar (or other) Catholic Churches, these parishes by and large "participate" much more actively than nearly any Latin Catholic parish I've been to.

Otjm, you said "I am watching the Liturgy of the Eucharist; except that now I can actually see the Liturgy; before (with the exception of being an altar boy in the 50's and 60's, and thus situated to see a bit more than those in the pews) I could only see the priest's back and his elbows move."

Whenever I attend Divine Liturgy at a particular Church of the Byzantine Rite, rarely can I see what is going on in great detail, due to the iconostasis. This is not a problem for me. Heck, I can't even see the priest himself most the time, let alone his "back and his elbows"! Why was this a problem for you "before"? I know when I attend the Divine Liturgy (in any Church) when the consecration takes place. I don't need to see it to be united to our Lord. If I can't see, I make a profound bow as we are supposed to when I hear those beautiful words. I would like to know what the Byzantines, Syrians, et al. are missing out on. The East and West are one Body. Are Eastern Catholics missing out on something profound by not turning away from the East? And I'm not implying that anyone has said that thus far, by any means. I just want to know.

Father, you said "When I celebrate Mass in Saint Peter's, for example, I don't give even a thought to which direction I am facing or even less which way is facing East. It has ZERO significance to me. I am focused on offering the Holy Sacrifice."

To which Gavin replied "This does not mean it wasn't meaningful to the early Christians. They weren't oblivious to the omnipresence of God anymore than you are, and so to label their fixation on facing East during prayer as a theological incongruity is a little demeaning. One could make an argument against the sacraments themselves by the simple acknowledgement of God's omnipotence, in that case. It sounds like you think the orientation of the assembly is accidental to the celebration. That seems like the essence of your argument.

But some don't agree that it is merely accidental. Many liturgists consider it essential to the rites...

And it was essential to the early Church. Says St. John Damascene:

"It is not without reason or by chance that we worship towards the East... So, then, in expectation of His coming we worship towards the East. But this tradition of the apostles is unwritten. For much that has been handed down to us by tradition is unwritten."

St. John Damascene
Gavin makes a very good point here, and the words of St. John Damascene need to be read again.  I believe it is unfortunate, Father, that facing East has zero significance for you. Not even a little? At one time, as a layman, it had no significance for me earlier. It does now, once I understood the reasoning and tradition behind it. Look at what St. John says in that last paragraph above: "in expectation of His coming we worship towards the East. But this tradition of the apostles is unwritten. For much that has been handed down to us by tradition is unwritten."

That seems very significant to me, Cardinal Sarah, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and many others in the Catholic Church, both East and West. If this is an apostolic tradition, and I see no reason to NOT take the Church Fathers at their word, it's something that should not be so easily dismissed, especially if it would only be at certain points of the Mass (not the entirety), just as Cardinal Sarah had suggested.

Also, Otjm, was this quote in any way implying that understanding why we face East during the sacrifice of the Mass is difficult to understand?:

"The other thing is that it creates a cheap stage theatric...

" 'The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.' "

What exactly is the "cheap stage theatric" being spoken of here? I didn't understand why we were facing East at the first EF Mass I went to. But then it was explained to me, in a very easy way. Much in the same manner St. John described it:

"Since, therefore, God is spiritual light, and Christ is called in the Scriptures Sun of Righteousness and Dayspring, the East is the direction that must be assigned to His worship... And when He was received again into Heaven He was borne towards the East, and thus His apostles worship Him, and thus He will come again in the way in which they beheld Him going towards Heaven."

Is that not "noble simplicity"? That we face East because the Apostles told us to expect Christ and the Apostles told us He will come from the East? Is that not clear? Did those two sentences entail "much explanation"? I think not.

Gavin had said, "What matters, in the end, is that the priest consecrates the sacred species, and the faithful receive our Lord in faith. Whether I'm seeing the priest's back or his face, what matters for me is that all of us present are oriented toward the Lord who comes."

To which Father replied, "Personally, as a priest, such a formulation is deeply troubling. This reduces the synaxis of the liturgical assembly to a largely passive role. As the priest, I preside at the Mass and I am the one to pronounce the institution narrative in virtue of the ontological character derived from the sacrament of order but everything must be done to emphasise that the Mass is the action of the whole Church and never an action personal to the priest.

"The community is the liturgical assembly together with me, as Presider, with each doing what is proper to them -- and only what is proper to them -- but without in any way diminishing what is proper to them."

I don't understand why Gavin's formulation is in any way troubling. And with all due respect, Father, I find your bolded portions a bit troubling. Nowhere in the GIRM is the priest called the "presider". Instead, he is called either the priest or the celebrant. To quote William Mahrt:
"There is a consequent term that follows from the de-emphasis upon the distinction of the ordained from the congregation: “the president of the liturgical assembly” or more commonly “presider,” as opposed to “celebrant.” A president is a member of a group, elected by the group as one of them to preside for a time."
I also can't understand why you think what Gavin wrote makes us, the congregation, embrace a "passive role". That couldn't be further from the truth. While we as the laity have a role to play, it's obvious that without you, an alter Christus... we have no Mass. At best, it would just be a prayer service. But as you've mentioned, if we the congregation are not present, you can still celebrate the Holy Sacrifice, as you are a priest. We are not absolutely necessary to make Christ substantially present with us... but you are. It's important that we read the Gospels and make intercessory prayers...but what truly matters is that Christ is made present on the altar, because of the vocation you embraced. And I thank you for that.

Pope Pius XII
I further submit that we, the congregation, are active, and not passive, when the Eucharist is celebrated. This was even apparent in the 1940's and 1950's (with only the supposed by many "non-participatory" EF Mass around) when Pope Pius XII released Mediator Dei:
"It is, therefore, desirable, Venerable Brethren, that all the faithful should be aware that to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice is their chief duty and supreme dignity, and that not in an inert and negligent fashion, giving way to distractions (like the rosaries that were mentioned before) and day-dreaming, but with such earnestness and concentration that they may be united as closely as possible with the High Priest, according to the Apostle, 'Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.' And together with Him and through Him let them make their oblation, and in union with Him let them offer up themselves... 
"Now it is clear that the faithful offer the sacrifice by the hands of the priest from the fact that the minister at the altar, in offering a sacrifice in the name of all His members, represents Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body. Hence the whole Church can rightly be said to offer up the victim through Christ. But the conclusion that the people offer the sacrifice with the priest himself is not based on the fact that, being members of the Church no less than the priest himself, they perform a visible liturgical rite; for this is the privilege only of the minister who has been divinely appointed to this office: rather it is based on the fact that the people unite their hearts in praise, impetration, expiation and thanksgiving with prayers or intention of the priest, even of the High Priest himself, so that in the one and same offering of the victim and according to a visible sacerdotal rite, they may be presented to God the Father."
That, especially the bolded portions above, is how I most perfectly participate in the Mass. Singing psalms and making the sign of peace is a good thing to do, but it's not necessary to my (or any member of the congregation's) participating in the Mass. I am not "passive" by saying that what matters most is Christ made present on our altars; indeed, I participate most fruitfully, as Pius XII says, when I am united to the priest in the Sacrifice at the altar.

Someone else here had said "The Lincoln Diocese is well known for being as old school as one can imagine. I can't imagine living there, especially since little girls are not allowed to be alter servers and from what I've read, the powers that be are enamoured of being the diocese of "only old time pre Vat ll types should attend".

I find this to be a very flippant statement. None of the Eastern Catholic Churches allow female altar servers. Could you also not imagine living in Ukraine, for instance? Lincoln has ordained 17 men to the priesthood in the past two years; an amazing feat in America today! This diocese is obviously doing something right, and if they want to face the East during their Liturgy, why not? Again, they are doing something that has a basis in an Apostolic tradition, that is, to face East during the liturgy. One doesn't have to, but to see it has no importance, and no significance, and shouldn't be praised is a bit ridiculous.

The Eastern Catholic Churches have been purging Latinizations and have been returning to their traditions as St. John Paul II exhorted them. Why can't we as Latin Catholics return to our traditions? Surely, there is nothing wrong with all facing the altar during certain points at the Mass, no? This is our tradition in the West too, and as Pope Benedict XVI and many others have said, it's something we should certainly return to.


One of the commentators, Otjm, replied back. I intersperse his reply with my own response below...

"I have attended both the Ruthenian rite and the Maronite rite in Portland, and appreciate them both."

I'm confused by your response though, Otjm. It's good that we both appreciate the Byzantine and East Syrian Rites; we certainly should as various Popes have exhorted us to do so, especially St. John Paul II. But what you said next is very confusing:

H"owever, quoting one of the Fathers of the Eastern Church , and he of the 8th century, is not indicative of how the Roman rite should worship; any more than someone of the Roman rite telling the Eastern rites how they should worship  (in fact, I seem to recall John Paul 2 making that as explicitly clear as he could, in calling for the "de-Latinization" of the Eastern rites, which had been at least in part imposed on them."

What does it matter if St. John Damascene was from the East? And what does it matter that he lived during the 8th century? He said it was an apostolic tradition. Was he speaking a falsehood, or did it only pertain to Christians in Byzantium, when he said this:
"It is not without reason or by chance that we worship towards the East. But seeing that we are composed of a visible and an invisible nature, that is to say, of a nature partly of spirit and partly of sense, we render also a twofold worship to the Creator; just as we sing both with our spirit and our bodily lips, and are baptized with both water and Spirit, and are united with the Lord in a twofold manner, being sharers in the Mysteries and in the grace of the Spirit. Since, therefore, God is spiritual light, and Christ is called in the Scriptures Sun of Righteousness and Dayspring, the East is the direction that must be assigned to His worship. For everything good must be assigned to Him from Whom every good thing arises. Indeed the divine David also says, Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth: O sing praises unto the Lord: to Him that rideth upon the Heavens of heavens towards the East. Moreover the Scripture also says, And God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed: and when he had transgressed His command He expelled him and made him to dwell over against the delights of Paradise, which clearly is the West. 
"So, then, we worship God seeking and striving after our old fatherland. Moreover the tent of Moses had its veil and mercy seat towards the East. Also the tribe of Judah as the most precious pitched their camp on the East. Also in the celebrated temple of Solomon, the Gate of the Lord was placed eastward. Moreover Christ, when He hung on the Cross, had His face turned towards the West, and so we worship, striving after Him. 
"And when He was received again into Heaven He was borne towards the East, and thus His apostles worship Him, and thus He will come again in the way in which they beheld Him going towards Heaven; as the Lord Himself said, As the lightning cometh out of the East and shineth even unto the West, so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be. 
"So, then, in expectation of His coming we worship towards the East. But this tradition of the apostles is unwritten. For much that has been handed down to us by tradition is unwritten."
In the context of this writing, he is talking about Christian traditions, not something native to only Eastern or Western Christians. St. John was Catholic through and through. Did you forget that he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1890? I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that his corpus of writings pertains to the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, as it does the rest of the Universal Church.

St. Basil the Great
To compare his explanation of why all Catholics (Latin, Byzantine, Syrian, etc.) faced to the Orient during prayer (with the sacrifice of the Mass being the highest form of prayer), to Latinizations such as kneeling at the consecration, seems a bit disingenuous to me. St. John is recounting a liturgical tradition that was common throughout all Christendom, and an apostolic tradition at that; that goes for the Assyrian Church of the East and the Armenian Apostolic Church, which were both already in existence in the 8th century. Despite the examples you posted in the early 20th century, it is a fact that the norm in the Latin (Roman) Catholic Church was to face towards the East during the Mass for centuries. Do you honestly dispute this, and do you honestly put this liturgical (and apostolic) tradition on the same level as Latinizations such as kneelers in Byzantine Catholic churches?

We can look to earlier in the Church's history for proof that facing towards the East was universal, and not specifically Eastern, tradition of worship if you really think the 8th century words of St. John poses a problem. St. Basil the Great, also declared a Doctor of the Church in the 16th century by Pope St. Pius V, said this in his treatise on the Holy Spirit:
"Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us in a mystery by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. 
"For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching."
Is he talking to just Eastern Catholics, or all Catholic Christians? Is the sign of the cross an Eastern tradition, or a universal tradition? If it's universal, then it's clear turning to the East is as well. But since St. Basil is also an Eastern Church Father, here's a couple words written by the great western Doctors of the Church. The Doctor of Grace, St. Augustine, said this:

"When we rise to pray, we turn East, where heaven begins. And we do this not because God is there, as if He had moved away from the other directions on earth..., but rather to help us remember to turn our mind towards a higher order, that is, to God."

St. Augustine's mentor, St. Ambrose of Milan said in his Treatise on the Mysteries:

"After this the Holy of holies was opened to you, you entered the sanctuary of regeneration; recall what you were asked, and remember what you answered... You entered, then, that you might discern your adversary, whom you were to renounce as it were to his face, then you turned to the east; for he who renounces the devil turns to Christ, and beholds Him face to face."

Again, I ask if you are really ready to say that the tradition of the entire assembly of God (priest and laity) facing ad orientem is reducible to that of a regional tradition, and not one received from the Apostles, meaning that is was given to the entire, Universal Church. Are you ready to say that?

Baptism of St. Augustine by St. Ambrose
You also said, Otjm, that "Perhaps it is because their church is so small, but I find that I have seen more of what the priest does in the Ruthenian rite than I used to in the 1950's in the Roman rite."

Is this really important? Is this really important that we physically see what the priest is doing? Throughout most of Christianity's history, the congregation has not been able to see everything that is going on due in part to the uses of the iconostasis and rood screens. Furthermore, I don't understand how you can see more in a Ruthenian Catholic parish, because in all Latin Catholic parishes there is nothing blocking the view of the altar like an iconostasis. When I attended the EF for two straight years, I saw everything that was going on. If I didn't have my missal on me, I could see just fine what was going on. "oh," I thought, "he's praying the 'secret' here." "Oh, ok, now he's washing his hands." "OK, now he's purifying the vessels." "Oh, he's raising the Host and the bells are being rung. This is the consecration."

I really don't know what you're talking about when you say you can't see anything during a Mass said ad orientem. I can see much more clearly there than I can any Byzantine Rite Divine Liturgy. But again, it doesn't matter. I'm participating in the liturgy either way, as I explained in my previous post. So my question still stands... Are Eastern Catholics in the liturgical backwaters since they haven't embraced the openness of the Mass being offered facing the people? Are the people at these parishes really not participating enough?

Of course, the answer is no.

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