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Old Feb 1, '09, 10:18 am
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JRKH JRKH is offline
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Default When did "ad Orientum" become the norm??

Just wondering.
It's obvious that Jesus did not institute the Blessed Sacrament this way, and a pretty fair bet that the Apostles never offered it this way either.
After all, the early Church was meeting in everything from open fields to caves, to peoples houses.

My guess is that the real formality of the mass came about after the faith was "legalized".

Does anyone know what the earliest document or reference for ad orientum is from?

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Old Feb 1, '09, 10:27 am
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Corki Corki is offline
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Default Re: When did "ad Orientum" become the norm??

I don't know the specific answer to your question but there was some interesting material from a liturgy class I took that might be helpful.

In the very early church, the table was in the center. The Mass was offered in the midst of the people and it was very clear that they were all joining together with the priest to lead them.

For what ever reason, the altar eventually was moved to the front. Facing in the same direction of the people is the only thing that makes sense as a leader.
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Old Feb 1, '09, 11:38 am
passus passus is offline
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Default Re: When did "ad Orientum" become the norm??

Yeah, I think Corki pretty much has it.

If you want some further reading, check out Extraordinary Form 101 from November's This Rock:
Scholars have begun to conclude, contrary to popular belief, that Mass facing the people was not in fact the regular practice of the early Church, and that Mass facing east has been the historic norm. "As I have written in my books, I think that celebration turned towards the east, towards the Christ who is coming, is an apostolic tradition," wrote Pope Benedict XVI in 2004, while still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger: Proceedings of the July 2001 Fontgombault Liturgical Conference, 151). In fact, those parts of the early Catholic world in which the sacrificial aspect of the Mass was best understood were most likely to celebrate Mass ad orientem. "The common direction of priest and people is intrinsically fitting and proper to the liturgical action," Cardinal Ratzinger explained (Foreword, Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer by U.M. Lang.
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Old Feb 1, '09, 12:16 pm
Rabbititus Rabbititus is offline
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Default Re: When did "ad Orientum" become the norm??

While I don't have a direct source, I have often seen it written here and elsewhere that Jesus and the apostles at the last supper would have all sat on the same side of a large "U" shaped table - the other side of the table being left free so that food could be laid out. They would have all been facing the same way, more or less, and wouldn't have been "gathered around" the table. So, while it wasn't ad orientem per se, it wasn't versus populum either.
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Old Feb 1, '09, 6:49 pm
benedictgal benedictgal is offline
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Default Re: When did "ad Orientum" become the norm??

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger made a strong case for this:

This is, of course, a misunderstanding of the significance of the Roman basilica and of the positioning of its altar, and the representation of the Last Supper is also, to say the least, inaccurate. Consider, for example, what Louis Bouyer has to say on the subject:

The idea that celebration versus populum was the original form, indeed the way the Last Supper itself was celebrated, rests purely and simply on a mistaken idea of what a banquet, Christian or even non-Christian, was like in antiquity. In the earliest days of Christianity the head of table never took his place facing the other participants. Everyone sat or lay on the convex side of an S-shaped or horseshoe-shaped table. Nowhere in Christian antiquity could anyone have come up with the idea that the man presiding at the meal had to take his place versus populum. The communal character of a meal was emphasized by precisely the opposite arrangement, namely, by the fact that everyone at the meal found himself on the same side of the table (54f).

...Once again let me quote Bouyer:

Never and nowhere before (that is, before the sixteenth century) is there any indication of the slightest importance being attached, or even attention given, to the question of whether the priest should celebrate with the people behind him or in front of him. Professor Cyril Vogel has proved that, "if anything was stressed, it was that the priest should recite the Eucharistic Prayer, like all other prayers, turned towards the East Even when the orientation of the church allowed the priest to pray facing the people, we must not forget that it was not just the priest who turned to the East, but the whole congregation with him" (p. 56).

He also observes that:

Turn to the East is essential

On the other hand, a common turning to the East during the Eucharistic Prayer remains essential. This is not a case of accidentals, but of essentials. 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....

... see a solution to this in a suggestion I noted at the beginning in connection with the insights of Erik Peterson. Facing toward the East, as we heard, was linked with the "sign of the Son of Man", with the Cross, which announces Our Lord's Second Coming. That is why, very early on, the East was linked with the sign of the cross. Where a direct common turning toward the East is not possible, the cross can serve as the interior "East" of faith. It should stand in the middle of the altar and be the common point of focus for both priest and praying community.

In this way we obey the ancient call to prayer: Conversi ad Dominum, "Turn to the Lord!" In this way we look together at the One whose Death tore the veil of the Temple -- the One who stands before the Father for us and encloses us in His arms in order to make us the new and living Temple.
This comes from "The Spirit of the Liturgy". The Holy Father certainly practices what he preaches.
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Old Feb 24, '10, 7:44 am
Brian777 Brian777 is offline
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Default Re: When did "ad Orientum" become the norm??

The norm of ad orientem eventually came about in one way or another throughout the entire Church, both east and west... In Rome, where Christians went into the catacombs, the tombs of wealthy patrons of the Church were used as altars...hence the practice of altar stones, relics, and ad orientem all at the same time...EPIC. Now oddly enough it was the Roman practice later on to build the churches with doors facing east, at least at St. Peters and St. Paul's, leading to the priest facing east literally but also facign the people. I do not know about the original St. Peter's of Constantine's building, but that is how the new one was built in the Rennaisance, even after high altars had come into the mainstay. This is not at odds with ad orientem masses, because at least in the middle ages, the people at these Roman churches would face the same direction as the priest at certtain parts of the liturgy( essentially looking at the doors of the church; personally not a fan, atleast in the normal idea of ad orientem the people can see the priest ).
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Old Feb 24, '10, 11:46 am
Bookcat Bookcat is online now
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Default Re: When did "ad Orientum" become the norm??

the books:

Turning Towards the Lord


Ratzingers....The Spirit of the Liturgy

are great on "ad orientum"
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Old Feb 24, '10, 1:00 pm
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Theophorus Theophorus is offline
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Default Re: When did "ad Orientum" become the norm??

To say “its obvious that Jesus did not institute the Blessed Sacrament this way” is a bit of a leap considering the evidence available, and that others have already presented here.

Cardinal Ratzinger and Fr. Lang in their respective books "The Spirit of the Liturgy" and "Turning Towards the Lord" both attest to the ancient and apostolic origin of facing eastwards in Christian prayer.

One example outlined in Fr. Lang’s book was that the early church expected Our Lord to return at the same place he ascended, namely the Mount of Olives, and like the Jews before them who faced Jerusalem in expectation of the coming messiah the early Christians turned east towards the mount or olives.

Another is that from earliest times Christians have considered the rising sun to be a symbol of the risen Christ, and the sun of justice and for so have another reason to turn eastwards.

And it’s not that difficult to turn east when meeting in places like open fields, caves, or people’s houses. Yes the specifics and our understanding of them have developed over time, but the core, the seed, was planted by Christ at the last supper.
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Old Feb 24, '10, 1:12 pm
CDNowak CDNowak is offline
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Default Re: When did "ad Orientum" become the norm??

Originally Posted by JRKH View Post
Just wondering.
It's obvious that Jesus did not institute the Blessed Sacrament this way, and a pretty fair bet that the Apostles never offered it this way either.
After all, the early Church was meeting in everything from open fields to caves, to peoples houses.

My guess is that the real formality of the mass came about after the faith was "legalized".

Does anyone know what the earliest document or reference for ad orientum is from?

I would join the other who question the "obvious", not just from the banquet perspective, but from Jewish worship. Jews turned toward the Holy of Holies to pray. Christians fixed this point in the East before the Patristic era, as there mentions of direction for prayer are seemingly unanimous in their writings (note: that is probably the answer to your question, unless you go to the Old Testament).

As to St Peter's in Rome, it is a notable exception from the norm at the time, built facing west due to the slope of the hill.

As to Corki's theory that the Altar was originally central, I know of no archeological or literary evidence to this hypothesis, all evidence points to the contrary.
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