Facing the Lord


Pax tecum!

I really really really hope that there is a change back to ad orientem. I don’t like versus populum. It was a Protestant invention back in the 16th century to take away from the sacrificial nature of the Mass, as well as the importance of the ministerial prieshood. Given the fact that many Catholics now view ad orientem as the priest “saying Mass with his back to the people” and Mass as a “community meal”, I’d say that the Protestant influence has definitely crept in.

Our daily Mass today (the Solemnity of St. Joseph) was held in the St. Joseph chapel of our Cathedral, which has no freestanding altar. The young priest seemed very much at ease celebrating Mass *ad orientem *in his Gothic-style vestments and using the Roman Canon. I felt transported to my childhood. It was lovely, and it reinforced the fact that the priest’s personality is submerged in Christ.


It rather alters our concept of what a priest is, though it is not necessarily wrong. In the traditional liturgy the priest is the front man in the congregation, in the NO he is the person who presents the mysteries to the people. A priest is in reality a bit of both. Like the congregation he prays to God, but like Jesus he must preach to the people.

I think that you would be surprised how many Theo 101 students make this statement “We worship the priest”. Is it any wonder when he is the one in whose face they look when they pray and sing. A Shepherd walks in front of his sheep facing the direction he wishes his people to face.


Presumably because of the shape and orientation of the lot, our 150 year old church building had Mass facing to the west for 110 years or so. Now at my parish we have the priest facing ad orientem and versus populum. Intriguing.


Worshipping the priest is definitely a violation against the First Commandment. Too bad the PTB don’t see it that way.

You’d also be surprised how many call the Mass a “sermon”. Both bits show not so much heresy as it shows lousy catechesis and subtle conditioning based upon the priest facing the people all of the time.


This is interesting because the only Catholic Masses that I have been to with the altar ad orientem have been TLM, never a Novus Ordo. Yet I went to a Lutheran service where the minister faced ad orientem.

And there is a time for preaching to the people- FROM THE PULPIT FACING THE PEOPLE during the homily or sermon. But action at the altar is not for preaching to the people… then again I am coming from a different mentality- submerged in the TLM since 2000.


I also really want to see the Priest facing Ad Orientem. Early Christians prayed facing East, buried their dead facing East, built their Churches facing East, since that is the direction where Early Christians believed the Lord would come at the Second Coming, where the Sun rises (a symbol of the Resurrection of Jesus), and at least in Europe or some other countries, where the Holy Land is.

Though about Versus Populum, some of the early basilicas in Rome (like St. Peter’s) were built with the Apse facing the West because of terrain, or the because immediately in front of the Altar is a “Confessio”, so for the Priest to face the East, he’ll have to face the people BUT there were times in the Liturgy then when the people were required to turn their backs to the Priest to face the East with him.

Actually I’ve heard that the NO was originally supposed to be celebrated Ad Orientem and the Altars were ordered to be removed from the wall so a Versus Populum Mass could be possible
(Since the GIRM directs the Priest to face the people six times like when;
When giving the opening greeting (GIRM 124);
When giving the invitation to pray, “Orate, fratres” (GIRM 146);
When giving the greeting of peace, “Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum” (GIRM 154);
When displaying the consecrated Host (or Host and Chalice) before Communion and saying: “Ecce Agnus Dei” (GIRM 157);
When inviting to pray (“Oremus”) before the postcommunion prayer (GIRM 165);
When giving the final blessing (Ordo Missae 141)
Kinda redundant if the Priest is already facing the people)

The instruction Inter Oecumenici permits Versus Populum Masses, but doesn’t prescribe it. But even so, the Versus Populum suddenly became the norm and many people thought Versus Populum is required or even imposed even though Sacrosanctum Concilium doesn’t speak of building new altars or a versus populum Mass.

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