Liturgical Orientation

Very thoughtful article. thought we might discuss this. Politely.

I feel blessed to be in a Catholic Church where in my area I can attend Mass daily in numerous Churches. Therefore, I don’t like to be in “let’s complain about the Liturgy is being poorly celebrated” in some places thread.

Be thankful for what we have for it’s a great treasure given to us by Christ, his Church.


While I find Msgr. Pope to be an interesting person, I find his point of view to be somewhat misguided. He has bought into the dissenters cry that a Mass facing the people places the focus on the priest. He could easily solve his so-called “crisis of leadership” by teaching what the Church teaches, instead of trying to placate dissenters. Inter oecumenici no. 91 says, “The main altar should preferably be freestanding, to permit walking around it and celebration facing the people. Its location in the place of worship should be truly central so that the attention of the whole congregation naturally focuses there.” To say that a priest is “walking backward” when facing the people is to completely miss what the focus of the Mass is. The Alter, not the priest. Jesus is on the Alter. The priest is facing the Alter. The congregation is facing the Alter. This is true in the OF and the EF. The position of the priest in relation to the congregation is irrelevant. I think that these kinds of articles only confuse the laity and are not helpful in saving souls.

(This is only my opinion.)

I like both orientations, and I have no major problems with either. I try to maintain my objectivity when it comes to liturgy by keeping a by-the-book approach, going off the rubrics and edicts issued by my Bishop’s Conference, the Congregation for the Liturgy, and the Supreme Pontiff.

That being said, I do feel like there is something more organic about Mass being celebrated ad orientem. I’m not sure why, but I’m just sharing a purely emotional response. I feel like when Mass is celebrated in this way it adds mystery, since I am unable to watch, and it draws the eyes up, past the priest, anxiously awaiting the elevation to see our Lord in the unbloody guise of break and wine.

I thought I was familiar was most American spellings. Do Americans spell ‘altar’ as ‘alter’?

Forgive me. Spelling has never been one of my stronger points and many small things slip through. Does a misspelling invalidate the point being made or was your only point to ridicule?

It is a shame you could not accept my question at face value. I have absolutely no idea why you felt the need to search for a malicious intent that was not there.

I second your opinion.

And this is only my opinion, (and I’m not about to engage in an argument on it … we’ve been there and done that in the past, and I’ve no interest in a pointless discussion again now), but, no, I don’t think it’s “irrelevant” in the least. Far from it.

Could you please elaborate as to how you came to the conclusion that Msgr. pope has “bought into the dissenters cry” ? Attacking the individual rather than discussing the topic shows a weak argument. Also, I find your assessment of the Focus of the Mass to be wrong. The focus of The Mass is the re-presentation of a Perfect Sacrifice to God.

“The turning of the priest toward the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is locked into itself. The common turning toward the East was not a “celebration toward the wall”; it did not mean that the priest “had his back to the people”: the priest himself was not regarded as so important. For just as the congregation in the synagogue looked together toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian Liturgy the congregation looked together “toward the Lord”.”
–Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as Cardinal Ratzinger in his book entitled “Spirit of Liturgy”.

I don’t think this is what Alter Christus means. :slight_smile:

Yes, “The Mass is the re-presentation of a Perfect Sacrifice to God.”

CCC 1383 The altar, around which the Church is gathered in the celebration of the Eucharist, represents the two aspects of the same mystery: the altar of the sacrifice and the table of the Lord. This is all the more so since the Christian altar is the symbol of Christ himself, present in the midst of the assembly of his faithful, both as the victim offered for our reconciliation and as food from heaven who is giving himself to us. "For what is the altar of Christ if not the image of the Body of Christ?"212 asks St. Ambrose. He says elsewhere, "The altar represents the body [of Christ] and the Body of Christ is on the altar."213

Why is this not taught? Why would a priest feel it necessary to denigrate the position of the priest in an OF Mass by saying that he is “walking backwards”? The Church says that the Mass may be said ad orientem or facing the people. The Church does not say that facing the people is somehow deficient and that this should be taught. My argument is about the words that Msgr. Pope used and not against him personally, no matter how weak it may be.

A theology book written by a theologian before he was Pope. I have read it. Since I am not a theologian, I cannot say that I completely understood it. Nor is it my place to interpret it.

Priests are of course allowed to face the people during the mass, but that doesn’t mean that it is always the best. That is what these liturgical commentators are trying to point out. The church allowing things vs. endorsing things are separate issues. Also PEB XVI’s book is for everyone, not just theologians. It is a wake-up call to the church to start a new liturgical movement to bring beauty, truth, and reverence back into liturgy. If it was good as it is, our previous Holy Father would not have called us to renew it. This is what lead to the call to reform the reform in the first place. May not see much with Pope Francis on this (bigger fish to fry :D) but the renewal is growing and coming about.

Your interpretation of and denigration of Monsignor Pope’s article excludes his very detailed explanation of the Article’s title and why He supports his position. I also find your subtle attacks on anyone who disagrees with your"obviously correct" position somewhat uncharitable. One may make a point without looking for a fight, unless that is your personal tactic on how to win debates.
I posted this article, by a respected Priest, to enter into a thoughtful, polite discussion on Ad Orientem and Versus Populum. Not a pissing contest by those who refuse to consider the possibility that Ad Orientem might just be more conducive to focussing the laity on the Real reason for the Mass. No agenda, just a discussion.

What kind of discussion are you looking for? I’m asking this in all seriousness, not as a wisecrack. Maybe my mind is too simplistic to understand all of this.

If both are allowed, there then is no discussion if one is valid or not. If people prefer or find one style more prayerful or spiritual for them, then why would anyone want to persuade someone away from that preference?

Again, I’m not sure what you are envisioning as a discussion.

No one argues whether this or that is “valid” or not.

Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, this is an agenda.

But since I’m the one making “subtle attacks” and being “somewhat uncharitable”, I will leave the “discussion”.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit