Priest's Orientation during Mass

A priest friend of mine borrowed a book from me called “Turning Towrds the Lord”, a book heavily endorsed by then-Cardinal Ratzinger. Ever since reading the book, he has begun, at least in the local hospital chapel, of turining towards the crucifix during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of him for doing so. He explained to the faithful that he is not giving his back to them; rather, he is joining them in their posture towards the Lord. Then-Carindal Ratzinger made the same point in his foreword to the book. Furthermore, Ratzinger made a strong argument that nothing in the documents ever prohibited this posture. In fact, carefully reading of the GIRM assumes that this posture was to be maintained, as per our current Holy Father. Ratzinger further argues that this takes away the focus on the priest and returns it to the Eucharist. “He must increase, while I must decrease.”

My friend’s actions have definitely helped to increase the reverence at Mass. Mind you. He is fairly young (just a tad bit under 50) and he’s not into novelty. But, the book really made an impact on him.

Have any of you had this kind of experience?

I have been going to the Mass all my life, except for a period where I fell away and came back to the Church about 3 years ago…
In all that time the only time I have ever seen a reverent Mass is when the Priest has been facing in the same direction as the people, toward the Lord. (or if I want to present it in a negative way, with his back toward us), just like I have my back to the person behind me.
Maybe it is just a coincidence.

I still go to the new Mass as I don’t want to leave and not support my parish. I try to participate as much as possible in trying to help inspire reverence for God, and small things like turning the focus of the Mass towards God first is helpful.

There is a difference in reverence which comes about when people focus on God as the object of worship, before they seek their own personal edification.

God Bless

Were the people more reverent or just the priest?

Turning toward the Lord–I’m having a really difficult seeing how the references given here are turning toward the Lord. They rather are turning toward an image–and making the crucifix an idol.
The real presence of the Lord is first of all in the people who are gathered together–the mystical body idea of Paul. And if we do not see our Lord in each other, we will never see him as he truly is in looking at an image. The second major presence of the Lord–is in the liturgy of the word. The crucifix remains an image. The Scriptures & the homily are the lord speaking to us in what can be easily compared to “Love letters”.
The third presence of the Lord is in the liturgy of the Eucharist, where he becomes present to us through the bread and wine offered to God, received by God and transformed into himself, offered back to the community, and received by the community. The Church emphasizes the presence in the Word and the Sacrament in its actions–i.e. that once the mass is started the pulpit and the altar become the centers of focus. Even the tabernacle–even when it is behind the altar–is to be ignored by the celebrant during the liturgy.
Finally the presider is there also to be a living sign of the Lord, and another way that the Lord uses to offer himself to us.
Hence when you say “turning to the Lord” and indicate that the person is turning to a mere image, I hear an expression of a theology that is somehow distorted and that the real presence of the Lord is being missed.

:eek: say WHAT? :eek:
I have never EVER heard anything like that before, and I have been through various levels of liberalism and Orthodoxy.
That’s just… what???

You mean like the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence? These guys go to Mass, and even receive communion. :banghead:

From the earliest Church documents, the posture of priest and people was facing the East because they believed that when the Lord returned, he would come from the East like the rising sun. In this case, this rising sun was the Sun of Justice. In fact, the beautiful hymn, “The King Shall Come” makes reference to Christ coming from the East ("when beauty guilds the Eastern hills and life to joy awakes).

Many of the ancient churches up to those constructed prior to1962 maintained that Eastern orientation. Our cathedral has it.

In his books A New Song for the Lord and The Spirit of the Liturgy, then-Cardinal Ratzinger noted that when the priest faces the altar, the attention is focused on him, rather than on the Eucharistic sacrifice. Unfortunately, that is the case in many of our parishes where we focus on the priest rather than on Christ.

While it is true that Christ is present in his Body, the Church and in the faithful who gather for the Mass, we must remember that the Liturgy is not a celebration of the community. We do not celebrate ourselves. When we put undue emphasis on the people rather than on the Divine Majesty of God, we are, as Benedict puts it, “barking up the wrong tree.” I realize that this quote isn’t original to him, but he uses those exact same words in “The Spirit of the Liturgy.”

The documents never said anything about to the effect that we could not face the Tabernacle. In fact, there is a move now to restore the Tabernacle to its place front and center. Cardinal Arinze has made several statements regarding that, as has Benedict, pre and post conclave.

To begin with, the real presence of the Lord is not “first of all” in the people. If that were true, we’d spend time adoring the gathered assembly, and we do not, and never have, done that.

Beyond that, since the priest is in persona Christi, in the person of Christ, does it make sense to have “Christ” turning toward himself? No, Christ turns towards, and offers his sacrifice to, the Father.

Oh, and did I mention that all the alleged historical evidence that said that early Masses had the priest facing the people have been proven false?

The parish I most frequent does the Mass Ad Orientum.

Yeah, that idea makes no sense what so over (his, not yours)
Where would such ideas even come from?


Really? You have books/links/etc for that? Danke!

Do you have any trouble hearing the priest when he’s facing away from you?

Most priests usually have a mic on, so I haven’t had issues. But I have only been to one Latin NO.

No. In fact, I’ve just come back from the hospital chapel. He has a pretty loud and clear voice and he enucniates very well.

An earlier poster asked what I meant by the Mass being more reverent, either from the priest’s standpoint or the faithful. My friend is reverent to begin with and this particular posture has made the faithful more attentive to what is going on in the sense that I have seen many of them take a more prayerful stance.

When then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the foreword to the book, he hoped that the ideas represented in 'Turning Towards the Lord" would foster deep discussion on revisiting this ancient posture. That is why I posed the matter in this forum because I believe that it is something that is important for us to discuss.

Patience and Love, I believe that Benedict makes some historical references to facing East in his books “Spirit of the Liturgy” and “A New Song for the Lord.”


Agreed! :thumbsup:


To begin with, the real presence of the Lord is not “first of all” in the people. If that were true, we’d spend time adoring the gathered assembly, and we do not, and never have, done that.

Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. 1 John 4:15

Beyond that, since the priest is in persona Christi, in the person of Christ, does it make sense to have “Christ” turning toward himself? No, Christ turns towards, and offers his sacrifice to, the Father.

What direction did Jesus face at the Last Supper?


Most likely in the same direction as the apostles since the other side of the table was used to serve the seder.

Jim, with all due respect, your theology is skewered. The Church maintains that Jesus’ principal presence is in the Blessed Sacrament. I would suggest that you read some sound and grounded books on correct Catholic theology. What you have agreed to in siding with Linuse is the mistaken notion that we are here to celebrate “the community.” Your facetious question about Jesus’ posture during the Last Supper is just grasping at straws.

Please stop with the condescending attitude here.

The priest at the Mass, is Christ. So, what direction did Christ face, during the Last Supper?

Show us where it is prohibited for the priest to face the people.


Where in the world did that come from?

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