Priest's Orientation during Mass

i defenitly perfer it, it is more focused on God. after all worship is not for man but for God.

hey here is a great article i just read

i plan on talking to my priest about this, he says he feels really uncomfertable not facing the tabernacle when he does the liturgy of the Eucharist. He eventually wants to have one mass a weekend as a EF mass so this would be a good trasition route to first do the OF mass in ad orientem (with proper expination for several weeks before hand on the change to come).

oh yeah an article by my priest is in my sig

I am not being condescending. Rather, it is you. The priest is, and forgive my spelling, altar Christus. However, I do not believe that you quite understand the point of the Eucharistic sacrifice. We are not here to “worship” each other. We are here to offer the Father the Eucharistic sacrifice of Jesus.

No where in my posts did I ever say that it was prohibited for the priest to face the people.

Consider, for example, what Louis Bouyer has to say on the subject:[INDENT] The idea that a celebration facing the people must have been the primitive one, and that especially of the last supper, has no other foundation than a mistaken view of what a meal could be in antiquity, Christian or not. In no meal of the early Christian era, did the president of the banqueting assembly ever face the other participants. **They were all sitting, or reclining, on the convex side of a C-shaped table, or of a table having approximately the shape of a horse shoe. The other side was always left empty for the service. **Nowhere in Christian antiquity, could have arisen the idea of having to ‘face the people’ to preside at a meal. The communal character of a meal was emphasized just by the opposite disposition: the fact that all the participants were on the same side of the table (Liturgy and Architecture, pp. 53-54).[/INDENT]Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 78

I don’t like that I can’t see what the priest is doing when he’s facing away from us. If we must all face the same direction, how about putting the altar further back in the middle of the pews so that at least we can see what he’s doing from the side if we prefer to look over.

So, you might correctly say that if it is not banned, then it is not illicit? I remember another thread where I said just that a few days ago.

So, how about the Orans posture, which also is not banned in the documents?

What is under discussion here is a posture which was universal (and mandated) in the Roman rite for well over a thousand years just prior. That hardly translates to anything and everything which is not banned.

So, how about the Orans posture, which also is not banned in the documents?

Was it a universal (and mandated) posture in the Roman rite for well over a thousand years just prior? If not then you’re trying to compare apples and oranges.

I can’t ever remember being taught that seeing what the priest was doing *in detail *was an important part of the Mass. To the best of my knowledge, that is simply not a significant component of the theology of the Mass.

It helps me follow along. I find when the priest is looking the other way praying quietly my mass is all about flipping through the missal trying to figure out where we are. It’s nicer when I can look and listen and understand what’sgoing on, lets me pray insted of flipping through the pages.

If I’m not mistaken, I believe there is actually an official teaching from the Church on where Christ is most present in the Mass. Perhaps someone or the moderator knows of this. I believe (and I may be mistaken) that it goes something like this:

  1. Eucharist
  2. Priest
  3. Scripture
  4. People
  5. Music

I am almost certain that this is the order. I will have to check into it more, though. Nevertheless, it is counterintuitive for a Catholic to believe that Christ is most present in the congregation during Mass. We are Catholic, are we not? Christ is substantially present where the bread and wine once were, on the altar or in the tabernacle. This suggests that without the congregation, Christ is minimally present. What happens if a priest says mass alone?

This sounds like an attempt do deemphasize the role of the priest as the alter-Christus and to deemphasize the Eucharist as the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ… a common tactic of dissident Catholics.

Evidently some people think that almost 2,000 years of Catholic tradition and the words of our pope are wrong.

I have attended NO Masses in such a fashion, and it emphasizes, in a very striking, physical, way, when the priest is directly addressing the people (facing us) and when the priest is addressing God on our behalf (facing away.)

Also, if I understand correctly, there really is no other way to offer a Mass, even Novus Ordo, if the only altar available is a fixed “back” altar against the wall. That was the case in the Mass I mentioned above.

I don’t want to get into the whole “community theology” being discussed on this thread, except to say that it can lead to rather loopy conclusions. My diocese currently requires all to stand throughout the entire distribution of communion, precisely to honor the presence of Christ in each other.

It’s a nice sentiment, but as a practical matter, it’s spiritually skewed. I cannot kneel to prepare myself to receive Our Lord’s Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, nor can I kneel after I receive, to offer Him thanksgiving for his incalculable generosity. I’m one of those that just prays better on my knees. I do my best while standing, but it is not the same.


The priest facing the people does not mean we are worshiping each other, this is a silly argument.

At Mass, God is present among us. Worship of God doesn’t require us to face any particular direction. In fact, God Dwells in each and every one of us, so looking up into the sky isn’t going to bring us closer to God than he already is.

In the first centuries of the Church, the celebrant faced the people, especially where Masses were celebrated in the homes of people and in hiding places such as the Catacombs. Facing away from the people, probably came as a result of the style of buildings that Constantine gave to the Church, which were formally official public buildings. Also there was a mentality developed over the centuries that God was somewhere out in the sky, up in the heaven. So the sacrifice of Jesus Body and Blood, had to be presented to God the Father, who was not among us, but out in the cosmos somewhere. However, as Scripture says, who ever believes in Jesus, God dwells in him, and he in God.

Either way, although the rubrics do not specify whether a priest faces the people or not, the Bishops do, and in my dioceses as well as most Catholic dioceses, the Bishops have the celebrant facing the people.


It is apparent that you did not read the previous posts wherein Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Ratzinger, noted that it there was a mistaken notion regarding the orientation of the priest. In fact, there is no history of such orientation. It is a shame that you choose to ignore the words of our Holy Father, who, now as pope remains firm in his teaching. Granted, what he wrote before was written as Joseph Ratzinger. But, now as Pope Benedict, many of his writings are now turning into directives. This is not to say that the orientation is such. It does not need to be a directive, as the Council Fathers never considered eliminating this ancient posture in the first place.

Could you provide some references for this statement.

I have always been tought that from the earliest of times (including the last supper), the cellabrant faced the same direction as the congregation. I even heard this in religious courses at a prominent liberal Catholic college in CA. My professor, who was dissident through, and through, acknowledged and tought this.

I suspect that it is symptom of the current trend of “community” over the Eucharistic Sacrifice. When the community is emphasized over the Mass, then there is a serious problem.

Jim asked for references regarding posture. In the Roman Missal, there are references to when the priest “faces the people”. If the priest was already facing the people, the Roman MIssal would not have had to restate the obvious. Clearly, in its mentioning of “facing the people”, the GIRM assumes that the priest is celebrating the Liturgy of the Eucharist ad orientsum (forgive my spelling). Even Cardinal Ratzinger makes that point in another book called “Looking at the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger” (at least, that’s what I think it’s called. I need to get my books back from priests who borrow them–I think I have the largest Joseph Ratzinger library in my diocese :thumbsup:

That being said, I trust Benedict’s observations more than anything because, remember, he lived through the Council. He was there and knew all that went on during that time. He may not have been one of the Council Fathers like Pope John Paul II, but, as a peritus, Benedict had access to just about everything that was discussed.

That doesn’t make any sense at all. In the 60s/70s every single church in all of Catholicism was quickly made suitable for the priest to say Mass versus populum (facing towards the people). How is it that we could do this in the very same buildings and style of buildings that you claim forced them to change the orientation of the priest from versus populum to ad orientem (facing with the people)?

Prior to Constantine’s Edict of Relgious Tolerance, @315AD, the Church most of the time, was an underground church. Masses were held in secracy in homes and underground Catacombs and even out in the wilderness.

When Constantine legitimized Christianity, he gave public buildings to the church, which they turned into Churches. From that period on in the West, church architecture resembled the rectangular shape of the public buildings of Rome.

The buildings themselves didn’t force a change, but rather created a tradition of the priest facing “East”, with his back to the people.

The modern architecture came as a result of the free standing altar, and the practice of the celebrant facing the people, which has become pretty much the norm.


Here’s an article, with an opinion that I tend to share.
Bold, my emphasis.

The current situation of priest and people facing one another makes it possible for the liturgy to depend too much on the personality of the priest. The argument that priest and people faced one another in the early church does not hold water in the face of the overwhelming evidence of praying toward the East.** On the other hand, the evidence from the early church is extremely complex and there were almost certainly instances in “Westward oriented” churches where priest and people did face each other during prayer.** Moreover, it seems to me that one can legitimately argue for the present versus populum arrangement on the basis of a renewed understanding of the Eucharist as a communal celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, notwithstanding the need to overcome difficulties with “entertainment” liturgy.


It would seem that the ad orientum posture would be a particularly good thing right now. There are many priests who seem to overemphasize the communal aspect of the liturgy and who view saying Mass as more of a “performance”. In a very practical way, ad orientum turns the focus away from the priest and onto the Sacrifice that WE are offering with the priest. Interestingly, the ad orientum posture makes it more obvious that the congregation is offering the Sacrifice of the Mass with the priest rather than just acting as an audience. This posture actually accentuates the participation of the congregation.

I think we’ll see much more on this in the near future!

This still doesn’t resonate well. Remember, the early Christians believed that Christ would return from the East. Hence, the basis for this posture. Once again, I direct you to the research made by then-Cardinal Ratzinger. Why do you seem to ignore what he has said?

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