QUAERITUR: how to celebrate Novus Ordo Masses “ad orientem” [Fr. Z]


From a priest reader:I am a priest in my 60’s I remember serving the Tridentine mass. I am interested in celebrating mass ad orientem but I was wondering how. I have some questions.

[LIST=1]
*]At the beginning of the mass do you face the people with the dialogue, “The Lord be with you.” And the penitential rite. What about “The Lord be with you.” at the other times do you face the people then?
*]What about the readings, are they done in the usual way.
*]Again what about the dialogue prior to the Preface. Do you turn towards the people?
*] Do you celebrate mass in a low or loud tone of voice so that everyone can hear you.
[/LIST]
Each Memorial day we have a beautiful altar at our cemetery, and we set up this rickety old card table. I would prefer to say mass at the altar but I would have to do so ad orientem.
Thanks for the questions.

I recommend that, if you begin at the “chair” rather than directly at the altar (as of old) you might face toward the liturgical “north” for the open dialogue, perhaps with a slight turn to the congregation for the “Dominus vobiscum” and turn to the altar for the Collect.

If another person is doing the first reading, etc. sit. Do the Gospel from the ambo. In other words, they are done in the usual way.

At the altar do everything ad orientem turning to the congregation for the “Orate fratres” and the “Ecce Agnus Dei” and the final blessing, etc. Don’t turn to the people for the Preface dialogue. Don’t turn around with the host or chalice at the consecration. Just elevate them still facing ad orientem.

In the Novus Ordo the Canon or Eucharistic Prayer is to be said aloud. Simply use the level of voice indicated in the rubrics.

I applaud your desire to celebrate Mass ad orientem!

Full entry…

The sacramentary indicates when facing the people is required. Just do it literally…

Very interesting! Thank you.

I sometimes sit in the St. Sepulchre and watch all the pilgrims and the groups who come to offer Mass. It’s very interesting when they use some of the altars, like S. Mary Magdalene, or the Nailing because of the different ways they celebrate ad orientam which I suspect, some priests are doing for the first time in their lives. Some will turn and face the people at the elevations, or at the minor doxology. Some turn for he Our Father as well, others turn for the prayer preceding the sign of peace.

this is very interesting, first time i have seen solid guidelines for ad orientem in the OF, as a seminarian I deeply desire to celebrate Holy Mass, if I am ordained, God willing, versus deum(AO) at my first Mass atleast. I suspect it will take painstaking catechesis and a long period of time and effort to get a parish nowadays to accept ad orientem…i have almost no support from my fellow seminariens, even the traditional ones, but my rector has…um…cautiously encouraged me I suppose. My bishop has said straightforward that the norm for the Pauline Rite is facing the congregation…so now I am torn as to what I must do, especially after reading Pope Benedict’s Spirit of the Liturgy
in which he is so adamant about a common direction of prayer.

I should mention, reminding myself as well ;), that I am only a 1st year seminarian, and still have 7 years of formation and discernment.

I love ad orientum…for prayer too at times…

(PS: the term though is “ordinary form of the Roman (or Latin) rite” the other is not a term used by the Church…)

Good for you! :slight_smile:

Possibly less than you might think. Particularly if it’s a (relatively, at least) orthodox parish.

Typical for the classmates :frowning: but good show for the rector. :slight_smile:

The bishop is sadly mistaken. It would seem that he’s never actually looked at the rubrics of the Latin editio typica of the OF. :shrug:

My suggestion? Go with PP Benedict XVI. :wink:

However, what folks may not realize is that the Holy Father is leading by example. This is what his Pontifical Master of Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, stated in an interview almost two years ago:

On the placement of the cross at the center of the altar, Marini says:

«This indicates the centrality of the Crucified One in the Eucharistic celebration, and the exact orientation that the entire assembly is called to have during the Eucharistic liturgy: we do not look at ourselves, but we look at Him who was born, died, and rose for us, the Savior. Salvation comes from Lord, He is the East, the rising Sun to whom we must all turn our eyes, from whom we must receive the gift of grace. The question of liturgical orientation in the Eucharistic celebration, and the manner – including practical – in which this takes form, is of great importance, because with it is communicated a fundamental reality that is at the same time theological and anthropological, ecclesiological and inherent to personal spirituality.»

On the celebration at the ancient altar facing the scene of the Last Judgment, in the Sistine Chapel, Marini explains:

«In the circumstances in which the celebration is conducted in this way, it is not a matter of turning one’s back to the faithful, but rather of orienting oneself together with the faithful toward the Lord. From this point of view, “the door is not closed on the assembly,” but “the door is opened to the assembly,” and it is led to the Lord. Particular circumstances can arise in which, because of the artistic conditions of the sacred place and its singular beauty and harmony, it is preferable to celebrate at the ancient altar, where among other things the exact orientation of the liturgical celebration is preserved. This should not surprise us: it is sufficient to go to the basilica of Saint Peter in the morning, and see how many priests celebrate according to the rite produced by the liturgical reform, but on the traditional altars, and therefore oriented like that of the Sistine Chapel.»

In fact, there is discussion at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments about clarifying this situation because none of the authoritative documents of the Church have ever banned this posture for the priest. In fact, the CDWDS issued a letter back in 2000 regarding the posture of the priest during Mass. I am having server problems, but, I will post the letter in a subsequent follow-up.

Here is the text of the letter from the CDWDS that I referenced in my previous post:

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Prot. No 2036/00/L

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has been asked whether the expression in no. 299 of the Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani constitutes a norm according to which, during the Eucharistic liturgy, the position of the priest versus absidem [facing towards the apse] is to be excluded.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, after mature reflection and in light of liturgical precedents, responds:

Negative, and in accordance with the following explanation.

The explanation includes different elements which must be taken into account.

It is in the first place to be borne in mind that the word expedit does not constitute an obligation, but a suggestion that refers to the construction of the altar a pariete sejunctum [detached from the wall] and to the celebration versus populum [toward the people]. The clause ubi possibile sit [where it is possible] refers to different elements, as, for example, the topography of the place, the availability of space, the artistic value of the existing altar, the sensibility of the people participating in the celebrations in a particular church, etc. It reaffirms that the position toward the assembly seems more convenient inasmuch as it makes communication easier (Cf. the editorial in Notitiae 29 [1993] 245-249), without excluding, however, the other possibility.

However, whatever may be the position of the celebrating priest, it is clear that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered to the one and triune God, and that the principal, eternal, and high priest is Jesus Christ, who acts through the ministry of the priest who visibly presides as His instrument. The liturgical assembly participates in the celebration in virtue of the common priesthood of the faithful which requires the ministry of the ordained priest to be exercised in the Eucharistic Synaxis. The physical position, especially with respect to the communication among the various members of the assembly, must be distinguished from the interior spiritual orientation of all. It would be a grave error to imagine that the principal orientation of the sacrificial action is [toward] the community. If the priest celebrates versus populum, which is a legitimate and often advisable, his spiritual attitude ought always to be versus Deum per Jesus Christum [toward God through Jesus Christ], as representative of the entire Church. The Church as well, which takes concrete form in the assembly which participates, is entirely turned versus Deum [towards God] as its first spiritual movement.

It appears that the ancient tradition, though not without exception, was that the celebrant and the praying community were turned versus orientem [toward the East], the direction from which the Light which is Christ comes. It is not unusual for ancient churches to be “oriented” so that the priest and the people were turned versus orientem during public prayer.

It may be that when there were problems of space, or of some other kind, the apse represented the East symbolically. Today the expression versus orientem often means versus apsidem, and in speaking of versus populum it is not the west but rather the community present that is meant.

In the ancient architecture of churches, the place of the Bishop or the celebrating priest was in the center of the apse where, seated and turned toward the community, the proclamation of the readings was listened to. Now this presidential place was not ascribed to the human person of the bishop or the priest, nor to his intellectual gifts and not even to his personal holiness, but to his role as an instrument of the invisible Pontiff, who is the Lord Jesus.

When it is a question of ancient churches, or of great artistic value, it is appropriate, moreover, to keep in mind civil legislation regarding changes or renovations. Adding another altar may not always be a worthy solution.

There is no need to give excessive importance to elements that have changed throughout the centuries. What always remains is the event celebrated in the liturgy: this is manifested through rites, signs, symbols and words that express various aspects of the mystery without, however, exhausting it, because it transcends them. Taking a rigid position and absolutizing it could become a rejection of some aspect of the truth which merits respect and acceptance.

Vatican City, 25 September 2000.

Signed: Jorge Arturo Cardinal Medina Estévez, Cardinal Prefect
Archbishop Francesco Pio Tamburrino, Archbishop Secretary

I hope this helps.

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