Turn the altar back around?


I think it would be a good idea to have the priest and the people face the same direction in Mass as it would make the Mass more ‘God-centric’ (sorry, I invented a word, hope you know what I mean). Like, we worship God together, the priest is leading us in the celebration of Mass but he is not the focus and neither are we. I think it would have a better feel than the way it is now (with the priest facing us like a musician would at a concert), I haven’t seen it done before but I’ve heard that it used to be that way. What do you think? (There is a poll above and you may discuss here).


Posting this is the Traditional Catholicism Forum will get a skewed result;) Best to transfer this to the Liturgy and Sacraments forum where you get a better mix of opinions.

I’d love to turn the altars back around.


People say “The youth dosen’t like Mass…we need rock music to attract them…” NO! You don’t need rock music to attract us! That’s insulting. If fact, make Mass more traditional, more Latin, more insence, TURN THE ALTAR EAST, and we’d love it more than the boring play-like performance that Mass is now. The priest is not a cheap actor “on stage”, he’s a Priest in the line of Melkizadek who enters the Holy Santuary and interceeds for all humanity and represents Christ.

The Eastern Catholic Churches know where it’s at. Look at their numbers…no shortage of youth, in fact, they have the largest youth groups. Do their priests face the congregation at Mass? No. They open the Iconstasis, light up the incense, and sing in the traditional Liturgical language of the Rite. HMMMMMM…


Having the Priest lead the people, encourages active participation. This better represents worship as we are a priestly people and we are not at a show, but worshipping God.

We are suppose to unite our prayers, sufferings, and worship to God as the Priest offers Jesus to the Father in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

It seems much more individual when we have extra’s doing their thing at the altar. This is not full participation but a special group of people participating in ways that the whole congregation can’t. The more you elevate the extra’s the more division you have between the people in the pews and the other laity who now attain a special status who diminish the participation of the people in the pews.

In Christ


I realize many people want to have altars turned so the priest’s back is to the congregation, and I respect that desire. However, the way the altars are turned toward the congregation does not offend me, as long as the setup and Mass are dignified and reverent. I will have to admit that I do like watching the priest with the host and the chalice at the precise moment of consecration. I like to concentrate on that moment.

But I would certainly not object to people’s having it the other way at times and in places.


AMEN BROTHER!!! :thumbsup: :clapping: :yup: :smiley:


“the priest has his back to the people” is what I always hear from people. That is a sensationalized way of putting it. It puts emphasis on the negative (or perceived negative).

You never hear those same people complaining about the people in front of them having their backs to them in the pews!


Or that they have their own backs to the people behind them. :slight_smile:


The solution is to make a big circle without any rows and get rid of the Priest, then no-one will have any backs to them and we will all see each other…Yay!
That would be perfect people worship.:slight_smile:


Of course the Altars should be turned back. The priest celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar and leads the people in prayer. This is a more God-oriented Liturgy rather then the people-oriented one so common now.

Your joking, right?


My grandfather (a Deacon) said that there is no rule stopping a Priest from turning the Altar around. They just can’t say it in Latin, and the Novus Ordo rubrics must be followed…I didn’t know this, but I hope by making everyone here aware of it, it can open the possibility of a movement in the laity…lets pray for that:highprayer:


Yes, I am.

I enjoy making fun of the hippie type Catholicism we see here in California.

God Bless


In the N.O. the Penitential Rite with everyone facing the same direction makes lots of sense. In the Liturgy of the Word. Turning the back makes no sense to me. In the Prayers of the faithful and the Liturgy of the Eucharist a good part of it with the priest and people facing in the same direction would seem to make sense. People can see the host when it is elevated. The blood of Christ is in a chalice and you can’t really observe it either way.

I guess I am saying that depending on what is going down it makes sense for the priest and congregation to be facing in the same direction particularly when the Priest is leading prayers. When the readings are being proclaimed it makes no sense at all fto have the proclaimer with his back turned.

In the TLM where the priest has always done his own thing while everyone else looks on why would he face the congregation except for the final blessing and such.

Its like a lot of things in our Church, we get stuck in “either/or” instead of “both/and” when common sense would say “both/and.”


Are you certain that all eastern rites have the priest facing the same direction as the people? I thought the priest was facing us when I visited a Maronite rite church. Maybe I’m remembering wrong?


I don’t think someone is always being deliberately sensational by saying the priest has his back to them. They are describing his position relative to their own. If I was to describe mass in our chapel I would say the priest is facing the people with his back to the tabernacle. I’m just describing his orientation relative to myself and then to the tabernacle without any implied criticism.


Well, according to the comprehensive, “Church History”, by Fr. John Laux - written decades before Vatican II - the "priest or bishop faced the congregation" during mass in the Early Church. The priest facing the altar came later.

I think people tend to forget that the mass is for our benefit - so that WE could have Christ present with US.
To truly follow tradition is to do what we do now.

Communion in the hand - SAME thing:

According to St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who wrote in the ‘Catechetical Lectures’, ca. 350 AD, the following;
"In approaching, therefore, do not come up with your wrists apart or with your fingers spread, but make of your left hand a throne for the right, since you are about to receive into it a King. And having hollowed your palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying over it the AMEN."
So even in the early Church we see the custom of using hands to receive the Holy Eucharist.


The Maronite Church is one of the more “Latinized” Eastern Churches. It’s Mass then, would be similarly affected by the Novus Ordo, Vatican II procedures.

The Melkite Church and it’s “cousins” if you will, use an Iconstasis (here’s a picture of onehttp://www.byzantines.net/byzcathculture/images/cotb_iconostasis.jpg ) The door the Priest is standing in has a room behind it where the Altar is and he has to enter the door and face the way he entered during the Concecration: away from the congregation.

Elvisman: just because the Priest is sacrificing the Lamb of God just as the Israelites of the Old Covenants did in the Temple of Jerusalem by facing away from the people does not mean the Father, Christ, or the Spirit are not present. That’s a little selfish in my opinion. Christ, The Perfect Sacrifice, should be the center of attention. He isn’t there to please you, He called you to Himself at the Mass, not the other way around.


I disagree with the spin that you put on the current orientation. I see it as the priest leading me in worship regardless of which way he faces. I don’t need him to face a certain way to know that the focus is and always will be on Jesus.

However, I appreciate being able to follow the liturgy even when I have to read his lips and watch his body postures to see where we are due to my apparently fading mid-range hearing, screaming kids, super thunderstorms or even microphone and power failures. This latter situation is on my mind right now because this time last year during our severe storm season we had mass start in the minimal candlelight with the priest raising his voice. If he had faced the same direction as the middle rows of people, we would have heard nothing.

My church was built in what we were told is a very old design of a cross on the interior (long center sections facing the sanctuary/altar which is raised up about six steps, 2 shorter arms of the cross on the east and west sides of the sanctuary). It is not “church in the round” but literally 100’s of folks will be looking at the priest from the side regardless of which direction he faces for the liturgy.

The altar is set far enough toward the center of the sanctuary (under the large dome) that I believe a priest could celebrate a liturgy facing the same way as the main pews of people right now without moving the physical altar. We have such a big building that I know it has been “loaned” for a wedding liturgy in another rite’s tradition using their priest from India. Maybe that is why it was built with an altar that could work either way?


There is a Church in Detroit that uses a Latin NO Mass.
Here it is! Assumption Grotto


Someone can (I should say will) correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that that view *was *commonly held at the beginning of the last century by many scholars but has been contradicted by modern scholarship and analysis of archaeological discoveries? The late Fr. Gamber wrote a book on it, and also Fr. Bouyer mentions it a few times.

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