Why don't priests face East when worshipping?

As a Byzantine Catholic I am aware that all priests used to face East, just as all of the people did when offering Mass. That is, the priest took the posture of a Shepherd leading the people to God. The Eastern Catholics, along with the Orthodox, still do this. Why don’t priests face East to welcome the Lord rather than having their backs to the Lord as most do in the NO? Would it be proper for an RC priest to turn and welcome God in the NO as they used to do?

It just seems kind of sad that the priest does not have the opportunity to either lead the people or to face God.

Dan L

Churches are not necessarily built with the back wall of the Altar facing East these days, so TLM or NO, either way wouldn’t be simple solution to what you suggest.

CARose

We should return to the practice in the LATIN rite. Even if the Churches today are not erected with the back wall facing east, atleast the tabernacle should be there and the priest still prays to the Lord present there.

Anthony

Why are churches built facing the wrong way? Why don’t priests face the East along with the people? Is this only happening in America and at St. Peter’s?

Dan L

my priest faces north

Why are churches built facing the wrong way?

Sometimes the lots available for church construction don’t avail themselves to an oriented church.

I believe that St. John the Baptist, in Plum Borough, PA is oriented with the back wall facing east. But the arrangement means that folks entering the church from the parking lot enter into the front of the church instead of the rear.

Rather disorientating experience for a visitor who doesn’t expect it.

 [font=Arial]In the West, if Mass cannot be said in such a way that the priest physically faces East, it is *supposed* to be said facing 'Liturgical East,' with the priest facing the same way as the people, acting as head of the assembly.  Cardinal Ratzinger explains:

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Where priest and people together face the same way, what we have is a cosmic orientation and also in interpretation of the Eucharist in terms of resurrection and trinitarian theology. Hence it is also an interpretation in terms of parousia, a theology of hope, in which every Mass is an approach to the return of Christ. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986, pp. 140-41.)

[font=Arial]I think it’s very interesting to note that the IGMR and Sacramentary are written in such a way that it is assumed that the priest is celebrating Mass ad orientem. Oh, well. Who reads those things anyway? :wink: I don’t really know why the Vatican has permitted such a fundamental blunder to take place in the liturgies of the Latin church. My reaction to the practice of offering Mass ‘facing the people’ is pretty similar to that of my Byzantine pastor’s: “Who in the world THOUGHT of that?!”
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“…a common turning to the East during the Eucharistic Prayer remains essential. This is not a case of accidentals, but of essentials. Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord. It is not now a question of dialogue, but of common worship, of setting off towards the One who is to come. What corresponds with the reality of what is happening is not the closed circle, but the common movement forward expressed in a common direction for prayer…” (adoremus.org/0500-Ratzinger.html)

Furthermore, last time I checked, God didn’t just exist East. Heh. That’s small “t” tradition.

-Michael

It is a wonderful tradition with which I have no issue, so long as we don’t try to dogmatize it or somehow use it to drag someone’s orthodoxy and orthopraxis into question.

The Ancient Church celebrated in a variety of ways according to the limited evidence we have. I imagine some of the more hard-core folks would be quite dissapointed with some of the early Petrine masses celebrated on a wooden table with everyone else sitting down at the table. (Egad! No kneelers!)

That being said, the modern-day “flippymass” where everyone shows up in flipflops and shorts and t-shirts (including the priest!) and the Introduction begins, “Hey, y’all, good to see you this morning!” is not right either. One can celebrate Mass ‘informally’ without being irreverent. A wonderful spoken Mass celebrated in simplicity at an early hour can be as wonderful as a organ-filled spectacle at 11 AM.

As for facing east, I think one of the reasons that most Latin Rite priests don’t do it is that in the USA and, I presume, other parts of the english-speaking world, V2 as gospel meant and was enacted as ‘We don’t have to turn our backs on everyone’ which is a theologically bogus statement.

All that being said, I can and do find myself (not Latin Rite, not in communion with Rome, not trying to pretend to be lest someone imply that I am) celebrating both ad orientem (towards east) and versus populum (facing the people). Depends on circumstances and situations and, frankly, the practice of the location where I am at.

As an example, in our ecumenical hospital chapel where I celebrate Divine Liturgy each day, I have to live with a pulpit behind the Altar on the centerline of the room (think traditional Protestant church). When I tried to get the Tabernacle put in the center beneath the (blank) cross I was told that would make the chapel too catholic. At least I did get the Altar rail installed that I wanted! UGH! So, anyway, I am stuck using the physical plant of the Chapel, and since I don’t want to have an empty pulpit in my view while consecrating the Eucharist, I face the people and the Cross/Candles that are on the center of the Altar. In the Oratory I maintain in the Rectory for smaller daily Liturgy at the parish level, I celebrate ad orientem (though I am actually facing almost true north because of the Rectory’s arrangement).

Sometimes, you are simply stuck by the situation you face. You make the best of it, and celebrate as reverently as possible, taking into account your ritual tradition, your ecclesiastical canonical requirements, and the souls of the people you pastor.

Rob+

Why doesn’t the priest face liturgical east? Why don’t we use Latin anymore? Why isn’t there solumn reception for Holy Communion? Why have the marble altars been destroyed and meal placed tables set up? Where have the tabernacles gone? What happened to that St. Joseph statue? Who allowed Marcie to administer the Holy Eucharist? Who allowed those girls to give a liturgical dance? Why does that new church building on the other side of town not built to resemble a church structure?

Maybe an agenda here? Hmmm…

Catholic Nerd,

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I was beginning to despair that anyone actually understood my question. You have given a very helpful answer. Now, when new Churches are built I still wonder why this directive is so often ignored. As I think you understand this isn’t just tradition unless one considers Scripture just small t tradition.

Dan L

[quote=CatholicNerd][font=Arial]In the West, if Mass cannot be said in such a way that the priest physically faces East, it is supposed to be said facing ‘Liturgical East,’ with the priest facing the same way as the people, acting as head of the assembly. Cardinal Ratzinger explains:

[/font]

Where priest and people together face the same way, what we have is a cosmic orientation and also in interpretation of the Eucharist in terms of resurrection and trinitarian theology. Hence it is also an interpretation in terms of parousia, a theology of hope, in which every Mass is an approach to the return of Christ. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986, pp. 140-41.)

[font=Arial]I think it’s very interesting to note that the IGMR and Sacramentary are written in such a way that it is assumed that the priest is celebrating Mass ad orientem. Oh, well. Who reads those things anyway? :wink: I don’t really know why the Vatican has permitted such a fundamental blunder to take place in the liturgies of the Latin church. My reaction to the practice of offering Mass ‘facing the people’ is pretty similar to that of my Byzantine pastor’s: “Who in the world THOUGHT of that?!”
[/font]

“…a common turning to the East during the Eucharistic Prayer remains essential. This is not a case of accidentals, but of essentials. Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord. It is not now a question of dialogue, but of common worship, of setting off towards the One who is to come. What corresponds with the reality of what is happening is not the closed circle, but the common movement forward expressed in a common direction for prayer…” (adoremus.org/0500-Ratzinger.html)

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I believe the Roman Catholic Church must settle these issues themselves. I have some opinions as to what that agenda might be but that was not really why I posted the question. I’m Eastern Catholic. I’m neutral regarding the Western practices. If they bring people to God then that is good. In the East will have retained the more ancient practice. I feel sorry for the more traditional Catholics who have a difficult time finding masses offered without the level of reverence that they long for, but that is not my business. I was curious, and I still am.

Dan L

[quote=EddieArent]Why doesn’t the priest face liturgical east? Why don’t we use Latin anymore? Why isn’t there solumn reception for Holy Communion? Why have the marble altars been destroyed and meal placed tables set up? Where have the tabernacles gone? What happened to that St. Joseph statue? Who allowed Marcie to administer the Holy Eucharist? Who allowed those girls to give a liturgical dance? Why does that new church building on the other side of town not built to resemble a church structure?

Maybe an agenda here? Hmmm…
[/quote]

I wonder when the “facing east” thing went away??? Here in Chicago I can think of several Churchs built 85-120 years ago that face all sorts of directions. So evidently this custom has been selectively for quite some time.

probably because the farther north and farther south you go, it’s gets harder and harder to tell if you should be looking left or right, up or down…

:smiley:

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