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Will Ad Orientem ever become the standard mode of offering Novus Ordo Mass? August 6, 2014

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, General Catholic, Interior Life, Latin Mass, Liturgy, persecution, priests, scandals, secularism, self-serving, Tradition, Virtue.

I will preface the below by saying that I have not assisted at a Novus Ordo in the past 9 months. I have only assisted at one since we moved to Irving.  I feel very strongly that the ultimate liturgical future for the Church is an entire return to its past, that is the universal re-adoption of the TLM, but one that is made almost entirely by choice, not by edict.

But I still care deeply about the great Liturgy of the Church in all its forms.  While I have many many concerns or problems with the Novus Ordo as it is offered in most parishes, I do recognize that it is possible to offer the Novus Ordo in a reverent and much more edifying manner than the “product” offered in the vast majority of parishes.  I drew much edification from Novus Ordo Latin Masses before finding the ultimate in the Traditional Mass.  And a mass (heh) improvement in the reverence, devotion, and sacrificial focus in the Novus Ordo would be of immense benefit to the billion plus souls who only know that form of the Mass.

With that in mind, a recent post at Rorate attracted my attention. It was made by Joseph Shaw, “head” of Una Voce International, the international group devoted to spreading love and support for the Traditional Latin Mass.  In that post Mr. Shaw examines opposition to Mass offered Ad Orientem.  He also posted the accompanying video from Una Voce, which explodes many of the myths regarding “versus poplum” as the way Mass was offered in the early Church.  That is, as is so much modernists claim, false:

Mr. Shaw noted the following in the Rorate post (I add emphasis):

It remains one of the most explosive issues in the liturgical debate. Increasing numbers of priests wish to celebrate Mass facing liturgical East, even in the context of the Novus Ordo, under the influence of the very trenchant positions taken on the subject by a number of scholars, including Pope Benedict . Pope Benedict’s pre-pontifical book ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy‘ compared Mass ‘facing the people’ to a ‘closed circle’, whereas it should ‘open out’ towards the Lord.

Such priests face increasingly desperate resistance from superiors and radical liberal members of the laity, who no longer have any real arguments but have come to see the issue as one of symbolic importance. As indeed it is. Will we turn the clock back? Will we make what happens in Catholic churches look like an act of worship, with the priest offering a sacrifice to God on behalf of the people, and not like a cosy chat over a coffee table?

Because of this resistance, worship ad orientem continues to be largely limited to the Traditional Mass, and it falls to those attached to the Traditional Mass to demonstrate and to defend this manner of celebrating Mass.

That commentary has gotten me thinking over the past few days since I read it.  While I am quite aware that opposition to Latin in the Mass in all its forms (TLM, Novus Ordo, even mixing in a few Latin prayers in a predominately vernacular Mass) is intense, there is nearly so great an opposition – and in some ways even greater – towards offering Mass Ad Orientem.

As Mr. Shaw notes above, this matter has taken on enormous symbolic significance.  While all arguments from logic, history, and Tradition are on the side of those who promote Ad Orientem, those opposed to Mass offered in this manner, who happen to control most all the levers of power in the Church, are not moved by such arguments and retain their attachment to versus poplum on a strictly, and often violently, emotional level. I have personal experience of priests who got in more trouble with ecclesiastical superiors over offering Novus Ordo Mass Ad Orientem than they did from mixing in “too much” Latin!  It is now a sacred shibboleth among many progressive elements in the Church that the priest “turning his back on the people” simply cannot be done.  How can one have a cozy chat and a nice family meal with one’s back turned towards one’s “guests?!”

Obviously the matter of which direction the priest faces has enormous impact on not just the individual experience of the Mass, but the entire focus of the Mass and all manner of subtle and not-so-subtle theological reverberations.  A priest who faces the tabernacle with the people leads the people in offering Sacrifice and rendering adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication to God.  A priest who faces the people around a table presides over a community meal where the sacrificial element is heavily muted, at best.  Yes there are ways to ameliorate that impact a bit with the “Benedictine  arrangement” of candles and cross on the altar, etc., but that is not the case in the vast majority of parishes.  The altar is nearly bare, just the Missal and the paten and chalice, often of improper materials.  Here the jocular “presider” tends to further diminish any sense of the sacred, which becomes even worse when wireless mikes allow the priest to shift the focus even more to himself as “entertainer” (some entertainment).  All of this has a profound impact on laity, reducing their understanding of the Mass as Sacrifice (its most exalted role), reducing or eliminating the sense of the sacred, encouraging excessive focus on comfort and immodesty……I could go on for some time.

And while we all hope and pray the “biological solution” will result in great change in the Church and the elimination of the type of opposition outlined above, I’m not so certain we can rely on that.  Even if progressives only replace themselves at a greatly reduced rate from one generation the next, there will still be enough around to staff chanceries and sit in cathedras for decades to come.  And at the rate the TLM is growing, it is possible that by the time there are enough orthodox bishops and curial officials in place to effect this “radical change” towards Ad Orientem in the Novus Ordo, the TLM will already be the Mass of a large minority of the Church.  Who knows what might occur at that point, and we have certainly seen in recent months how quickly perceived progress towards orthodoxy can be completely upset by a change in leadership at the top.

Perhaps the question I should ask is this:  can the Novus Ordo be the Novus Ordo without versus poplum?  Would not Ad Orientem in the Novus Ordo, adopted widely, tend rapidly towards adopting more and more elements from the TLM, and thus effect that natural return?  And if that is the case, will Ad Orientem only return on a wide scale through the TLM, as Mr. Shaw alludes. Of course, there is nothing officially or technically to prevent the Novus Ordo being offered Ad Orientem right now in every parish, but practically, would such occur, with the Novus Ordo remaining as it is now?

Which is more edifying of souls, Novus Ordo Latin facing the people, or Novus Ordo vernacular Ad Orientem?  I have been to both, and I have to say, overall, I tend towards the latter.  But I think the priest facing the people also tends, almost inexorably, towards more inclusion of Latin in the Liturgy.  No wonder progressives hate Ad Orientem so much.  And what a coup in very stealthily inserting first the option, and then the virtual “command” (even though it has never been codified in any official Church document) for versus poplum.

These men were not fools. Bugnini, Bouyer, et. al., they knew what they were doing.   And Lord, did they ever do it.  Have mercy on us!  Please bring the light of reverent, holy, orthodox Mass to all the souls in Your Church now, Lord!


1. discipleofthedumbox - August 6, 2014

Thought-provoking, indeed. I know that for a brief period of time, the pastor here in Hunt county was celebrating the Novus Ordo in Latin ad orientem, however, this practice ceased unexpectedly and quite suddenly, or at least it seemed so to me. I was never understood clearly why this particular practice stopped. I pray that he returns to it soon.

Tantumblogo - August 6, 2014

He was told to stop. Can say no more.

discipleofthedumbox - August 6, 2014

Ah, that makes sense and answers why I never understood clearly the shift back. Thanks.

Marc - August 6, 2014

Sounds like someone’s authority was exceeded 😦

Tantumblogo - August 6, 2014


KathiBee - August 7, 2014

Ya know the thing about this pastor (we were attending when this happened), was that he gave several months of catechesis from the pulpit regarding “why” ad orientem.

Sometimes it was in the context of a sermon/part of a sermon, sometimes just a little tidbit during the announcements after Mass, like one Sunday when he put a pic of Bishop Slattery of Tulsa offering a Mass in that direction on the bulletin cover & he commented on it.

It wasn’t overkill catechesis, but it was ongoing & informative. He really made a point to educate his flock & address common concerns. It was so sad to me that somebody contacting the powers-that-be changed all that in about 4 weeks.

2. David L Alexander - August 6, 2014

It happens already in a few places that I know of, where the Mass is “ad orientem,” regardless of language or which set of books. However, there is so little in the way of catechesis, that it is very difficult to implement on a practical level. A parish would have to be re-catechised. I could see it as a regular practice in twenty years, maybe, because by then the “John Paul II generation” of priests will completely take over the upper ranks.

3. Steve - August 6, 2014

Though he clearly supported much of the “new orientation”, Pope Benedict XVI ignited much debate in regard to liturgy during his pontificate.

During that time, there were Cardinals, bishops and priests who were emboldened to the point that they declared that the Novus Ordo was not remotely the Mass envisioned by the Conciliar fathers.

During Pope Francis’ reign, does such talk flow from leading prelates?

During the past 17 months within the Church, our focus has shifted from Vatican II’s implementation/liturgical issues to obsessions with casting sodomites in positive light/Communion for divorced/remarried Catholics.

I literally can only recall just a couple of brief sentences that Pope Francis had spoken in regard to liturgy/reverence.

Does anybody believe that a so-called “brick-by-brick” “Marshall Plan” of liturgical restoration occupies the minds of Pope Francis and our Cardinals, bishops and priests?

What happened to the “new liturgical movement”?

Did that not cease when the feet of Moslem women were washed on Maundy Thursday?

4. Steve - August 6, 2014

To follow up on my comment, I don’t believe that Pope Francis has inspired Cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laymen to embrace the “new liturgical movement”.

Interestingly, many Traditionalists and liberals (some Modernists included) agree on one thing:

They cast Pope Francis as a radical Pontiff determined to “liberalize”, if not overthrow, the Catholic Church.

I disagree with that image of Pope Francis.

But at least in regard to liturgy, I do not believe that Pope Francis’ words and actions have granted much support to the “new liturgical movement”.

His Holiness has obviously offered Masses in Latin, replete with Gregorian Chant.

But Pope Venerable Paul VI did that. He also gave us the Novus Ordo.

I don’t believe that Masses offered in Latin by Pope Francis equate to His Holiness having interest in ad orientem worship and additional Traditional liturgical practices.

Even if he has been misrepresented, I have encountered among priests the following interpretation of Pope Francis’ Pontificate:

A new type of Church is under construction. The “old” Church of Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessors was mean, judgmental, rigid, liturgical…

The emerging “new” Church is the Church of “who am I to judge?”

The priests in question are not aging Vatican II types who view Pope Francis as their final hope to reshape the “old” Church.

The priests in question simply view Pope Francis as ushering in an exciting and refreshing Catholic…Who-Am-I-To-Judge…Church.

Latin, ad orientem, Communion on the tongue Masses do not exist in that Church.

5. TG - August 7, 2014

In answer to your question, my first thought was “no”. You’re in an area that has FSSP. Most parishes are at the mercy of the bishop. In the Diocese of Austin, we only have one TLM on Sundays at 3 p.m. in Austin. I’m stuck with NO Mass and grateful our parish is still Catholic and nothing weird goes on.

6. Fr Anselm Marie - August 7, 2014

On a related catechetical note: the disposition ad orientem is not only spatial, but also to the temporal. Just as it is proper for the celebrant of the Holy Sacrifice to face the directly of rising sun, the most eminent symbol in nature of the imminent return of the risen Christ, it should also be done at an hour when the sun is actually rising. Thus the traditional times at which Holy Mass is to be offered are at dawn or mid-morning. Even so-called midnight Mass is offered not “at night”, but at the earliest hour of the morning, the first moment at which the sun can be said to be in the East: 12AM (ante meridiem). The three Masses at Christmas very clearly illustrate the application of this principle.

It is worthy of note that the appearance of the novelty of afternoon or evening Masses coincided with the experimentation of versus populum.

Fr Anselm Marie - August 7, 2014

corrections: …spatial, but also temporal. Just as it is proper for the celebrant of the Holy Sacrifice to face the direction of rising sun, …

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