Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tulsa turns to the the Lord

The Bishop of Tulsa, I am sure you have read elsewhere has decided to encourage priests to celebrate by Mass "ad orienrem", by doing so himself.
Speaking to Zenit about celebrating "contra populum" rather than with them, he said,

"This innovation was introduced after the Vatican Council, partly to help the people understand the liturgical action of the Mass by allowing them to see what was going on, and partly as an accommodation to contemporary culture where people who exercise authority are expected to face directly the people they serve, like a teacher sitting behind her desk."

Unfortunately, he added, this change had some "unforeseen and largely negative effects."

Not only was it a "serious rupture with the Church’s ancient tradition," the prelate asserted, but it also "can give the appearance that the priest and the people were engaged in a conversation about God, rather than the worship of God."

He stated that it also "places an inordinate importance on the personality of the celebrant by placing him on a kind of liturgical stage."

The bishop noted Benedict XVI's appeal to "draw upon the ancient liturgical practice of the Church to recover a more authentic Catholic worship."

He continued, "For that reason, I have restored the venerable 'ad orientem' position when I celebrate Mass at the cathedral."

This gesture, he stated, is not one of rudeness or hostility toward the faithful, nor an attempt to "turn back the clock."

Rather, Bishop Slattery affirmed, it represents the fact that "we journey together to God."
The bishop cites several reasons for celebrating ad orientem

... the Catholic liturgy has always maintained a marvelous adherence to the Apostolic Tradition. We see the Mass, indeed the whole liturgical expression of the Church’s life, as something which we have received from the Apostles and which we, in turn, are expected to hand on intact. (1 Corinthians 11:23)


...the Church held on to this single eastward position because of the sublime way it reveals the nature of the Mass. Even someone unfamiliar with the Mass who reflected upon the celebrant and the faithful being oriented in the same direction would recognize that the priest stands at the head of the people, sharing in one and the same action, which was – he would note with a moment’s longer reflection – an act of worship.

Every thinking liturgist nowadays seems to believe that the idea of ad orientem celebration is right and proper, only liturgical idealogues seem to defend what has become the current practice but it is brave parish priest (or bishop) that will go against that practice, which has become so redolent of the "Spirit" of the Council.
Can anyone cite any Church document that actually even recommends non-ad orientem celebration.


Physiocrat said...

When the priest faces the congregation, it fosters a them-and-us feeling.

pelerin said...

Have any English bishops made any similar decision to that of this US bishop?

A few days ago in Lourdes I had a conversation with someone (aged about 35) which made me realise how alien 'ad orientem 'must seem to all those of her age and under, whereas to those of us who 'suffered' under the changes, it seems so natural and would be such a welcome return.

This year I joined one of the new guided tours of the sanctuaries 'Le Chemin des Signes'(very informative but not yet in English). As we approached one of the beautiful outside altars in which the reliquary containing some of the relics of Ste Bernadette are placed every summer, I decided to ask the guide if she thought that one day the very small round wooden slatted and glass topped altar would be removed.

It stands in front of the original altar and obscures the reliquary. Few people seem to know the reliquary is there. I have even seen people place their cameras on the wooden altar.

At my question the guide looked aghast and replied that 'Of course not - Mass is said their every morning - they cannot remove the altar.' I then realised that the original altar behind must seem like a backdrop to her and that she may never have attended an 'ad orientem' Mass. The fact that a Priest would be able to celebrate Mass at the original altar seemed to elude her.

The front altar was indeed used for Mass and because of its small size was very 'cluttered'. The priests
when celebrating had their backs to Ste Bernadette's reliquary and people seated in front could not see it either. The first time I saw the altar I knew it reminded me of something but could not
think what. This time I was horrified to realise finally what this was - the wooden slats are similar in both colour and width to those on the waste-paper baskets there. And that was a design for the altar of the Holy Sacrifice.

The good news is that there do appear to be some changes for the better there as I read that in the Rosary Basilica (which has a large number of magnificent side altars unused) the sanctuary is being renovated and the Blessed Sacrament will eventually be restored to an elevated central position. At present the Tabernacle is to one side covered with a plain covering.

The American Bishop has made a bold move and I look forward to others following giving the lead to their Priests.

nickbris said...

Will we be able to have Ad Orientem Mass in the vernacular?

Richard said...

If Tulsa does it, let's hope that the rest of the Bishops are only 24 hours from following.

gemoftheocean said...

I wish Arinze, and this Bishop etc. wouldn't get on their high horses all the time regards this issue.

1st off the Tulsa bishop is flat out wrong when he says this is an innovation post vatican II. Someone being flat out wrong is not a convincing argument. While it was certainly the way most of the Masses were celebrated, in Roman bascilicas and elsewhere the Mass was versus populam. Now maybe, this bishop is counting on ignorance, but I don't like something stated as "fact" when in fact it isn't.

As re: any statement FOR "versus populum" I think if you check the gospels you will find numerous references to "while they were at supper" -- the "reclining" position is even mentioned, for heaven sakes.

Having said all this, there are a few priests I'd like to be able to force celebrate ONLY ad orientem....and that would include my own pastor.

Someone remind me what the Bishop has in his hands at the consecration. He has God in his hands, last I heard. He's not "unturned" away from the Lord.

This sort of sniffy statement by the Tulsa bishop irritates me. He's certainly not in the wrong for wanting to celebrate that way, but the idea that his way is the only "right" way to do it is annoying and not factually correct.

Jane said...

Thanks for a most interesting post. And to think I could have been with you if Colin had not shattered his femur.

Loved your comment, although it does rather give my age away.Poor Gene Pitney. May he rest in peace.

I think I'm a bit late for the A&B
comment on your previous post. May I put it here? After all, Bishop Slattery seems to be the only bishop in the world who has promoted Spiritual Motherhood of priests in his diocese, at least as far as one can find out from the Internet!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Remember, that as far as the Papal Basillicas are concerned, the principle attendees at Mass were the Papal Court, who were between the altar and throne, the overflow in the north and south trancept, and face the same direction as the Pope when he was at the altar, even when like S. Petro the altar actually faced ad occidentum.

Someone recently suggested that that had something to do with Papal binding an loosing.

gemoftheocean said...

Yes, Father, but the bulk of the attendees would still have been in front of him.

All I ask is that the priest, whichever way he is facing say the Mass as written and not be "Father PErsonality." IT's okay during the sermon, but not elsewhere during the Mass.

Transparent priests are best for the ad orientam position. That or generous "wings" in the transcept aisle.

pelerin said...

I too was amused by the comment - only 24 hours away! As Jane says it does give our ages away to remember that song. I never really knew what it meant as I had never heard of Tulsa!

GOTO - I read in the American bishop's magazine linked on Fr Ray's blog that the 'ad orientem' position remained for 800 years. Are you saying that the Church was wrong for all this length of time?

Dave Deavel said...

gemoftheocean: It is true that there were priests doing the "versus populum" position, including Romano Guardini, before Vat II. However, the vast shift was afterward. Part of the reason offered was what you have suggested about Roman basilicas.

But about that Klaus Gamber and Joseph Ratzinger among others have suggested that there is evidence that in West facing basilicas the congregation turned and faced east as well. People with their backs to the priest. . .

In any case, as Louis Bouyer and others, recently the Oratorian U. M. Lang, have shown, there is no versus populum in any of the sources for Christian worship. Synagogue worship was faced toward the box containing the Scrolls of the sacred books. Ancient sacred meals did not have anybody facing each other. Ignatius has Fr. Lang's book on the subject, as the post indicates.

Vaughan said...

Has anyone been to Mass recently in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Cathedral? In that chapel, as in every other chapel in the Cathedral, the original altar has been left but for some reason the clergy seem to celebrate mass on a free standing table that is wheeled out just for masses. Although in the side chapels I have seen mass regularly celebrated on the original stone altars facing the wall, in the Lady Chapel this dreadful picnic table unfailingly appears. It is such a shame, and so undignified. I have seen it wobble while the priest is trying to consecrate the elements. Surely this is a bad idea when a far more noble altar is being ignored? I wonder what Pope Benedict would think...

Unknown said...

Well done to that Bishop. I hope his example is quickly followed by bishops elsewhere, particularly here in the UK.

I only pray that the Liberals don't have him spirited away somewhere from his diocese on some trumped up charge like shooting a man called Liberty Valance....
(sorry couldn't resist it :) )

gemoftheocean said...

Pelerin, I'm not at all saying that ad orientem is wrong. I'm just challenging the Oklahoma bishop. He's stating something [i.e. "oh, nobody did this before Vat. II" as fact, when in fact it ISN'T. I don't like arguments that play on either ignorance or fudging the truth. And that statement is either ignorant on the bishop's part, or he's counting on the ignorance of the people ... neither of which, IMO, is a good thing to do. If he said "I like facing the tabernacle, and it's easier for me to focus on what I'm doing than have my focus pulled" I'd buy that. But he doesn't.

Dave: If the people really had their backs to the priest, then they were dumber than posts. What were they doing? Looking at passing traffic or the back of the church?

Dave Deavel said...

Gemoftheocean: the people weren't dumb. They were looking east--where the Sun rises and where Malachi and the Prophets tell us that the Son rises. You should read Ratzinger's SPIRIT OF THE LITURGY and Fr. Lang's TURNING TOWARD THE LORD for more information on this.

pelerin said...

Rereading some of these comments I have just spotted that I left a 1 off the number of years 'ad orientem' celebrations were the norm. It should have read 1800 years and not 800! That is 18 centuries. Mea culpa.

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