Wednesday, July 13, 2016

When did facing the people become normal?

Just asking: where in the Missal or elsewhere is the priest directed to say Mass facing the people?
What document of the Church makes it normative?
The earliest CDW document I can find is from 2000, which simply suggests it as an option, 'to facilitate communication', but by then practically every priest in the Latin Rite was doing it, and zillions were spent to facilitate it, but who said do it and where?
The Missal clearly implies the priest faces the 'apse', and says when the priest faces the people.
Cardinal Nichols assumes it to be normative but gives no reference for such an assumption.

Even the Tridentine Missal allowed for those peculiarities, mainly Roman Papal altars, where the altar is built over a Confessio of a martyr so it was impossible to stand in front of the altar -with the people- but this was an exception. Indeed in the Michaelangelo re-ordering of St Peter's the people that mattered, the Papal Court, knelt behind the Pope between the Altar of the Chair and the High Altar.


Joost Verstege said...

"Inter Oecumenici" 26 Sept. 1964, nr. 91 the first official mentioning of not facing the 'apse'? And of course in the deliberations of the 'Consilium'.

JBazChicago said...

Sacred Congregation of Rites (Consilium) Instruction (first) Inter Oecumenici, on the orderly carrying out of the Constitution on the Liturgy 26 September, 1964: AAS 56 (1964) 877-900:

(383) "The main altar should preferably be freestanding, to permit walking around it and celebration facing the people."

August said...

We are on the losing side of the word war. Normal doesn't mean what we think it means, it means whatever they want it to mean. Thus, facing the people was normal in their minds, probably always, but most certainly the day they began doing it.

One would think love and hate would be hard for them to alter, seeing as a man ought to be able to tell if someone is caring for him or not, but when I listen to anything on the television it seems they've successfully inverted those words too.

Tony V said...

My earliest memories of Mass are of the 'modified Tridentine rite' in the vernacular--ie, the missal of 1965 (which you can find here--very similar to the old rite but with some pruning (eg, the Last Gospel was suppressed), also lay lectors for the Epistle. This was always versus populum in our parish.

I should add this was in the northeast US--things very well may have rolled out in England differently.

(By the way, this was the same Mass for which I learned to be on altar boy--unlike my older brothers, no Latin for me. But what a shock when they rolled out the Novus Ordo in--1969? 1970? Overnight, there was nothing for us altar boys to do. We stood around like gooseberries, forlorn and forgotten, till one of the priests made up little jobs for us.)

I have read that some 'progressive' priests in the usual places were experimenting with versus populum even in the pre-Conciliar days, though.

John Nolan said...

The answer can be found in Inter Oecumenici (September 1964) particularly paragraph 91.

Preastat ut altare maius extruatur a pariete sejunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit.

Although the prescriptions of this document did not have to take place until March 1965 they were anticipated in many places.

The photograph shows Mass in Italian (to the extent that it was permitted) celebrated in March 1965 by Paul VI in a Roman church. The rubrics concerning a Papal Low Mass are still in place yet the pontiff turns his back on the altar and celebrates at a wooden table.

This would in itself have sent a powerful message and there must have been a lot of pressure put on bishops to mandate this in their dioceses.

Illustrations for the 1965 interim Missal show a priest in modern vestments standing at an 'altar' without cross or candles and facing the congregation.

If anyone doubts that the demolition of the Roman Rite began, with the then pope's approval, while the Council was still in session, then I would ask him to read Inter Oecumenici in its entirety.

Hagan Lio said...

A few years ago, Adoremus published a two-part article that describes in incredible detail how each innovation came about and the rubrical/theological justifications used for each of them.

The short answer for most of the changes is that various 'liturgical experts' of the day had already been experimentally using the changes for decades before the council using rubrical loopholes, and they spread their ideas through various academic and liturgical conferences to the point that by the time the bishops met for the council desiring genuine reform, the 'experts' were in place to explain between sessions what they were already practically doing to bring 'reform' about.

GOR said...

The short answer, Father, is…nowhere!

After Vat II people took the recommendation to move the altar out from the wall – to facilitate incensing – as a license to ‘turn the altar around’ and ‘face the people’.

The self-described ‘liturgical experts’ told everyone that this was what the Council had prescribed. Every diocese had its ‘liturgist’ who had taken some courses in liturgy and thus was an ‘expert’ to whom everyone had to give obeisance.

Bishops - instead of doing their own ‘due diligence’ - took the word of the liturgical ‘expert’ and mandated that what he said was now law. Thus began the rot that we have been subjected to for the past four or five decades.

The hierarchy of that time – and since - have a lot to answer for.

John Vasc said...

Modernist zealots who bang on about how 'rude' or 'inappropriate' it is for the priest to face the altar 'because then he has his back to the people' never seem to consider that it is no more rude than for parishioners to stand in a pew with their backs to all the other parishioners behind them. Which is of course what happens at any Mass, NO or EF. Without many complaints over the past 2000 years.
Taking this hare-brained argument of 'politeness' to its logical conclusion, the only solution would be for us all to stand in a ring, holding hands. (Though I expect some liturgist has already had that bright idea.)
This concept of liturgical politeness is entirely bogus. As is the idea of the priest facing the people. It is simply wrong, wrong, wrong.

Unknown said...

Johm Vasc: "the only solution would be for us all to stand in a ring, holding hands."

Ever been to a Neocatechumenal Way 'liturgy'...?

Deacon Augustine said...

Although it may not have appeared in official documents until 1964, there are reports of the enthusiasts of the "Liturgical Movement" in europe experimenting with versus populum Masses in the 1930's and 1940's. A priest I know who was ordained in Rome in the 1950's describes the students of the English College having to assist at a (Tridentine) Mass with Indonesian dancing girls who were waving palm lights around - this in Rome in the reign of Pius XII !!!

Like the destruction of Catholic theology and Scripture scholarship, the destruction of the liturgy had been in the works long before the Council. The Council was just the catalyst that gave all these novelties room to bloom as the Popes acquiesced to the modernist onslaught. What was first proposed as the optional novelty soon became the enforced "norm." The modernists worked out their methodology for introducing irrational change and have been extremely successful at imposing it ever since. It doesn't matter if its in the official documents or not once you instil a climate of ignoring or selectively reading official documents.

Pelerin said...

GOR mentions the self described liturgical experts. Although I have never knowlingly met one of these lay 'experts' they do seem to have been responsible for much of the church wreckovations and presumably their Priests went along with their ideas.

The bulletin from a friend's parish once wrote:

'1981 saw the repositioning of the sanctuary to turn the altar to face the congregation as required by the 2nd Vatican Council.' I believe it was the last parish in the diocese to do this.

We know now that it was not 'required' but sadly the liturgical 'experts' of the time did not.

John Vasc gives us a scenario of everyone being in a ring holding hands. A few years ago I attended a Mass in the underground Basilica in Lourdes (where the altar is in the centre) and for the 'Our Father' the Celebrant (not French or British) invited a group of young people to come up and all hold hands in a ring around the altar. They all looked so embarrassed but duly did as they were told. They were not small children but teenagers and I felt embarrassed for them too.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Deacon Augustine,
Yes there was tentative contra populuming, even the founder of Christian Order had an altar on castors but my concern is when and how it became the apparent norm, as opposed to a possibility.

Pelerin said...

There is an interesting set of comments on this subject on the 'Liturgy Guy Blog' entitled 'Why aren't more Masses offered Ad Orientem?' (Dated February but no year given)

One comment was from a Priest who obviously does not like the idea of Ad Orientem and apparently hasn't heard of 'liturgical East'. However I did smile at his suggestion that perhaps Priests should celebrate on their backs looking up. The mind boggles!

John Fisher said...

The new liturgical movement website had a long series detailing this distortion. It was believed the Pope alone could say facing the people. I have seen a picture of a papal visit to Vienna in which the papal altar was positioned and ordered as in St. Peter's. When Paul Vi travelled and even in his own diocese his way of offering Mass was facing the people. We all know St Peters is an exception with the altar facing East but the nave in the unusual position because of the site the church was built on...on a hill that slopped down to the Tiber and had to be infilled. Paul vi set an example that others aped.... It was intended... Copied and ordered... It was false.

Girrard .OP said...

I do remember the old mass in the 1930' and 40's as a boy. I sat by my mother as she prayed the rosary. I was in awe. And yet it was a very busy occasion with priest, deacon, sub deacon and acolytes. Often it was poorly sung and the priest mumbled with no or poor microphone and speakers. I believed we were all facing God. And yet in the late 50's some of us were already experimenting with the holy mass in very small groups. When the Council came and we spent time studying Sacrosanctum Concilium and then hearing about Paul's new mass I cried with tears of joy. I knew then I could never go back to the ancient mass and language.
Strangely, the new breviary was the most difficult transition.

Marc in Eugene said...

I've always understood that (in my case) the US national bishops' conference took the 'it may be done' in the Roman documents and proceeded to impose 'it's great that it may be done and we should do it', but I've never searched for any evidence of that. But having read the Susan Benofy articles linked above (thanks!)-- one of her conclusions: "it was not the decrees of the Council but the desires of the liturgy commentators that were implemented"-- it looks to me (did I miss something?) as if there never was a canonically-binding decision of the national bishops' conference to impose versus populum in the territory of the US: the reverendissimi domini just did it themselves, each in his own diocese, following the professional liturgists' advice. Tsk.

Rick said...

There is a very long, and sometimes quite learned, discussion of origins of the ad populum option at Fr.Z's which touches tangentially on how and when it became "normal." The link follows:

According to Susan Benofy, who wrote a number of articles on this topic for the Adoremus Bulletin, the progressive liturgists had been highly organized for decades, and when the council provided the pretext, they prepared "How to" booklets for dioceses and parishes on the implemtation of the "changes" to the Mass (even before the close of the Council) and had them widely distributed, giving the impression that they were somehow sanctioned and "official." Priests and even bishops uncritically accepted and followed them. Presto change-o, Mass facing the people instanteously became the new norm--as well as a whole host of other catastrophic innovations.

BEANO44 said...

The same could be said about receiving HC in the hand. It was imposed but not authorised

John Fisher said...

I might also point out is what was imposed on us mirrors the methodology used in England at the time of King Edward Henry viiii's son. The imposition of Cramner tables is what has happened in our own times as well as smashing of altars. Christ is the host at Mass and all face him and his second coming, his crucifixion, and rising in the East. We face the host of the sacred banquet and the priest turning his back of Him the centre is an offence and offensive, Christ is our focus not ourselves or the priest who should be offering face God... Not us we are not God or to be entertained as if he was a card shuffler, trickster or gadget demonstrator. We are not really interested in the priests face or personality in this context.

GOR said...

Pelerin - the liturgical 'experts' (circa 1969) were not lay people. They were diocesan priests who were sent - or went on their own - to take some classes in Liturgy. They were then 'experts' and bishops and dioceses took their word for what the Council had supposedly directed to be done.

The rot started with the people who taught those classes and the attendees who took them. There was no arguing with them because they were the 'experts' and you weren't. Anyone who wasn't a so-called 'Liturgist' had no say in the matter.

It was this class of person who denigrated Pope Benedict, saying he wasn't a Liturgist.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post, Father. It and the comments are highly enlightening.

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