Saturday, July 21, 2007

From orandi to crendendi and from credendi to praxis

In thinking once again about the likely direction of the liturgy during the current pontificate, I turn my attention to what may very well be the next change, which is having the priest, at least during the eucharistic prayer, face away from the people. I am being a bit combative to put it that way (i.e., "face away from the people"). I do so in response to the commentators who write emphatically that the proper name for this orientation is (in Latin- what else?), ad orientem, which literally means to the East, and not away from the people. So, I will compromise and use the Latin adversus populum for facing away from the people. The adversus populum proposal is made even more strange by the fact that, in most instances, churches do not face to the East. In the Cathedral of the Madeleine, for instance, such an orientation during the eucharistic prayer would have the priest adversus populum to the North. At another church building with which I am familiar, St. Charles Borromeo, in Albuquerque, the priest would face South.

I have read recently where many of these same commentators have taken to calling adversus populum, "facing the Lord." But if, as we are told in number seven of Sacrosanctum Concilium, that Christ is present in the assembly as much as in the eucharistic species, the priest, and the word, how can adversus populum mean facing the Lord? So, I will call Ad Orientem adversus populum, unless to face East in a particular Church building means facing the people, in which case it would be facing the Lord as mystically constituted by any gathering of the baptized. In these rare instances I will be happy to use ad orientem, or even facing the Lord.

Remember, Christ died for all, but being the Roman Rite literalists we must be, we can only say for many (i.e., pro multis) during the eucharistic prayer beginning next year. What does this change say about Prosper of Acquataine's lex orandi, lex credendi, let alone consider what effect this might have on our praxis? So it is with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek that I offer the hope that this change might help us make ecumenical progress with reformed, or Calvinist, ecclesial communities, which is to open an entirely different can of worms.


  1. The familiar hum of a certain Beatles tune begins to surface in the corner of my mind....

  2. Is it "obla de, obla da, life goes on . . ." per chance. That would seem an excellent choice on the matter

  3. Ahhh. Close, but no cigar. :)

  4. About liturgy rants, I rarely comment, but on your can of worms I find the term, 'ecclesial communities' to be remarkably parallel to 'ecclesial movements'. Thus, it would seem that Protestants are lay reform groups like monasteries or the mendicant orders... ~Fred

  5. I cherish the paralell, Fred. Once again you demonstrate that you are a much wiser man than I am. Scott rushes in "where angels fear to tread"

  6. By East is the Roman Rite thinking literal or symbolic? Perhaps the symbolic East of the risen Lord...

    I have a question concerning ad versus adversus. It came up in an article who's subject was then Cardinal Ratzinger's book 'Spirit of the Liturgy'. The article included the following about post Vatican II reforms...

    "...other things have been introduced which were never mentioned by the Council - namely, the re-orientation of the priest so that he now faces the people."

    I had always assumed otherwise i.e. that this was a V2 reform. Do you know?

    I guess I should read the book and the V2 documents or I could be lazy try a post...

    Original article:
    V2 docs:

    - Congrats on your year of blogging! May the next year double your readership!

  7. I believe you were mistaken when you wrote that Sacrosanctum Concilium #7 says that "Christ is present in the assembly as much as in the eucharistic species". It says that Christ is present "especially under the Eucharistic species, and "lastly, when the Church prays and sings".

    Compare that with #1374 from the Catechism:
    The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. ... In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."

    Also #1324:
    The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life." "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."

    And finally #1378:
    "The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it..."

    I don't recall the Church ever encouraging a congregation to worship itself -- do you? No! Because even with Christ dwelling in us, we remain ourselves and unworthy of the honor we rightfully offer to God. But the Eucharist is different. May the heart of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection, at every moment in all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time.

  8. Let's not content ourselves with what we "believe" when facts are at hand. Sacrosanctum Concilium, among other things says: "He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20)." Christ is really and truly present in the assembly, just as He is present in the priest and in the reading of Sacred Scripture in the assembly.

    As to the rest of what you type and refer to, I have no problem with that. I promote Eucharistic devotion outside of Mass to the point that I am the facilitator of our parish's Nocturnal Adoration Society and routinely participate in and preside over nocturnal adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and sung Vespers with Benediction on Sundays. Let's not sever Christ, present in the Blessed Sacrament from his beloved people, who are His Body, made His Body by their reception of Him.