Skip to comments.Vatican official says post-Vatican II liturgy could be perfected (reintroduce priest facing East)
Posted on 04/28/2006 5:52:34 AM PDT by NYer
ROME (CNS) -- Liturgical changes implemented after the Second Vatican Council could be perfected, said the new secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.
No one is in favor of making changes for the sake of change or even for nostalgia, said Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, the secretary, during an April 27 discussion about the direction the priest faces during Mass.
The discussion coincided with the publication of the Italian translation of Father Uwe Michael Lang's book, "Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer."
The book previously was published in English by Ignatius Press; the text includes a foreword written in 2003 by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
The cardinal, who has since become pope, said that the Second Vatican Council did not mention the direction the priest faces and the post-conciliar documents only recommended that priests be able to celebrate facing the people.
He wrote that the issue was not over a priest celebrating "with his back to the people," but rather "his facing the same direction as the people" when offering the church's most solemn prayer in consecrating the Eucharist.
At the book presentation, Father Lang said his study focused on the history and theology of the priest facing East -- the biblically symbolic direction of the Lord -- and not on the pre- or post-Vatican II liturgy.
"The idea of my book is to demonstrate that the priest is not turning his back on the people, but leading the people in prayer toward the Lord," he said.
"I think it would be a good idea to reintroduce this idea into the liturgy little by little, without a great revolution," he said, adding that he was speaking only about the moments during the Mass when the priest, on behalf of the people, is praying to God, not when he is addressing the people assembled.
Archbishop Patabendige Don was asked if Pope Benedict had ordered a study of the issue or if the congregation was moving in that direction.
"For the moment," the archbishop said, "there is nothing, but we listen to the opinions and experience of people who are interested in these questions."
While Archbishop Patabendige Don said he was convinced Catholics need help recovering the sense of mystery and of God's transcendence in the liturgy, careful study is needed on specific ideas.
"Things done in a hurry tend not to give the hoped-for results," he said.
Above all, the archbishop said, Catholics must engage in study and discussion in a calm, respectful and prayerful atmosphere "without labeling each other" as traditionalists or radicals.
Archbishop Patabendige Don said he does not necessarily agree with people who call for a "reform of the reform" of the liturgy, but he thinks Father Lang's book contains a valid call "at least for a further perfection of the reform."
I pray that this becomes a ruling before we begin construction on our new church. A nice high altar can be moved from one of our downtown parishes set to close!
This is good news. The current practice of the priest facing the people while he says the Eucharistic prayer tends to make the priest the focus of this part of the Mass, not God. It is way too easy for the people to focus on the priest's gestures, facial expressions, and the way he recites the Canon. And, indeed, too many priests act as though they are "on stage" during this part of the Mass. The simple truth is that Vatican II did not say anything at all about the priest having to face the people. The first instruction on the implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy said only that it should be possible for the priest to celebrate Mass facing the people. It's unfortunate that a permission was turned into a mandate.
By my reckoning, you'd lead at least half a revolution.
In Orthodox churches, the altar is not set against the wall, but the priest always faces the East when praying. Of course, when he is not praying he faces the people, as it should be.
Our liturgy (of +John Chrysostom or +Basil) has not changed in 1,600 years (+Basil's is even older), so I would presume that this is how the Church served liturgy all along -- with the priest facing in the same direction as the people when praying and beseeching the Holy Spirit.
Little if anything is ever written or said about the way the Latin Mass was served prior to the introduction of the Tridentine Mass. Does anyone have any record of the liturgical service for the first 1,400 years in the West?
Keeping up with the news of our Catholic brethren in the West, one has the impression that first there was Tridentine and then Novus Ordo, and not much else.
Please fill me in. I do not believe that the Tridentine Mass was radically different from the Mass preceding it. Yet the same cannot be said about the NO Mass.
LOL. Regards, Dave.
It's about time. Praise God!
Perhaps St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote something....any experts out there?
" I do not believe that the Tridentine Mass was radically different from the Mass preceding it. "
I have seeen several copies of the Missale Romanum predating Trent (1570) by hundreds of years. They are virtually the same as the 1570 Mass,
All Trent did was to recognize the existing Roman Missal as official for the entire Latin Rite.
That's a magnificent picture. What is it, and who is the artist?
The Tridentine Rite was a reform of the so-called Roman or Frankish rite, which was adopted throughout Europe in the 9th century. It replaced a number of regional rites, such as the so-called "Visigothic Rite" in Spain, which was actually more similar to the Eastern Rites than to the Latin Rites (there had been a Greek influence).
Obviously, in the first few centuries, there was probably some minor variation in practice, but these things were gradually standardized throughout the Christian world, with regional practices being brought in line with a more universal practice, whether that of Rome or that of Constantinople. We don't know exactly what people did in the 3rd century, and while many liturgists seem to base their entire theory on what these people did (regardless of how little we actually know about it), in many ways, it doesn't matter.
As you have correctly pointed out, facing ad orientem was part of a tradition of well over 1,500 years, that is, the majority of the life of the Church (Eastern or Western). In this respect, the NO Mass or at any rate the versus populum position did represent a radical break with tradition and it did represent a change in spiritual orientation as well as physical orientation. Martin Luther was among the first to reject the ad orientem position, and Protestants - who subscribe to the bizarre theory that somehow the "true Church" was born, existed for a century or so, and then went underground until Martin Luther came along - have always rejected the sacrificial aspect and focused on the "meal" aspect. Protestant Biblical scholars were hence very eager to "prove" that Mass was celebrated facing the people, although more and more archeological evidence is pointing to the fact that even in early times, the altar was set away from the wall simply so that the priest could go around it or incense it; and in fact, even pagan sacrificial tables were free-standing.
My feeling is that returning the celebration of the Latin rite Mass to the ad orientem direction would also do a lot to promote unity between the East and the West. I realize there are also many other issues (!), but certainly returning to unity in our liturgical theology and practice could only help.
"Things done in a hurry tend not to give the hoped-for results," he said. Vat 2 in a nutshell.
Is it me or do I not see a single woman in that painting?
Oh the horror!
Or is it just that all the women are angels? ;-}.
by Juan Carreño de Miranda (1614-1685), a Spanish Baroque artist.
St. John was of a noble French family, but became a priest in order to serve others and live a holy life. At his first Mass, a vision appeared of an angel with his hands on the heads of a Christian and a Moorish prisoner. After much prayer (and a journey to Rome to consult with the Pope), he founded the Trinitarian order to bring relief to Christian slaves in the Islamic lands, and to ransom them if possible.
You can see the angel at the upper left in the painting.
(she's on the altar.)
Thanks. The Baroque was simply a wonderful time for the arts.