Cinquant’anni Dopo 9: Toward The East

Fr Ev farewell MassLet’s continue our examination of Cardinal Robert Sarah’s June 2015 essay for L’Osservatore Romano. The translation, is here, from Michael J. Miller at Catholic World Report.

Contrary to what has sometimes been maintained, and quite in keeping with the conciliar Constitution, it is altogether appropriate, during the penitential rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and the Eucharistic prayer, that everyone, priest and faithful, turn together toward the East, so as to express their intention to participate in the work of worship and redemption accomplished by Christ. This way of celebrating could possibly be implemented in cathedrals, where the liturgical life must be exemplary (cf. no. 41).

The only appeal for me connects with the notion of pilgrims on the move, facing their direction of travel. On the other hand, neither sacrifice or banquet are conducted “on the road.” This consideration makes the argument for facing East often tiresome. Tradition for tradition’s sake, in other words.

Even when the clergy are turned around, the worshipping community faces a common direction: the center, where Christ is present. There is no less an impetus to participate in the action of Christ in a radial format where attention is directed from all sides, rather than just from the West.

Note: I Wasn’t able to find the original essay on the L’Osservatore Romano site. Reader comments, however, are most welcome.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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8 Responses to Cinquant’anni Dopo 9: Toward The East

  1. Liam says:

    Cdl Sarah’s comments were a bit eye-opening for me in one regard he perhaps didn’t intend, and my comment would blend yours and his:.

    Consider the merits of having the non-episcopal* celebrant face liturgical east when he’s not at presiding at the altar. In the penitential rite or Kyrie, and the Gloria, and collect and certain other orations, he presides from the chair, not at the altar. Having the chair face altar, rather than the congregation, can allow the celebrant to alter his orientation as advisable. After all, when the presider is at the chair, the sign value of the orienting towards the altar gets muddled if he is not oriented to it when he’s praying.

    This is an area of the conciliar reform that I think is quite open for further development. Ideally, apart from the shibboleth value assigned to the issue by the “sides”.

  2. Melody says:

    My mother was a convert from the Evangelical tradition. I remember how pleased she was when the altars were turned to face the people after VII. She said that it had always seemed rude when the priest had his back turned to them, as if they were somehow less than him. I suppose some would say she had never had it properly ‘splained to her, or it wouldn’t have seemed that way. But if a “tradition for tradition’s sake” has to be explained in order not to be misinterpreted, maybe its time has come and gone.

  3. Devin says:

    The sign value of “ad orientem” helps underscore that the dialogue is between God and the priest/community and not a dialogue between the priest and the community. Imagine a conversation with two other people. You are talking to one person but facing the other person. It naturally confuses the situation. I feel this is present to some degree in versus populum worship though not in totality.

    I do like Liam’s idea of having the celebrants chair face the altar to strengthen the altar as the focal point.

  4. Todd says:

    In my previous parish, as you might determine/draw a conclusion from the small image or previous posts, the altar is in the middle, and the priest faces geographical east during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The assembly is arranged in two choirs. The antiphonal arrangement is optimal in my opinion. It demands attention from clergy and other liturgical leaders. But it makes moot the tiring argument about clergy facing people or East. The presider chair does face altar and ambo–even better than just facing the altar.

    Another factor in the discussion about clergy, holiness, and clericalism is that the more we drift away from the priest praying on behalf of others–the essence of pagan and Old Testament priesthood–the more we can instill a sense of the universal call to holiness. To poke at another shibboleth: why the term “celebrant” should be retired. Except in reference to any baptized believer at liturgy.

  5. Todd says:

    Church tour here:

    In the small image, a bit of the presider chair on the far right. Ambo on the far left.

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