Recommending East

EastFrequent commenter Melody asked about this a bit earlier. I’ve seen it on Facebook and at PrayTell. So a few things come to mind.

First, the hosting organization is solidly in the traditional/pre-conciliar camp. So if Cardinal Sarah gets “prolonged applause,” you can bet it’s not from a British happy-clappy crowd. The CDWDS head was addressing a group of like-minded clergy. Not the Church.

Second, given number one, this was not a curial document, a papal encyclical, or anything in between. This is the opinion of one man offered to a receptive audience. The recommendation given was for those in attendance.

Third, it is possible for the Church to focus on both liturgy and evangelization, mercy, or what-have-you. The challenge is for people on the fringes of the Body. Priests turning their back to the assembly and taking the time to explain it is a distraction. While Cardinal Sarah states a strong desire for the liturgy to be about Christ, the switching of liturgical custom is indeed a human thing. Things like repositioning priests, tabernacles, and candlesticks are not readily perceived as focusing on Christ, except by the people who like such things.

In defense of those who would want to face in one geographical direction, it does offer a symbol of a journey. Everybody facing the same external direction is good for a pilgrimage. Priest in front. Everybody in line behind. Sometimes, though, the clergy belong amongst the flock, and sometime on the fringes.

The Church must also be clear that when people are gathered around an altar on two or more sides, they do indeed face the same direction. At the center.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Church News, Liturgy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Recommending East

  1. Liam says:

    For me, this is not a hill worth dying on – in any direction. I consider both orientations, as it were, to be “orientations” (because we are centered on the Lord in both) and worthy. I am not a fan of turning this into a shibboleth, of course.

    This is not legislation. At least yet. I think underscoring that reality is good.

  2. Melody says:

    It’s not a hill I feel is worth dying on, either. But more to the point, I think it’s not a change worth making. It seems to be based on a faulty understanding of God, and “east” being some kind of sacred direction. Our hundred year old parish church actually faces south, so even in pre-VII days the priest and people weren’t facing east. Of course it doesn’t really seem that “east” is the important thing to the reform of the reform crowd, as much as the priest facing away from the people. Chipping away at Vatican II seems to be the agenda. I hope Todd is right that this isn’t going to be the rule, but you’d think Cardinal Sarah would have to have at least discussed his “suggestion” with the pope before he went public with it. And doesn’t the Church have more important things to deal with, instead of thing like this which tend to suck up all the oxygen in the room, but add little or nothing to the Body of Christ?

  3. I’m not totally at ease with Liam’s laizzez faire approach. This issue typifies the irresistible/immovable axiom as it pertains to defining and realizing liturgy with exactitude. Is it for, by, of us, or God?

  4. Liam says:


    That’s a very *French* approach. (As in: “Zat may werk een practisse, but NOT een theeoree.”) And it’s not a *Roman* approach on this specific issue, at least in terms of “exactitude”, because Roman practice actually varied such that the Roman missal even before Vatican II accommodated both.

    And your binaries don’t work in the Roman way, either.

  5. Dagnabit (dah-NYAH-beet). I never should play with the grownups.

    • Liam says:

      Please don’t take it that way. Your impulse here has mirrors on the “other” side too – a tendency to rationalize (not in the sense of excusing, but in the sense of trying to subject things to a linear rule/order) and tidy everything up. It’s a natural response to a sense of dis-order. The fact that it’s a natural response doesn’t mean it ought to be dispositive.

      By the way, so long as your binaries aren’t where one ends up, they are appropriate to be mindful of. WHO is this about/for/by? (It is often a good place to start with WHO questions.) And IN WHAT MODES of doing/being?(And follow with WHAT questions. They open up the mind and don’t press prematurely to HOW and WHY questions that, if introduced too early in the process, can close the heart and mind prematurely.)

  6. Devin Rice says:

    I do believe it was a mistake to introduce versus populum worship (the sentiments of the good St. Borromeo not withstanding). However, it has been common practice for 50 years. Rites need uniformity and stability to help achieve their end (at least with in the confines of a common geographic region). Ad orientiem would just introduce another option into the missal and an opportunity for disunity. This is a case where the medicine would be worse than the disease.

  7. Jim McCrea says:

    What happens if the BVM appears to some kids in Kathmandu and gives them a letter which states that the East is not the proper place to view God but, rather, the South is?

    Wurra, wurra, wurra.

    Do you people who are focusing on this realize how silly it seems to the average denizen of the average pew in the average parish in the average USofA?


  8. Atheist Max says:

    I agree with Jim McCrea. This is silly.

    With the BVM statues bleeding from the eyes (easy to make – there is a youtube video on how to do it) Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, Jr. and the Creation Museum or the giant wooden Ark in Kentucky we see enough evidence of film flam and fantasy. If God didn’t care about facing east before why start a new obligation for people with “the priest at the front” directing this silliness?

    You should know some people will see it as obligatory and that is reason enough to not do it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s