Thursday, July 12, 2007

Facing East?

As usual, there is a lot going on at The Cafeteria Is Closed. More than here, unfortunately. Too much studying and driving here and driving there and doing this and doing that.

However, one discussion at The Cafeteria Is Closed led someone to criticize Fr. Fessio et al. for facing "East," for facing the altar, when celebrating Mass, the so-called "regular one," not the Tridentine. Can they do that without explicit permission? Isn't that going against the rules?

Well, no, it is not.

Here is what I wrote:

From what I have read, priests are able to celebrate Mass ad orientam [facing East, toward the altar].

Yes, there is a suggestion that the priest face the people, but facing "east" is not precluded. In fact, at one point, it is implied that the priest is facing east since the rubrics say something along the lines of "then turn and face the people."

However, in reading the pertinent documents, I think it is not as clear as could be. Both sides seem to have arguments with strong points.

Which is precisely why the cardinal at the head of the Church's congregation in charge of such matters had to issue a statement on whether or not the GIRM (the Church's manual, if you will, for celebrating the Mass) meant to exclude the possibility of facing east:

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has been asked whether the expression in no. 299 of the Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani constitutes a norm according to which, during the Eucharistic liturgy, the position of the priest versus absidem [facing towards the apse] is to be excluded.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, after mature reflection and in light of liturgical precedents, responds:

Negative, and in accordance with the following explanation.

In the explanation, the cardinal explains that versus absidem and versus orientem (toward the East) mean the same thing.

Thus, facing the altar, facing the East is not excluded in the current rubrics.

Fr. Fessio is not violating any Church rubric.

You can read the entirety of the cardinal's explanation

Wish more of us had experienced the priest facing the same direction as the people and had also known why. Very deep reasons and reasons which might help some "get more" out of the Mass.

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