Ad Orientem

Front and Center

Hattip to Father Z. In too many Catholic churches the tabernacle has been shunted off to the side since Vatican II.  Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Peoria Diocese, my diocese, has decided to do something about this.  Here is the text of a directive he issued on Holy Thursday:

April 1, 2010 +Holy Thursday

Dear Priests, Deacons, Religious and Faithful of the Diocese of Peoria,

The Mass, of course, is our most important act of worship — the very source and summit of all we do as a Church. A profound reverence for the Reserved Sacrament is also intrinsically related to the Eucharistic liturgy.

The Reserved Sacrament must therefore be treated with the greatest possible respect, because at all times the Blessed Sacrament within that tabernacle, as in the Eucharistic Liturgy, is to be given that worship called latria, which is the adoration given to Almighty God. This intentional honor is incomparably greater than the reverence we give to sacramentals, sacred images, the Baptistry, the Holy Oils, or the Paschal Candle. The Sacrament is reserved not only so that the Eucharist can be brought to the dying and to those unable to attend Mass, but also as the heart and locus of a parish’s prayer and devotion.

There is a kind of bundle of rituals in our Catholic tradition with which we surround the Tabernacle. As we enter or leave the church, we bless ourselves with holy water, we genuflect towards the Tabernacle, we prepare for Mass or give thanks after Mass, consciously in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament. At prayers and devotions, during the Liturgy of the Hours, in any private prayer which takes place in a Catholic Church, we truly pray before the Risen Christ substantially and really present in the Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle.

These core Catholic convictions and their architectural ramifications have recently been reaffirmed by many Bishops in the United States. As bishop of this Diocese, I am also convinced that where we place the Tabernacle — and how we ritually reverence the Reserved Sacrament — is as important for the continuing Eucharistic catechesis as is all our preaching and teaching. With Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament at the physical center of our places of worship, how can He not also more firmly become the center of our spiritual lives as well?

After consultation with my Presbyteral Council, I am therefore asking that those few parish churches and chapels where the tabernacle is not in the direct center at the back of the sanctuary, that these spaces be redesigned in such a way that the Reserved Sacrament would be placed at the center. In some cases, this change can be easily achieved, but given financial and design restraints, plans for redesign may be submitted to the Office of Divine Worship at any time during the next five years. Monastic communities whose chapels are open to the faithful as semi-public oratories may also request a dispensation from this general regulation according to the norms of their particular liturgical tradition. There may also be some very tiny chapels where a change could be impossible. These requests should be submitted in writing to my office.

I would also like to remind everyone in our Diocese that at Mass, in accord with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Tabernacle should only be reverenced at the beginning and end of the liturgy or when the Sacrament is being taken from or returned to the Tabernacle. At all other moments and movements in the liturgy it is the Altar of Sacrifice that is to be reverenced.

It is my conviction that Eucharistic Liturgy and Eucharistic devotion are never in competition but rather inform and strengthen our shared worship and reverence. May all in our Diocese grow in greater love and appreciation of the gift of the Eucharist.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C.
BISHOP OF PEORIA

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Is There a Liturgical Counterrevolution Underway? I Hope So.

There have been a number of conflicting reports about impending changes to the liturgy in recent weeks. The National Catholic Register, on the one hand, reports that:

On Aug. 22, the reliable Vatican watcher Andrea Tornielli reported that cardinals and bishops of the congregation voted almost unanimously at their plenary meeting in March “in favor” of 30 proposals aimed at increasing reverence in the liturgy. He said these included “a greater sacrality of the rite, the recovery of the sense of Eucharistic worship, the recovery of the Latin language in the celebration, and the remaking of the introductory parts of the Missal in order to put a stop to abuses, wild experimentations and inappropriate creativity.”

Tornielli also wrote that the bishops had reaffirmed the importance of receiving Communion on the tongue rather than the hand, and that Cardinal Cañizares was studying the possibility of “recovering” the practice of celebrating Mass with the priest facing ad orientem (literally “to the east”; i.e. in the same direction as the people).

As we might expect, however, the National Catholic Reporter remains skeptical about any proposed changes:

On Aug. 24, a Vatican spokesperson effectively denied the Il Giornale report, saying, “At the moment there are no institutional proposals regarding changes to the liturgical books currently in use.” Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s No. 2 official after the pope, dismissed the reports as “fantasies” in an interview with the Vatican newspaper.

So it would appear that, as of right now, all we can say is that there are discussions about the liturgy taking place.

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Ad Orientem

Bishop Edward Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa is a champion of Ad Orientem.  Here you can read his thoughts on the subject.  The National Catholic Reporter wrote a piece on the subject which Father Z has put through his patented fisk machine and which may be read here.  I of course am all in favor of Ad Orientem.  Priests should render the sacrifice of the Mass at altars when possible and not at the Protestant-lite communion tables that have come into vogue since Vatican II, in a well-intentioned but completely wrong-headed attempt for greater involvement by the laity in the Mass.  Quotes from Pope Benedict regarding Ad Orientem are here at the wonderful blog New Liturgical Movement, which I had not read until researching this post.  What do you think?

Res & Explicatio for A.D. 3-25-2009

Salvete AC readers!

Here are today’s Top Picks in the Catholic world:

1. The great Cardinal Pell offered his thoughts on the future of liturgical development by stating that ad orientem will be mandatory so as to move away the priest as the center of worship back to Jesus Himself, ie, both the priest and the congregation should be facing towards God.  In addition, when the priest turns away towards the congregation, there should be a crucifix in between he and the congregation so as to maintain the center of worship God and not the priest.  What a wonderful and great Cardinal that Australia has!  Let us pray for more such strong leaders of the Church worldwide and especially here in America.  Ora pro nobis!

For the article click here.

2. Sister Janet Ferns, a nun who has worked in Nigeria and Zambia, has explained what most condoms are used for by the locals in Africa… to fish with.

For the link click here.

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