Good Things from Facing the Lord


After celebrating Mass facing the Lord I can report these favorable effects from the priest’s point of view:

  1. I don’t have to worry about where to look
  2. I don’t have to worry about what my face looks like
  3. I can weep at the beauty and wonder of it all without concern
  4. I can worship more freely and fully
  5. I feel more at one with the people of God
  6. I am on a journey to God with the people
  7. I am not the focus of attention
  8. The elevation of the host and the Ecce Agnus Dei have become more of a focus
  9. I feel more part of the great tradition
  10. I can’t see who’s not paying attention and feel I have to do something to get their attention back.
Okay, subjective feelings on my part, but I thought some readers might be interested.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08998296715568420559 Alexander

    Nice observations. Ad orientem (or “versus deus”) posture also reflects the Mass as a sacrifice more perfectly than facing the people. This in turn can help to demonstrate Catholic doctrines of the priesthood and Transubstantiation on some level and of course aid in the sense of the Sacred at Mass.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15000747762174079070 PraiseDivineMercy

    I am happy for you and your parish Father. It reminds me of some of the stuff Father Z likes to go on about. Ad orientem “has an amazing ability to shrink the priest.” May it bring you and your parish closer to Christ.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02874922973165634505 Augustine

    Thats fantastic Father. Its the one thing I really miss from the Anglican Mass. I remember our Anglican priest would sometimes just stare at the host or the crucifix. I’ve yet to see anyone pray so well! Celebration facing the people turns the priest into an entertainer. I’m not a big fan of the TLM, so seeing this kind of thing in the NO is just great news!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17687528013354409865 Vernon

    Great news Father.Have you had any feedback from the congregation?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16141414361291882691 Augustine

    OK, how about the subjective feelings on the part of the faithful? 1. I have to worry about where to look. 2. I can’t weep at the beauty and wonder of it all because I can’t see it all. 4. I can’t worship more fully. 5. I feel left out of the Feast of the Lamb. 6. I am abandoned in the journey to God by the priest. 7. I am without a focus of attention. 9. I feel alienated. 10. I can see who’s not paying attention and I struggle to get my own attention focused.I don’t mean to just use your points to be sarcastic, but it’s really how I felt at a TLM I’ve been to recently. And that even understanding 50% of what’s said in Latin (my mother tongue is Portuguese, a Latin dialect).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I’ve just had some feedback from the congregation…I felt this way attending the Latin Mass before. It will be interesting to hear more responses to Ad Orientem celebration of the NO

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12594214770417497135 Maureen

    “2. I can’t weep at the beauty and wonder of it all because I can’t see it all.”Wow! You tall people really are spoiled by your sightlines! :) Whatever you do, don’t join choir. The sightlines are better, but they keep you a bit too busy to see much of what’s going on. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06624317806947588259 Rachel Gray

    I don’t think anyone should base a final judgment on one experience. I felt awkward and unable to worship the first time I went to a Catholic Mass. I already agreed with most of the Catholic doctrine, but Mass was strange compared to the Protestant services I was used to. I had to work at it. I kept going and I read a book about it, and after a few months I was comfortable. In time I came to feel that I was worshiping God at Mass in a way I never could at my old Protestant church.Later I tried the TLM. It left me cold the first time I attended– couldn’t hear the priest, couldn’t follow what he was saying– but I kept going and I educated myself about it and by the fourth or fifth time I went I understood it well enough to worship. Now I love it.So I think the best worship rite is not necessarily that which can be immediately appreciated and fully understood by a newbie seeing it for the first time. If it’s easily comprehended then it’s not rich and complicated and deep. I don’t think we can have it both ways.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08998296715568420559 Alexander

    I comment on Augustine’s points seeing as how I have been attending TLMs for a year and a half now.“1. I have to worry about where to look.”I am not sure what the problem is. I can look at images in the sanctuary (on the priests vestments as well) or what the priest is doing (incencing, praying, turning around and directing us, etc.). I find that when he is facing towards the crucifix, tabernacle, symbolically facing God and in reality facing God in the Eucharistic it draws my attention to what he is facing – which should be the sacrifice of Calvary. ”2. I can’t weep at the beauty and wonder of it all because I can’t see it all.”What do you mean? I can see the elevation of the host and I can see Him when kneeling to receive. You want to see the chalice and paten and such? I can still see those but not as well as if he was facing the people. But why would I want to have a fixation on the containers?”4. I can’t worship more fully.”This makes no sense. The priest is offering up a sacrifice. Therefore he should be facing God symbolically in the crucifix and in the tabernacle if it is there. Also everyone is facing the same direction – again you are all facing God, praying to Him and offering sacrifice in the same direction. The posture more perfectly demonstrates physically what we believe the Mass is. It therefore is a fuller expression of the Sacrifice of Mass.”5. I feel left out of the Feast of the Lamb.”I feel more apart of it because it is the sacrifice of Calvary brought to the present. That is what is it primarily – it is secondarily a Feast.”6. I am abandoned in the journey to God by the priest.”I will deter to what I said above about how it is a fuller expression that the Mass is a sacrifice and the attention is more directed at God rather than the priest when all are facing the same direction in worship towards Him. I feel as if the priest is leading us better toward God by trying to direct our attention towards God by leading us to all pray in the same direction offering sacrifice toward to Him.”7. I am without a focus of attention.”It appears you are repeating the same thing. You must accomplish proper “actual participation” that is not only with the eyes and physical actions but more importantly with the heart. Actual participation entails that we are to follow along in our hearts and minds. When the priest does not face the people you are less distracted because you are not looking at Him – you could be looking at the possible images on his back on the vestments or more importantly the Crucifix and other possible images in the sanctuary. Your focus then is less on the priest and more towards God both in mind and heart and in the images in the sanctuary especially the crucifix.”9. I feel alienated.”This is basically the same point you have been saying.”10. I can see who’s not paying attention and I struggle to get my own attention focused.”Why would you be focused on someone else paying attention or not?Are you under the impression that the Mass is merely a feast and Christ is brought to the present for a happy celebration? I run into this a lot and it seems like this is a driving factor in having the priest face you because the Mass is reduced to a mere “Christ is Present feast celebration” over what it primarily is – that is the Sacrifice of the Cross brought to the present and offered up by the priest. I can see how if the Mass was merely a celebration feast that people would want the priest to face them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16141414361291882691 Augustine

    Alexander,If you hadn’t been so derisive, I’d be happy to engage in a dialog with you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06085979986006926002 Diane K

    Dear Father, I have been an experienced pewsitter at a parish that has celebrated the N.O. ad orientem for some year. I have never forgotten my first experience, which I have expressed many times around the web. I recall being agitated at first, and almost seemed to be shifting in my pew as if to seek the face of the priest. Then, by the grace of God I realized I should be seeking the face of God in the Mass. Here is my version….1) I don’t have to worry about the priest looking all around at the congretation.2) I don’t have to worry about the face of the priest – I can closemy eyes and seek the face of God in the Mass!3) I can weep along with Father as “see” what is happening with my heart. The Mystery is far more mystical. 4) I can worship more freely and fully – in the absence of the external stimulii created by the priest looking at me.5) I feel more at one with the priest.6) I am on a journey to God with the priest leading the way.7) The priest is not the focus of my attention.8) The Sacred Host during the Elevation and Ecce Agnus Dei have become the focal point not the priest looking at me.9) I feel more part of the great tradition10) I’m more focused on whether I am paying attention without all of the stimulii added to the Mass for the sake of getting my attention.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06085979986006926002 Diane K

    Oh – and one more thing worth noting to those who may not quite comprehend this, or who may even object to it…There is no greater test of love for God than when you worship Him in the absence of all consolations. Do we come to worship God for His sake? Or, do we come to satisfy our feelings?The Good Lord may permit consolations to occur at any time during worship. However, when he withdraws them or when the stimulii are absent – those things that “entertain” – how do we respond? Do we persist? This is what makes Psalm 42 in the TLM so important. It is about perseverence in the absence of consolations and amidst trials. From my standpoint it is a matter of spiritual maturity. It is good when people come to Mass for any reason. It is the very best reason to come to Mass, in the absence of any entertainment or consolations. Entertainment can be in the form of facial expressions aimed at getting our attention. If we focus our attention properly we won’t want or need a priest to be dynamic in order to get the graces we need from Holy Mass. This is one of the greatest mistakes made in seminaries in recent decades: teaching priests to be dynamic during the Mass in an effort to keep people’s attention. This is a crutch for what the people should be doing – period. In the end, it stifles higher levels of spirituality.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16141414361291882691 Augustine

    From what I see here, some are as disposed to commit liturgical violence against others as liberals in the 60′s.In other words, a reform of the reform wouldn’t be less scandalous as the reform itself…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17284905121465747077 Steve

    Alexander, you chastise Augustine for having his say and for feeling that he is being left out of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I’m glad that he wants to be INVOLVED. I share his concerns, for what it’s worth.I also notice that you mocked those who value everything that is carried over from the Last Supper to the Mass. You claim, with derision, that for too many people “the Mass is reduced to a mere ‘Christ is Present feast celebration’.” Please. When Christ is present — and Christ IS present at the Eucharist — there’s no “mere” about it. We worship Christ. The real presence in the Eucharist, which harkens back to the Last Supper just as much as it does Calvary, is indeed a celebration as well as a sacrifice, and at that celebration there is no room for someone to say that there is anything “mere” about Christ being in our midst. Yes, yes, I get the theology of Calvary. It’s essential to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But so is the Last Supper, when Jesus gathered with his friends, when Jesus most certainly did not try to keep them at arm’s length from Him. (If you don’t think the Last Supper plays an essential role in the Eucharistic prayer, think about the words that are spoken during that prayer. How can we possibly have the Eucharist without re-enacting the Last Supper?) Steve

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08998296715568420559 Alexander

    Steve said:“Alexander, you chastise Augustine for having his say and for feeling that he is being left out of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I’m glad that he wants to be INVOLVED. I share his concerns, for what it’s worth.”Being involved was mentioned in my post in detail; actual participation. There is a certain context on how the laity should be involved at Mass. It is not reliant upon vernacular, verbally responding to everything, the priest facing you, laity in the sanctuary, etc. I participate more fully in t a TLM than I ever did at the New Mass for example because the tenants of actual participation at its core involve following along with mind and heart. The TLM, with its richer, fuller and more explicit prayers and superior structures and forms help me to achieve actual participation better than what the New Mass could ever offer me. This is my story, take it for what you will.”I also notice that you mocked those who value everything that is carried over from the Last Supper to the Mass.”You will have to show me where such mocking took place. If I was too vague I am sorry, I did not want to come across that way.“You claim, with derision, that for too many people “the Mass is reduced to a mere ‘Christ is Present feast celebration’.” Please.”I claim this because it is my experience. This is why I said “I run into this a lot.” But before that I asked the question of whether or not his perception of the Mass was like this as to not make assumptions.“When Christ is present — and Christ IS present at the Eucharist — there’s no “mere” about it. We worship Christ. The real presence in the Eucharist, which harkens back to the Last Supper just as much as it does Calvary, is indeed a celebration as well as a sacrifice, and at that celebration there is no room for someone to say that there is anything “mere” about Christ being in our midst.”Oh I see what you are saying. I am sorry if I was not explicit enough so I will rephrase what I said; I run into people who think the Mass is like a communal gathering that has Christ Present which excludes the Sacrifice at Calvary. We are all aware that the Mass is a Real Sacrifice – the Sacrifice of Calvary brought to the Present – I was saying that I personally run into people who think the Mass is like a mere community gathering, like a protestant get-together except that Christ becomes transubstantialy Present BUT ignore the fact that a real Sacrifice is taking place and that Calvary is being perpetuated before their eyes. I guess I was not explicit enough, I am sorry.”Yes, yes, I get the theology of Calvary. It’s essential to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But so is the Last Supper, when Jesus gathered with his friends, when Jesus most certainly did not try to keep them at arm’s length from Him. (If you don’t think the Last Supper plays an essential role in the Eucharistic prayer, think about the words that are spoken during that prayer. How can we possibly have the Eucharist without re-enacting the Last Supper?)”I am not sure I understand what you are trying to talk to me about. The Last Supper was essentially the ordination of the Apostles and the first Mass. I have no objections or any frustration towards it. If I appeared to be like this I apologize and will try to not respond in such a hasty matter to help safeguard my posts from misinterpretation.If you are trying to say that the Last Supper is separate from a Sacrifice then I cannot agree. The lamb was sacrificed and then it was eaten – the Last Supper is the basic elements of the Mass which is dependent on the Sacrifice of Calvary. Therefore the eating of the Sacred Species at the Last Supper makes no sense unless its done in the context of the proceeding Sacrifice on Calvary. This makes sense because this was suppose to be a Passover meal which also had at its core sacrificial aspects.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08998296715568420559 Alexander

    Augustine said:“Alexander,If you hadn’t been so derisive, I’d be happy to engage in a dialog with you.”I am sorry if I came across that way, I really didn’t mean to be. Can you show me where I did this? I can’t really see it. I would like to have a chance to defend myself against this or perhaps apologize more explicitly if it is true.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11599189563665780149 okie

    I’m with Alexander…I don’t really see where he was being derisive or mean. I think you guys just took it all a little too personal…I’d suggest lightening up a bit…don’t be so defensive. I also want to suggest, as non-combatively as possible, that this proneness in American life to assume people’s actions are always some sort of “affront” to my personal affairs, i.e., either they are being derisive in disagreeing, or the Priest is “abandoning” me, plays into this whole discussion. Ultimately, Mass isn’t about any of us, even the Priest, it is about Christ. If the Symbolic integrity of the Mass is best maintained through Ad Orientem, then let us do that. I know Father was expressing his own experience, and it was very informative, but they are of course, I think even in his mind, secondary concerns…again, I’m not trying to be combative, just offer up some points for consideration…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16141414361291882691 Augustine

    Alexander,You don’t know me and I don’t know you, so let’s just leave it at that.God bless.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06506671882770822003 Joe of St. Thérèse

    I’ll add, no longer do I have to worry about a priest trying to make a joke and his personality

  • http://openid.aol.com/nosebiteman nosebiteman

    I guess you missed reading the section of “Sacrosanctum Concilium” that said that the Lord is found in four places during the Mass, including among the people assembled in worship.So, you need to recognize to say that to say the Mass nearly always facing away from the congregation is “Facing the Lord” is objectively in error.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08998296715568420559 Alexander

    Nosebiteman said: I guess you missed reading the section of “Sacrosanctum Concilium” that said that the Lord is found in four places during the Mass, including among the people assembled in worship.So, you need to recognize to say that to say the Mass nearly always facing away from the congregation is “Facing the Lord” is objectively in error.This is just ambiguity that is sometimes found in Vatican II. There is no way one can argue that Christ is present in the Eucharistic as much as He is in the faithful. Christ is Present Transubstantialy in the Eucharist; a way that goes far beyond how he is present in the faithful. That is why even modern liturgical documents will still have us take extreme care when handling the Sacred Species or, to use another example, how we have Eucharistic Exposition Adoration. It is also why if you receive Christ in the Eucharist in the state of mortal sin you commit sacrilege. The presence of Christ at Mass in the Eucharist and the in Calvary brought to the present goes beyond his presence in the faithful. Next this still does not deal with the fact that in ad orientem everyone will face the same direction in offering the sacrifice. That is the key. We know as Catholics we use externals signs and forms to reflect what we believe. Ad orientem shows what we believe in a more perfect manner. Everyone is facing the sacred images, the crucifix, perhaps the tabernacle and when the priest offers Christ to God we are all symbolically facing God in the same direction as we spiritually offer Christ to God with the priest at this moment – it is a uniformity that screams Catholic doctrine and belief.It is dangerous to think that this posture is rather unnecessary. It would be like saying sacred images, vestments, the sign of the Cross, cassocks, tabernacles, etc. are also nice but unnecessary. These things are externals uses that the Church employs to signify many truths of our faith. External forums, structures and the like all help in the sense of the Sacred, Catholic thought, and doctrine. That is why they were used and organically developed for centuries.Finally this posture was in use since the beginning even in the Eastern rites and schismatic sects and was predominate. Were all those Saints, Popes and martyrs simply not seeing that ad orientem posture was inferior or unnecessary for that long?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12594214770417497135 Maureen

    If the Lord is partly present within the congregation (and He is), then clearly, you don’t have to worry where the priest points his nose. The congregation is within Christ worshipping the Father, Christ stands at the priest’s back giving him backup and worshipping the Father, and the priest in persona Christi stands in front of the flock and worships the Father.It’s like St. Patrick’s Breastplate, or like the Anima Christi. We notice Christ within and around us more, by not staring at each other the whole time.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08110491371985845560 kentuckyliz

    If we only had the TLM, I’d be in the Schola Cantorum singing just to give me something to do. But I love and can sing Latin polyphony and chant and can sight read and have a choir-y type voice that rings, not individualistic soloist type at all. My thirds are never flat and I have great audiation.But the Mass at my local parish, I must admit, is way too much about priest personality. It leads to a big change in membership every six years depending on whether people like the priest or not. (Six year rotations.)The Orthodox Divine Liturgy was pretty but way too mystical and it seemed really disconnected from the people, and they seemed quite untransformed by it. A living museum piece, a fly stuck in amber.I’ve decided that since I will never be happy this side of the veil, that I refuse to let anything bother me and just worship in spirit and in truth no matter what. It’s a great freedom to not be bothered by anything. I can sing heartily even ditty-songs I hate, because I know God has a sense of humor. If I’m made in the image and likeness of God, that means I have to have a sense of humor too. Now I derive great spiritual benefit from every Mass no matter how crappy.


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