"Ad orientem" - facing east?

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It occurs to me that the churches in the area where I grew up, all built in the 1800’s or early 1900’s, all had the main aisle running north-south. So I guess I don’t understand what ‘facing east’ means. The priest wouldn’t turn himself sideways on the altar during mass, would he?
 
They are referring to Liturgical East. Rather like using Port, Starboard, Bow and Stern to describe modern vessels
 
Untill the 1850s or 60s, all Catholic parishes were built with the fixed altar facing East, the East being were Jereusalem being, the East being the direction of the rising sun, a symbol of the resserection. As cities built up and became more densely packed, a north-south axit was allowed, even come altars have been built facing the west, but the external symbolism remained the same. The priest facing the altar and the Tabernacle was facing Christ, was facing God during the parts of the mass where God is being adressed such as the Canon(Eucharistic Prayer) the Confetior and the Offertory, while the prayers that adressed the people such as “Lord be with you” were said facing the people.

Even today, the priests during the parts of the mass that is adressing God is not supposed to look at the parishonetrs, but look at a crucfix that is usually in the back of a parish, while they look directly at the parishoners during the portions of the mass that are directed towrds them.
 
I remember reading an article on this nearly 10 years ago and found it on the internet. It explained it well to me and maybe it will help others too.

In part it say:

“The arrangement of the altar in such a manner that the celebrant and the
faithful were looking toward the east-which is a great tradition even if it
is not unanimous-is a splendid application of the “parousial” character of
the Eucharist. One celebrates the mystery of Christ until He comes again
from the heavens (). The sun which illuminates the
altar during the Eucharist is a pale reference to the “sun that comes from
on high” () (Ps. 18:6) in order to
celebrate the paschal victory with His Church. The influence of the symbol
of light, and concretely the sun, is frequently found in Christian liturgy.”

The entire article is in the EWTN library and can be found at:

ewtn.com/library/LITURGY/SMADORVE.TXT
 
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JNB:
Untill the 1850s or 60s, all Catholic parishes were built with the fixed altar facing East, the East being were Jereusalem being, the East being the direction of the rising sun, a symbol of the resserection. As cities built up and became more densely packed, a north-south axit was allowed, even come altars have been built facing the west, but the external symbolism remained the same.
Many Catholic parishes were built in such a way, but by no means all. There are even many churches in Rome itself that do not face east – they are built on old foundations.
 
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dcs:
Many Catholic parishes were built in such a way, but by no means all. There are even many churches in Rome itself that do not face east – they are built on old foundations.
A notable example being St Peter’s Basillica, where the altar is at the geographic western end of the building.
 
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dcs:
Untill the 1850s or 60s, all Catholic parishes were built with the fixed altar facing East, the East being were Jereusalem being, the East being the direction of the rising sun, a symbol of the resserection.
My parish church, built in 1856, has always had the congregation facing west. Now, of course, the celebrant faces east. This must have been a choice, because they had all the land they needed.

John
 
The Byzantine Catholic Church celebrates liturgically with both the celebrant and the congregation facing the east. Byzantine churches are constructed on an east-west-axis with the Holy Table located on the east side of the building.

I have a personal preference for the “everyone-facing-the-same-direction” worship format. It somehow feels to me as though we are all, priest and people alike, turning our attention toward God and directing our worship toward Him. With the priest facing the congregation, it feels more as though the celebrant is directing his activities toward us, rather than toward God, and we’re kinda hoping that God’s paying attention to what we’re doing. We are there, after all, to worship God, not to “talk amongst ourselves.”

Subtle difference, to be sure, but still a perceptable difference in “feel” to me!

a pilgrim
 
St. John Damascene wrote of our Eastward orientation during prayer and worship:

"It is not without reason or by chance that we worship towards the east. On the contrary, since we are composed of a visible and in invisible nature, of an intellectual nature and a sensitive one, that is, we also offer a two-fold worship to the Creator. It is just as we also sing both with our mind and withour bodily lips, and as we are baptized both in water and in the Spirit, and as we are united to the Lord in two ways when we Sacrament and the grace of Spirit. And so, since God is spiritual light and Christ in Sacred Scripture is called ‘Sun of Justice,’ and ‘Orient,’ the East should be dedicated to His worship. For everything beautiful should be dedicated to God from whom everything that is good receives its goodness.

Also, the divine David says: ‘Sing to God, ye kingdoms of the earth; sing ye to the Lord; who mounteth above the heaven of heavens, to the east!’ And still again, Scripture says: ‘And the Lord had planted a paradise in Eden to the east; wherein he placed man whom He had formed,’ and whom He cast out when he transgressed ‘and made him to live over against the paradise of pleasure,’ or in the West. Thus it is that, when we worship God, we long for our ancient fatherland and gaze toward it. The tabernacle of Moses had the veil and propitiatory to the East; and the tribe of Juda, as being the more honorable, pitched their tents on the east; and in the celebrated temple of Solomon the gate of the Lord was set to the east.

As a matter of fact, when the Lord was crucified, He looked toward the West, and so we worship gazing towards Him. And when He was taken up, He ascended to the East and thus the Apostles worshiped Him and thus He shall come in the same way as they had seen Him going into heaven, as the Lord Himself said: ‘As lightning cometh out of the east and appeareth even into the west: so shall the coming of the Son of man be.’ And so, while we are awaiting Him, we worhsip towards the East. This is, moreover, the unwritted tradition of the Apostles, for they have handed many things down to us unwritten."


I think that pretty much says it all. Now it’s true these guys didn’t realize that the earth was round… but still. That’s where the ‘Spiritual East’ comes in, I guess.
 
According to my seminary-trained dh, there was never a rule about facing east, but it was common. The Cathedral in Portland, OR, built in the early 1900s, faces north. The Cathedral in Spokane, also old, faces south or south-west (the road makes an odd jog there, so I’m not real sure).

There used to be a custom of burying people with their feet to the east - that way the resurrected would face east when they rose up.
 
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Bonnie:
According to my seminary-trained dh, there was never a rule about facing east, but it was common. The Cathedral in Portland, OR, built in the early 1900s, faces north. The Cathedral in Spokane, also old, faces south or south-west (the road makes an odd jog there, so I’m not real sure).

There used to be a custom of burying people with their feet to the east - that way the resurrected would face east when they rose up.
Well it’s not as if the Sacrifice of the Mass would be invalid if the Mass were celebrated with the priest facing in another direction. I noticed that about the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, too, and it was about that time that I learned about the concept of liturgical east. Cardinal Ratzinger explains:

"The purpose of celebrating Mass in the traditional manner ? priest and people facing the same direction, toward the East (if not literally then at least symbolically) ? has nothing to do with seeking to obstruct people’s view of what is taking place at the altar by having the priest’s back to them. Nor is it even primarily for the sake of facing the altar or tabernacle. Rather, the priest stands before the altar, facing the same way as the faithful, to manifest the eschatological and sacrificial dimensions of the Eucharist. In The Feast of Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger explains in his book The Feast of Faith:

“Where priest and people together face the same way, what we have is a cosmic orientation and also in interpretation of the Eucharist in terms of resurrection and trinitarian theology. Hence it is also an interpretation in terms of parousia, a theology of hope, in which every Mass is an approach to the return of Christ. (pp. 140-41)”

The crucifix used to be placed at the center of the altar if the priest could not face east. At churches like St. Aloysius and The Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, the High Altars have notable (and beautiful) crucifixes in the middle. At the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, there’s this ugly transporter-pad looking thing above the low altar so as to draw the eye away from the high altar. It’s shaped like a cross and supposedly this suffices to represent Liturgical East. This is also the case at St. Augustine’s parish up on the South Hill. Bad architecture, but at least they’re doing the right thing. In Novus ordo parishes there MUST be a crucifix placed in front of the altar in the center, either in the chancel itself or at the back of the church. If the crucifix is moved to one side so people have a ‘better view of the priest’ this is a GRAVE abuse. ‘But it makes it look odd. It blocks the view of the priest’ people whine. Ya know what the solution is? Put the High Altars back up and turn the priest around toward Liturgical East.
 
Put more simply: I was taught that priest and people facing the same (“east”) direction indicates the priest leading the assembly in prayer. I have to admit, with the priest facing the assembly, it can look a lot more like he is praying in front of them, rather than leading them.
:twocents:
 
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