Turn towards the Lord!
by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
The esteemed scholar and liturgist Klaus Gamber said that the single most damaging thing that happened in the wake of the Council was the shifting around of orientation at the altar. In The Spirit of the Liturgy, Joseph Ratzinger picked up on Gamber’s work and wrote his own exceptional explanation of the significance of ad orientem worship. He advocated a return to ad orientem worship, but in a way that was peaceful, not like an abrupt way that changes had been imposed on the people of God – changes never called for by the Council Fathers – virtual overnight and without explanations. As a transitional phase, Ratzinger suggested what has come to be known as the “Benedictine Arrangement” of candles and crucifix on the altar. My friend Fr. Lang has a helpful book about Turning Towards the Lord. Over the last few years a growing number of priests (sometimes with the help of, sometimes with the interference of bishops) have been taking their parishes to ad orientem worship. I know one parish where this was implemented, along with the installation of an altar rail. Now, there, virtually everyone kneels to receive Communion on the tongue, parish registrations are up, and the average age of the congregation is plummeting.
Our re-orientation of our liturgical worship of God is of central importance for the revitalization of our Catholic identity.
The revitalization of our Catholic identity – and therefore our ability to influence the world around us – is only possible through a renewal of our liturgical worship. No great undertaking we enter into as a Church (macro or micro) will succeed without it being rooted in proper sacred liturgy, whence comes what we need to initiate and sustain all our good efforts which are pleasing to God.
Education and formation is the key. I have already (almost a year ago) placed the altar in the “Benedictine arrangement”. 6 candles and a crucifix on the altar. There was some pushback on that, but it was explained, and now they are used to it. Considering Card. Sarah’s article, I think it is time to begin educating the folks some more, and start working toward the end-goal of ad-orientem worship of Almighty God. Going to take it slow, and explain it well.