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Sunday, January 13, 2008
Pope Benedict XVI Celebrates Mass on January 13, 2008, as Ad Orientem

The following story, which we should welcome with joy, concerns Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass on the Baptism of the Lord in an ad orientem posture. The following article is from Reuters and my comments following in red.

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict celebrated parts of Sunday's Mass with his back turned on the congregation [The ad orientem posture should never be described as facing away from the people. The ad orientem posture is facing East; both the Faithful and the priest together face East, symbolically facing God and awaiting His return since it is traditionally believed that Christ will come from the Easter], re-introducing an old ritual that had not been used in decades.

The Pope used the Sistine Chapel's ancient altar set right against the wall under Michelangelo's dramatic depiction of the Last Judgment, instead of the altar placed on a mobile platform that allowed his predecessor John Paul II to face the faithful.

A statement by the Vatican's office for liturgical celebrations said it had been decided to use the old altar, where ballots are placed during papal elections, to respect "the beauty and the harmony of this architectonic jewel." [The High Altar is indeed beautiful and should be used more frequently. Vatican II never called for the use of a low altar or the abandonment of the ad orientem posture].

That meant that for the first time in this kind of celebration since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the pope occasionally turned his back on the faithful [no, everyone is facing God] and faced the Cross [rather Our Lord truly present in the tabernacle]. He also read his homily from an old wooden throne on the left of the altar used by Pius IX in the 19th century [another beautiful addition to the Liturgy].

The conservative German-born pontiff is slowly reintroducing some of the old rituals phased out after Vatican II, which substituted Latin for local languages [it may have allowed the vernacular but Latin remains the chief language of the Church (Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium(Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), para. 36.1)], modernized the Church [The Church can not modernize; poor choice of words (Pascendi Dominici gregis, Lamentabili Sane)] and encouraged inter-religious dialogue [for the purpose of saving the souls of others through conversion].

In July, the Pope issued a decree allowing wider use of the old Latin mass [Referencing the Tridentine Mass, not the Novus Ordo in Latin and ad orientem, which never required any permission], in what was regarded as a nod to Church traditionalists. He has also said he would like the centuries-old Gregorian chant to make a comeback [According to Vatican II, it is to be held in high regard anyway].

During Sunday's mass commemorating the baptism of Jesus Christ, which was celebrated in Italian, the Pope baptized 13 babies, carefully pouring water on their heads from a golden shell.

He spoke about the significance of baptism, which marks the admission of a person in the community of Christians.
Image Source: Believed to be in the AP


del_button August 5, 2008 at 8:37 AM
Sebastian said...

Just to clarify, Matthew, neither St. Peter's nor the Sistine Chapel are oriented. Both have the altars facing west. The pope was facing west when he said this mass. I can't imagine that this was accidental.

del_button August 5, 2008 at 9:06 AM
Seminarian Matthew said...

Could you please provide a source stating that the altar in the Sistine Chapel faces westward.

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