2 February 2010


I reprint this old article simply as a reaction to the curious announcement that the Oratorian Fathers in Oxford are going to adopt the [their words] Ad Orientem position ... when what their announcement really means is that they will henceforth be facing WEST!!!

How can one apply the the principle of auctoritas to the question of whether or not the eucharistic celebrant should face the people ... or deliberately not do so? I feel there are particular principles which have to be taken together.

The celebrant should face the East. This has enormous auctoritas, both in the archaeological evidence for the 'Orientation' [Eastfacingness] of church buildings and in early Christian writings. I will refrain from mentioning the enormous amount of learned 'Patrimony' literature establishing this, from the time when our 'Ritualists' were arguing for the 'Eastward Position' as against the then fashionable 'North End' custom. More recently, liturgists such as Michael 'Patrimony' Moreton re-established this truth, followed by Roman Catholics such as Cardinal Ratzinger and Fr Lang.

What I find very weakly evidenced - if it is at all - is the idea that it is important for priest and people to face in the same direction. 'Traddies' often overlook the fact that facing in the same direction is is not necessarily the same as facing East. Because ...
(1) some buildings, notably but not only the Roman basilicas, are specifically designed so that, by facing East, the celebrant thereby faces where the congregation has gathered. The rules of the Missal of S Pius V explicitly provide for what the priest does in such circumstances. The immemorial usage of the Urbs itself has great auctoritas, and so does the traditional praxis to which the Missal of S Pius V bears witness.
(2) some churches, particularly when built in confined urban spaces, are not built along an East-West axis.
Some 'traddies' try to get round the problem by cheerfully referring to something they are pleased to term 'the ritual East', as though it is at our disposal to pretend that East is wherever it is convenient for us to pretend that it is. I regard this as wholly frivolous. More important: early writers who emphasise the need to face East write about the need to face the Lord who comes to us from the East, and about the rising sun as his great ikon. I do not think they would be impressed by a notion that East is wherever my whimsy takes me. The notion subverts any possibility of words meaning anything. Was it the Red Queen in Alice who said that she could make words mean whatever she wished them to mean? Just as many 'trendies' have what seems to me a sad fetich for always facing the people, some 'traddies' seem to me to have an equally unfortunate fetich for invariably having their backs to the people. I suspect that neither fetich would have been comprehensible, either to Easterners or Westerners, in the first Christian millennium.

Another principle with great auctoritas is the idea of the One Altar. Byzantine churches by prescriptive custom only have one altar (although they can consult practicality by adding parekklesiai; I regard the side altars in the side chapels of Latin churches as in effect parekklesiai too). This principle is bound up with important concepts such as the unity of God's people round his one altar celebrating his one sacrifice. To have an (unused) old altar up against the East wall, and another for actual use in front of it for the priest to stand behind, I regard as profoundly wrong, for theological as well as aesthetic reasons.

Where a church is Eastward facing and has an altar at the East end, the matter is perfectly clear. It is quite improper to move it or stand behind it. If the old altar has been shifted forward, it should be moved back. If an altar for versus populum has been placed in front of it, it should be got rid of.

Where a church is designed so that the sanctuary is at the West end, and the architect has structured the sanctuary so that the priest can thereby face East only by facing the people, my own view, which is not going to make me universally popular, is that he should do just that. I think not only of the Roman basilicas but, for example, of the Oratory Church in Oxford. Laudably, the Oratory Fathers plan some High Masses in their church. I would put money on them organising these versus apsidem. But there is no need for them to do so. As I mentioned, the ritus servandus in the Missal of S Pius V provides very explicitly for the celebration of Mass versus populum, and in my view ... not that anyone is likely to ask for it! ... this is what auctoritas suggests should be done. Versus Orientem rules OK.

I am less happy to be categorical about the Blackfriars' Church in Oxford (which, like the Oratory, also faces the West), because there the principle of One Altar is disastrously vitiated; a small modern table stands in front of the old majestic High Altar. Dunno. What do you think? My own gut feeling is ... go with the flow of the building as it is actually built; remove the little modern table, celebrate facing West, with the congregation facing West too ... although I would have to admit that the ancient Fathers would have had paroxysms if they could have seen both priest and people with their backs all turned in unison away from the East, away from the direction from which the Lord promises his Epiphany.

As regards churches built to face neither East nor West ... such as the Brompton Orsatory and Westminster Cathedral ... again, dunno. I am sure that the principle of One Altar should apply, so dump any coffee tables. Thank the Lord that the Brompton Fathers never messed around with their sanctuary and that Vin has restored the One Altar at Westminster. Again, my own, purely personal but quite strong, gut instinct is to go with the flow of the building as it was actually designed, and to celebrate with ones back to the people. But this is not facing East and does not have a great weight of auctoritas behind it.


Sir Watkin said...

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

Through the Looking Glass, ch.6

Little Black Sambo said...

But the Red Queen did say
'You may call it "nonsense" if you like," ... Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'

Father Anonymous said...

Seems like good sense, although I feel a bit treacherous saying so.

Incidentally, of the principal churches in my present home (Cluj, Romania), only the very oldest (one each of Roman, Greek Catholic and Reformed communions) face eastward. The Lutheran, Greek Catholic and Orthodox cathedrals face respectively to the northwest, south and north. Embarrassing, but there's not much any of us can about it now.

Steve said...

You know, I used to have a little private joke with myself that real hard line Anglo-Protestant priests (sorry - presbyters), wishing to obey the injunction in the Prayer Book Communion Service that they are to stand at the north side of the Table, would have to take compasses into church to ensure that, for example, in Oxford, they could always make sure they were celebrating facing Newbury. I must confess that it did not occur to me that I would find equally assiduous Anglo-Catholic presbuteroi deciding that they needed to take the same precautions in order to ensure that they were celebrating facing Thame.

(While on the subject, the only cathedral in the Church of England that obeys the BCP rubric at its main Sunday Eucharist is, of course, Coventry.....)

Athanasius said...

And yet and yet and yet... while I grasp all that you say, I'm not so sure we should dismiss the 'virtual East' as merely taking words as we want them to mean. I would say that in the modern world, man's innate geographical sense has been sufficiently weakened that actual compass poles carry considerably less weight than certain other forms of visual symbolism.

Even though it is, I suppose, a corruption of the original meaning, I would argue that through common practice a valuable symbolism has emerged from having priest and people all facing the same way: it reinforces, in my humble opinion, an awareness of the priest acting on behalf of the people not talking 'at' the people, of the liturgical action being directed outwards, not the work of a community closed for itself.

Our Holy Father has written of these points, I believe. Has this development not gained sufficient auctoritas too?

Joshua said...

Jeremy Taylor (On the Reverence due to the Altar) has something of interest to say on this question - see the third paragraph below in particular:

This worshipping, or adoration in Churches was not so indefinite, but that it was instantly limited to be towards the East, or the place of the Altar, insomuch that amongst the first blossomes of Heresyes, that of the Osseni [Elchasaites] as reckoned by Epiphanius, of whom Alxai [Elchasai] the false Jew was a Coryphæus, prohibit enim (saith the father) orare ad orientes, asserens non oportere sic intendere, saying we ought not addresse our devotions, or adorations that way. That was his hæresy; for that thither our adorations are to be directed is an Apostolicall tradition, if we will believe as authentick records, as any we have extant. Justin Martyr in Resp. ad Qu: 118 ad Orthodoxos, having sayd that the Church hath received order for the place, and manner of prayer from the Apostles (as S. Clement sayd we had from Christ) addes, ideo Christianos omnes precum tempore spectare ad Orientem: quia ortus tamquam mundi pars honoratior, adorationi Dei destinatus est. Marke that; the East is the determin’d place for adoration: and this by the practise of all Christians, and this taught from the Apostles. The certainty of this derivation from the Apostles is further to be seen in Origen Homil. 5. in Numer: in Tertullian cap. 16 Apologet: S. Gregory Nyssen in lib. de Oratione: Athanasius Quæst:14. de plurimus et necessariis quæst: and divers others.

The reasons of this determination of Christian worship are diversly given by the Fathers according to their various Conceptions, all thereof, or the most were postnate to the thing, and are to be seene in S. German’s Theorica rerum Ecclesiast: and Damascen: lib. 4. orthod: fid: cap. 13. where he sayes this addresse of our adoration is studiose observanda, Christum scil: cum in cruce penderet ad occasum prospexisse, eumque nomine ita adoramus, ut eum obtueamur. The true reason I know not, I meane that which was truly introductive of the practise, for postnate there are enough, but this I know, that our adoration thitherward, and the placing of the Altar there were coætaneous for ought appears, and if I may have leave to conjecture, I think that this was the truer reason of the addresse of our worship, even because the Altar was Positum in Oriente; my reason is this;

1. Because I find in antiquity προσκυνειν προς άνατολας [‘to worship toward the east’], and έμπροσθεν του θυσιαστηριου [‘in front of the altar’] used promiscuously, and, 2ndly, because I find in antiquity the prærogative of holinesse not given to the orientall part of heaven, but to the site of the Altar in the Church I doe: which two things put together methinks say, that therefore the adoration was alwayes that way, because the Altar or Holy Table (for the difference is but nominall) being alwayes like the tree of Paradise planted in the East, and being more Holy than the other parts of the Church, I meane by a relative holinesse, did best determine our worship, as having God there the most presentiall. And if I be not mistaken, Walafridus Strabus shall confirme it; for when he had reckoned three Altars, one at Jerusalem, one in the Pantheon at Rome, the other in S. Peters that were not set in the East as examples of singular exception from the Common rule addes, Usus tamen frequentior et rationi vicinior habet in Orientem Orantes converti. Though these Altars were not in the East, yet the most common use is for worshippers to turne to the East when they pray. As if their addresse to the East was onely because of the Altar’s being there placed.

GOR said...

Echoing Athanasius and Pope Benedict - and putting aside compass points - orientation at Mass is towards God with the celebrant leading the congregation.

So, whether it is actual East, ‘virtual’ East or ‘liturgical’ East is immaterial to my mind. We should be ‘facing’ God, not one another - period.

Patricius said...

I agree with everything Fr Hunwicke says...

Athanasius, I sometimes wonder whether real Tradition (such as actually facing eastwards during Liturgy) belongs to a past long since left behind. Fr Hunwicke mentions the London Oratory and Westminster Cathedral as built at geographically odd angles, and my own parish church is so built too - for practical reasons, want of space, money etc. I wonder...do we compromise liturgical tradition for the sake of practicalities and simply get on as best we can, or can we feasibly do something about it?

Once the liturgical direction has been done away with the very notion of a priest celebrating Mass with his back to the congregation suddenly becomes a really objectionable practice.

Athanasius said...

In response to Patricius - I fail to see why the priest with his 'back to the people' would actually be objectionable if you have 'done away' with liturgical direction?

It seems to me that it is unwise to insist that reasons for a particular action, especially a symbolic one such as facing East, can never be open to reinterpretation or fresh discovery. So the Fathers understood wonderfully the value of facing the real East; one does not have to dispense with this insight to add new insights, such as our Holy Father's comments on the community not closed in on itself: and this in turn, I think, can be used as perfectly reasonable justification for an imitation of the posture of the original practice in situations like that of the Oratories.

Indeed, the so-called Benedictine altar-arrangement for the N.O. seems to be just such a compromise: using an alternative form of visual symbolism to capture the essence of the ideal.

William Tighe said...

To my best knowledge, the only church in Christendom that requires its churches, at least when built anew to be orientated in such a way as that to stand versus aspidem is also to stand ad orientem is the "Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the East and of the Assyrians" (although I would not be at all surprised to learn that the Copts and the Ethiopians do likewise). When I visted the "Assyrian" church in New Britain, Connecticut in 1977 or 78 I found that it was built in such a way that the "east end" was actually at the east end, and so fronted on the suburban street on which the church was built -- and that to enter the church one had to walk around to the rear in order to enter the narthex and so then the nave.

Patricius said...

Athanasius, if priest and people face together in a common direction, and this direction is not eastwards, then really there is no reason for them to do so.

As for the Benedictine Altar arrangement...it is a compromise, and a bad one. I don't see that a theological construct means anything to most Catholics, and in reality sticking a row of six candlesticks and a crucifix on the Altar between priest and people avails nothing to rectify an obvious liturgical abuse. Having candlesticks and a crucifix on the Altar is a late accretion anyway. Any additional candles would be placed behind, and not on, the mensa of the Altar - like the arrangement in Salisbury. I am all for the restoration of Rood lofts and pulpitums - that the Ministers pass beneath the Suffering Christ to procure the Sacrament for our Redemption. This seems to me to be much nicer than Baroque arrangements and gradines...

Not that I am as imaginative as the Holy Father...

Athanasius said...

But Patricius, there IS a reason for them do so... as I suggested! You may not think it is a valid reason, but it at least as valid as the priest facing the people if - and this is your premise not mine - liturgical direction is 'done away with'.

Not everything late is bad... all traditions begin somewhere. You may not like the baroque yourself, but that does not mean the period did not contribute something valid to the liturgical life of the Church.

The Holy Father knows his altar arrangement is a mere compromise, but I do not share your view that it is a bad one... it is a suitable means to illustrate something important, as a sort of half-way house to the ideal.

(Btw, none of my remarks above should indicate that I disagree with Fr. Hunwicke's observations - and of course I accept that I know nuffin').

Peregrinus said...

I knew that someone would eventually vindicate north end celebration as part of the patrimony . . . err, at least for buildings that are oriented north - south, if you get my drift.

Thanks Fr. H . . . I think.

Peregrinus said...

That's 'liturgical north end" of course.

Joshua said...

Of course, to stand at the North End is to stand in the Aaronic posture of sacrifice:

"And he shall immolate it at the side of the altar that looketh to the north, before the Lord" - Lev. i, 11.

Various Patrimonial writers on the Anglican liturgy were well aware of this.

Joshua said...

As for the South End - in the denomination known as the Church of Ireland, the clerk stood at the south end facing the minister at the north end, thus giving rise to the curious arrangement known as "Lion and Unicorn"...

Joshua said...

Note that Jeremy Taylor certainly argued that to face East was to face the altar, as the holy of holies in the church; hence some support for the idea of "liturgical east".

I recall that many mediæval churches were so oriented as not to face due East but some angle between NE and SE, and why? - so that the sun rose directly behind the East window on the day of the church's patronal feast.

Peregrinus said...

"And he shall immolate it at the side of the altar that looketh to the north, before the Lord" - Lev. i, 11.

Joshua - I don't think that this passage was in the minds of the "north-enders" of the Church of Ireland in Canada. Sacrifice was the farthest thing from their minds when they approached the Lord's Board (Table).

One explanation for the north end position contends that when tables replaced stone medieval altars in churches at the Reformation, these were often placed in the chancel facing the choir so that the presbyter would face the communicants who were seated in the stalls on south side of the chancel while the presiding minister would read the prayers from the north side of the table.

BTW there was a Anglican church in Halifax, NS with two book stands bolted to the north and south ends of the "Table" up to the 1980s. 'The Lion and the Unicorn' must have been alive and well there in the 19th century.

Chris said...

I think it was under Laud that altars were placed lengthways in the chancel. But surely the original intent of the rubric, and how any priest would have interpreted it on Whitsunday 1549, in the light of his previous ars celebrandi, is to begin the service standing at the Gospel corner.

Sir Watkin said...

I think it was under Laud that altars were placed lengthways in the chancel.

No. It was an Elizabethan custom. Laud's championing of altar rails, as well as protecting against profanation, had the convenient effect (from his point of view) of preventing the practice of moving the Holy Table "at Communion time" from the east wall (where it was positioned "altarwise" when not in use) into the body of the chancel.

Incidentally, it has been argued that the phrase "standing before the Table" (new in 1662, rubric before Prayer of Consecration) mandates an eastward-facing position, on the grounds that "before" must mean "in front of": it can hardly mean "at the (north) side of".

Peregrinus said...

Thank you Sir Watkin. It seems that by 1662 the Laudian influence had reasserted itself with the effect of stopping the movement of tables into chancels, at least in reaction to the Puritans. Though he was long removed from the scene and the Puritans had pretty much removed all stone altars missed by the early reformers, Laud won the day it seems.

Certainly Laud would have approved "standing before the table" so long as it was in the sanctuary behind an altar rail. At the Restoration there was a move to recover some of the dignity that Laud and others had argued for - facing east liturgically or geographically was certainly a part of this.

why not said...

On the subject of one altar… ...Leeds and, er, ...elsewhere.

I shall have to be specific, but at length decided it would be best to remove specific names in order to protect, in many cases, the extremely guilty. My readers will judge how far this has been successful…

A local parish church was thoroughly reordered in the last decade. [The reason for that, apparently, was that the pp at the time of Paul VI actually did the thing that one traditionalist blogger says that he wished the serious anti-novus ordo priests would have done. He refused to use it. Basically, until the day they carried him out, he celebrated the EF, as it then wasn’t called, and Vatican II and Montini did not cross the threshold. (God bless him, and, since I am sure He did, may he pray for us). Presumably his parishioners were all relatively happy about this. It was never big news locally or nationally – shock headline: Catholic Priest Says Catholic Mass – and sadly I was very young and wasn’t a Catholic at the time. But I wonder how many more instances there were. Anyone? It was said his diocesan bishop used to fume at the mention of his name. Naturally, this faithful and hard-working priest had long been a canon of the distant cathedral church from which the bishop was unable to remove him. I do rely for the accuracy of this report on his current Vat-II-loving successor. I sincerely hope I wasn’t misled.]

They did the reordering in the same way as they did at Leeds where I was shocked to find that the work was so extensive it closed the cathedral to worship for months. That is, there is a wooden partition wall directly in front of the altar; they never actually excavated a hole in the sanctuary floor to put the musicians in as in Leeds. I think the partition is so close that you could walk in front of the footpace, but not celebrate mass with a server at it. Not so much a parecclesia as a closet for unwanted lumber.

why not said...

Continuation of 'one Altar as at Leeds'

There was a certain cardinal who shall remain nameless at the reconsecration mass. According to certain organs of the press, he was reported to be an impressive man. I had the opportunity to talk to him after the mass and asked him about the design. His words and attitude surprised me. He put on the tone of of a 1970’s children’s tv story teller and asked me, “Shall I tell you why it is there?” (I hoped he would) before descending to his anticlimax in describing the wooden wall in front of the high altar and behind the new chancel altar, as being “there to protect the altar”. From whom, one wondered? He could easily have said, without even being very appreciative of the old mass, as we know he wasn’t, that it was to focus attention on the new altar without distraction, but he didn’t. He certainly didn’t say anything theologically interesting about the unity of the one altar, which actually does constitute a valid reason for a very ugly addition to the church. It could have been planned better or designed in a different way. I called the cardinal ‘Eminence’ during our conversation, but I was, shall we say, more in awe of my opportunity to use the word than of the man in whose honour I used it.

It must be said that the old altar reredos, later than the building, was not very good and could be said to be an artistic or design failure. And of course there is another reason why recent physical changes at least have been to the good – but, accidentally, naturally.

It should also be said that the church is occidented, if that is a word. Perfectly, I think. AND there was the opportunity to place the door at EITHER end. What is at the West end where the apse and altar were placed, is a public street of the town hardly narrower than the other street where they placed the door, with the exception that it was not as fashionable as the other when the church was built. That was considered more important in England after the centuries of persecution and years of social stigma. Apparently the good social standing of the more easterly street was sufficient to attract a passing Catholic monarch who needed mass one Sunday away from the much nicer Friars' church at the other end of the town, but I was never very impressed by the moral motivation of Alphonso XIII and I. [This blog is still a Legitimist zone, I take it.]

Since the re-ordering, there has been erected a large stone altar, supported on the old altar rails of course, at the chancel step, directly below a rather impressive hanging rood that is sadly never covered in Lent. So now this church is in the same position of those Roman basilicas with the altar at the West end. The Vat II- loving pp at least does what his Tradition-observing predecessor never did and celebrates versus Orientem. Didn’t the Holy Father’s book, and/or you, Fr., say something about points during the mass when the people also turned to face East to pray? That would of course have meant they had their backs to both priest and Altar. Was that done? When attending mass there, mindful of the Pope’s and Fr Hunwicke’s strictures, I naturally tried to incline my head as far behind me as it would go when praying, although it did give one an awful crick in the neck.

why not said...

And I, too, thought that it had been the Red Queen who said that. Didn't think old Humpty had it in him.

why not said...

Sir Watkin and Peregrinnus are right about the Tables in Chancels. The only thing to add is that the first practice of Cranmwer’s acolytes and other puritans was often to shove the table into the nave, before high box pews etc., but still lengthways in a narrow alley, with the result that you HAD to stand on one SIDE, although, come to think of it, and END would actually have been easier.
It was illogical to face only the South side of communicants in stalls. I suppose they just picked one. Don’t buy the Gospel side reference.

Sir Watkin said...

Quite why Carroll should have chosen Humpty Dumpty to be the proponent of extreme nominalism is obscure. Possibly because his (Carroll's) sympathies lay elsewhere, so he used a character who notoriously came to a sticky end (forgive the pun).

William Tighe said...

I bring this dreadfully expensive book from Oxford University Press to the attention of the commenters here:

Altars Restored:
The Changing Face of English Religious Worship, 1547-c.1700
Kenneth Fincham, Nicholas Tyacke
29 November 2007

for it supplies full details of the liturgical arrangements and rearrangements in the period with which this thread has been concerned; and beyond. Basically, it supports what sir Watkin wrote in his penultimate posting on this thread -- although I think the authors also suggest that the "north end" position is a kind of residue of the mid-Edwardian practice of ca. 1550-52 of having the "holy table" stand lengthwise E-W in the midst of the chancel (or even in the body of the church itself) with the minister on the north side facing southwards.

As to "why not's" comments, I think I heard about this sad affair somewhat over 20 years ago from the Assistant Catholic Chaplain of Cambridge University, Fr. John Berry, a priest of the Diocese of Leeds, who celebrated Mass in that church during the final illness of the parish priest -- an experience which (as he told me at the time) "converted" him (intellectually at least) to the merits of the versus aspidem/ad orientem position.

Kim Andrew D'Souza said...

I'm not as erudite or as wise as the esteemed Fr Hunwicke (or indeed the other commentators on this post) and I'm coming late to this discussion, but I want to make two observations on the good Father's original post:
1) It seems problematic to say that "the Roman basilicas are specifically designed so that, by facing East, the celebrant thereby faces where the congregation has gathered". This could be misinterpreted to give the erroneous idea that facing the congregation was on the minds of early Christians, a thesis which Bouyer brands "nonsense" and Jungmann calls "nothing but a fairy tale." I think it is indeed the case that the scholarship of Bouyer, Gamber, and more recently Stephan Heid, has clearly established that the Roman Basilicas were designed to face East, period. Given the topography and other considerations (such as the locations of tombs), however, this often meant locating the altar in the West end of the basilica, but orientation was always the end and not a means to face the people.
2) It seems that the proponents of a "liturgical east" are able intelligibly to suggest what should be done when churches are not built along an East-West axis, whereas Fr Hunwicke's critique cannot make sense of this situation -- except by invoking the principle of the one altar. This ultimately means following a direction chosen purely arbitrarily, simply because it is now a fait accompli, which is very problematic when you consider that not every church is Westminster Cathedral or the Brampton Oratory: what do you do when the "modern table" is the only altar in place? Is there not enough auctoritas to support moving towards versus apsidem, perhaps using the altar arrangement of the Roman basilicas as an intermediate solution? Or are we simply compelled to go with the c.1970 "flow of the building as it was actually designed"? When we consider that for centuries many churches have built along another axis for reasons not only of topography or urban cramming, but also the altogether legitimate desire to have the temple sit atop a central town square or even to open onto a major street (using the location to emphasize the proper place of the faith in public life and the relationship of the earthly city to the heavenly one), it seems arrogant to deny all auctoritas to the arrangement that was (surely not arbitrarily!) achieved in almost every such case. This idea of turning towards a common liturgical direction is indeed attested, not only in practice and in the physical patrimony of the Church, but also in the universally understood meaning of turning East. Jeremy Taylor has been cited from the Anglican patrimony, but one could also cite from the patristic evidence to the effect that turning East means turning toward God, and therefore that the "conversion" towards a particular (and, naturally, common) direction is itself of value. Thus, for example, Augustine says that we turn East "not because God is there, as if he had moved away from the other directions on earth, but rather to help us to remember to turn our mind towards a higher order, that is, to God" (De sermone Domini in monte II.18).

why not indeed said...

I wonder if I should add that I was not referring to a case IN the diocese of Leeds but only to the similarity in the design methodology when both churches lately did thorough re-orderings that had only been half-hearted before. If only they had merely removed a moveable table at Leeds.
I do not intend to reveal the location, but if the matter referred to by William Tighe was in that diocese it might be worth knowing that there were at least two cases of parish priests who said ‘No thanks’ to Montini. He at least should have appreciated that. He was always opining how much he admired the ‘English liberal tradition’, which I think was in reality a longstanding habit of dissent from authority that was distrusted. ‘Do you like apples, Papa Montini?’ (This is not offered as a serious contribution to the discussion of ecclesiology elsewhere on this blog.)

Why not indeed (ne why not).

Acolytus said...


William Tighe said...

Clifton; verbum satis ...

one more time said...

Then there WERE at least two. Different diocese (same ecclesiastical province, in fact, interestingly, but that is to be a little coy).

I think, if I have followed Mr D’Souza, he means that in a non-oriented building we should nevertheless turn to the physical East, and indeed try to rearrange sanctuaries in pursuit of this. I think it was said that (at certain points?) this was done by all in westward facing buildings. I have mislaid my copy of the pope’s book The Spirit of the Liturgy, so I cannot check.
When I said, half jokingly that I had got a crick in the neck from trying to turn behind myself while kneeling, I did do this for the Prayer s after Mass, which I think only I was saying, but I did not attempt this during the Mass itself as I knelt facing West.
I think the reasons for the change /falling away was simply that. That certain customs were not thought sufficiently important and they were neglected. That would not make them wrong.

And now for more remarks on the immediate post-reformation liturgical practice in England.

At the risk of extending this thread beyond the capacity of all of us to read, it may be as well to place a few things on record in case anyone might need to refer to it.
The picture is in outline as Sir Watkin, Peregrinus, ‘why not’ (present writer, for complicated reasons,) and William Tighe, have described.

Accurate and authoritative information is sometimes hard to find in a field too often dominated, in the past, by over-enthusiastic amateurs who usually said something to the effect that nineteenth century ‘restorers’ made all old churches look like they had when they were built for medieval catholic worship. More recently, there have been better books that described the stages of change post-reformation. Few of these works seemed to acknowledge what I think was the principal scholarly work of the mid-twentieth century on the subject. So I am not sure which option is easier. If people do not wish to spend 80 pounds, they might consider an alternative purchase of around ten or twenty.

Kim Andrew D'Souza said...

I'm sorry if my hastily-typed piece was confusing. I did not intend to make another intervention after that one, but I am loath to leave uncorrected the anonymous commentator's ('why not'/'one more time') misunderstanding of my argument. My point was that there is more auctoritas for a common direction of liturgical prayer (even if not physical East) than Fr Hunwicke notes. In churches built along the East-West axis, I agree completely with the relative weights Fr Hunwicke gives to each of the three principles (namely, the importance of physical orientation in worship, the unicity of the altar, and the integrity of the Church's architectural heritage). On the other hand, in churches that are not built along the East-West axis, auctoritas stands solidly on the side of the opinion that the celebrant and the congregation should all together face the altar. I made the case for a re-ordering of sanctuaries in pursuit of this. Many such neither-oriented-nor-'occidented' buildings (at least the sanctuary appointments and their arrangement) are of recent vintage, but already stand desperately in need of an 'extreme makeover' to rid them of their 1970s or 80s style modernism. I think versus apsidem is the way to aim in any such renovation. I hope this somewhat clarifies my thoughts.
Fr D'Souza

I'll tell you why not said...

To conclude this matter before we all expire of, well, something:

Another problem with the ‘Altars’ book, is its thesis, as described in the blurb, in what appears to be a barely veiled swipe at Professor Duffy, that since some people either did what they were told, or else really enjoyed smashing up the pious accumulations of the ages, that this meant ‘reformation’ of the Church was popular. Well I once knew some little boys who enjoyed jumping on the sandcastles that people had built on the beach but I never drew any political or devotional conclusions from their behaviour. Some people smash windows and other things when they are either rioting or drunk. It doesn’t make them conscientious Calvinists. Seriously, the sensation of satisfaction at throwing things away and indeed the pleasure of destroying things is a well known human trait. Destruction of things, if not quite on that sort of scale, has been happening within the Catholic Church since the war.

My own vision for the future of the Church of England is, in short, to repeal the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity and to return [what’s left of] the stolen property. The day that the ludicrous Mary Walnut holds up anglicanism as a better form of Xnty than the Catholic church is when you know it is all up as a serious expression of the Faith. (And had I still any doubts, they would have been dispelled when the preposterous Williams excelled himself in actually finding new ways to be preposterous on the bbc last night. Not a word about the Faith). (Although we should have known this three hundred years ago when der kur-wahler Georg ze vife-imprisoner promoted the heretic Hoadly and the corrupt Walpole shut down the convocations). I no longer have any interest or belief in the future of dress-up Protestantism with extra ideas of self-importance, but I am hugely interested in some of the artistic results. I personally find the furnishing of eighteenth century English churches fascinating, Teigh, Shobdon, all that; but I don’t flatter myself that this endows me with any insight into the then contemporary mainstream of Eucharistic theology.