Ad Orientem Liturgies: Part II

Part one appears at

Last week we discovered three principles:  that when the people are directly addressed, whether in the Latin or Maronite rite, the priest faces them. The second is that whereas in the Maronite rite, the prayers are intended to be heard and understood by as many of the people as possible, in the Latin rite this is not the case. Third, and common to both rites, when the people are to be blessed, they are faced.

The Maronite rite now has a Syriac hymn followed by the 3etro prayer. These are part of the Hoosoye complex. The hymn is sung by the congregation, and as mentioned before, although it is not specified, the Maronite clergy is usually (and best) sited sitting at the side of the altar and facing it, not facing the congregation. This way, the congregation are not drawn to the clergy, but all face the altar. However, the 3etro prayer is usually said at a lectern, facing the people. This is appropriate, because it is offered in the name of the people. It is probably meant as a sort of summary of the prayers and intentions of the Hoosoye. The Latin rite has nothing similar or even analogous to this cluster of chants, a hymn, and a prayer.

Then follows the Qadishat. I have recently posted Sebastian Brock’s study of this prayer.

It is known that the Qadishat appeared in the East, and that it was accepted in the West, where it last longest in the Good Friday liturgy (hagios o Theos … etc.). I believe that it is thought that it was once an integral part of the liturgy, but as the liturgy was altered, was kept only in the Good Friday liturgy, as being so sacred, it was treated with more conservatism. When it was said in an exchange between priest and people, there was reason for them to be facing. But now that has been changed, and, perhaps as a result, it is often said like the qolo, i.e. with all facing the altar and the clergy profile to the congregation.

However, the prayer which follows it (qadisho u lo moyouto moryo), and which was not originally attached to it, is properly said facing the people, because, although directed to the Lord, it is in substance an exhortation to the people. The psalm or mazmuro which follows is not a psalm from scripture, and is usually chanted with the clergy profile to the nave.

At this point comes an apparent anomaly: the Epistle and the Gospel in the Maronite rite are said facing the people, whereas they are said ad orientem in the Latin. Where is the anomaly? I said “apparent” anomaly, because in fact there is none. In the Maronite rite, the scriptures are read for the edification of the people. There is no “private” Mass in the Maronite rite. This is a point which many have not grasped. I have left it to here because the contrast with the Latin rite is instruction. In the venerable Tridentine rite, there is such a thing as a private saying of the Mass. It is envisaged that the priest will have an altar server, but he does not represent a congregation: he assists the priest. So the scriptures are read not only without necessity of hearing by any congregation, but as a sort of sacrifice of praise: hence they are read from the altar. However, when the Mass is a public Mass, the custom is to read the Epistle and the Gospel in the vernacular (or one of the vernacular tongues, as the idea that there is only one is often quite wrong). This happens after the solemn proclamation of the Gospel, at the lectern, before the sermon. Even the SSPX carry out this practice, the existence of which goes to support my first principle, that when the people are directly addressed the priest faces them.

To recap, because this is significant: in the Maronite rite, where there is no private Mass and the presence of a congregation is assumed, the Epistle and Gospel are read facing the people. In the Latin rite, if there is a congregation, then in addition to the sacrifice of praise at the altar, they are read versus populum. However, in private Latin Masses, this is not at all necessary.

Then, if there is to be a sermon, then in both cases, it is delivered facing the people. Once more, the idea that the entirety of the Latin Mass is delivered ad orientem is not right.

Now, in some Latin Masses, but not all, the Creed follows. There is always a Creed in the Maronite rite. Once more, this is probably due to the fact that the default of the Latin Mass was the priest’s celebration, whereas in the Maronite, every Mass is public. The fact that the Maronite Creed commences “We believe,” whereas the Latin commences “I believe,” is quite an important marker of the intrinsic nature of the ceremony. The Creed comes to us from the Councils of Nicaea (325AD) and Constantinople (381). In each of these the original Greek reads pistouomen eis hena Theon … “We believe in one God …” The Latin translation, however, is “Credo in unum Deum …” “I believe in one God …” The texts is set out at 125 and 150 of the 43rd edition of Denziger’s Enchiridion symbolorum definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et forum. A more eloquent vindication of my thesis to date could hardly be desired. The Latin translation may not have been due to the nature of the Latin Mass, but it fits it quite nicely. And being as it is, it follows that it is entirely right for the priest to intone it facing the altar. At the same time, the Maronite rite is correct to have the priest and people facing because they are speaking as a congregation.

In the next part of this series, we shall examine the Liturgy of the Eucharist which follows.




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