Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
Orientation of Priest at Mass
Traditional Direction of Priest at Mass
Priest Faces East
Priest Faces Eastward
East | Eastward
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Question / Issue:
What direction does
the priest traditionally face during Mass?
Answer / Resources:
[click link(s) below, as applicable]
traditionally faces eastward (ad orientem) towards the direction of the heavenly
Jerusalem. The priest faces the altar (and not the people) for a number of
reasons such as: this is the traditional direction which may be traced back to
apostolic times; the priest is facing east towards the rising sun (which is
symbolic of Christ); it demonstrates his intermediary position; it is the same
direction Christ would have sat at the Last Supper (eastward, and not facing the
disciples); the priest's direction better represents the sacrificial nature of
the Mass, and it avoids the appearance that the priest turns his back to God
(symbolically eastward and traditionally truly present on the altar in the
Tabernacle) to turn his face towards the people; etc. The priest's facing
eastward towards the rising sun is also symbolic of the Lord who is the true
"Light of the World" and who is expected to return from the east. [Note: With the
introduction of the
Novus Ordo Mass in the 1960's, many priests may (unfortunately) face the
people (versus populum). For reasons supporting the traditional ad orientem
Did you know?
It is still possible – thanks be to God! – to lawfully attend the
Traditional Latin Mass. The Traditional Latin ('Tridentine') Mass differs
from the 1960's Novus Ordo Mass in many & significant ways (try
here for more information). To locate a Traditional Latin Mass in your area,
+ + +
common turning to the east [the traditional position, wherein the priest and the
people face eastward, and not each other]...remains essential. This is not a
case of something accidental, but of what is essential. Looking at the priest
has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord." (Cardinal
Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI)
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