Why is the Gospel Read from the Left Side of the Altar?


Someone attending the Traditional Latin Mass for the first time will immediately be struck by several noticeable differences from the New Mass. From the (near) exclusive use of Latin, to the direction of the priest (ad orientem), to a greater emphasis on silence and kneeling, the newcomer soon realizes that there is much ritual contained within the old Rite. This ritual is often replete with symbolism and liturgical meaning. The reading of the Gospel on the left side of the altar is no exception.

Unlike in the New Mass, where the Liturgy of the Word (Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel) are all read from the ambo, in the Traditional Mass both the Epistle and Gospel are read at the altar by the priest. However, while the Missal sits on the right side of the altar for the first reading, the server moves the Missal to the left side for the proclamation of the Gospel. This brief procession, in which the altar server may also be joined by a thurifer and torch bearers, can be an act of liturgical mystery for the newcomer.

In his pre-conciliar classic, The Latin Mass Explained, Monsignor George Moorman helps to explain the meaning behind this moving of the Missal from right to left:

After the reading of the Gradual or Tract, the server carries the Missal to the left (or Gospel) side of the altar. According to an old custom, church and altar should be erected in such a manner that the priest faces the East (ad orientem) when offering Mass. If this custom is followed, the priest will face toward the North when reading the Gospel. As the South, with its luxuriant vegetation, was regarded as a type of the realm of grace, so the cold North, with its extensive wastes, came to be regarded as the realm of evil…But when the Gospel of Christ was preached, the face of the earth was renewed, and love for God and for virtue was re-enkindled in the hearts of men.

As with many liturgical practices that have organically developed over the centuries, the symbolism behind this traditional practice has other meanings as well. Msgr. Moorman explains another such one:

The Jews, to whom the “Gospel of the Kingdom” was first preached, rejected it. It was then carried to the Gentiles. This is symbolized by carrying the Missal to the other side of the altar. Transferring the Missal from one side of the altar to the other also recalls to our minds how Our Lord was led about from one iniquitous judge to another.

This traditional understanding behind the moving of the Missal from right to left can also be found in the 19th century classic The Catechism Explained by Father Francis Spirago:

The Epistle, the carrying across of the missal, the Gospel and the Creed, are to remind us that the Gospel was first preached to the Jews, and being rejected by them, was proclaimed to the Gentiles, many of whom believed and were baptized.

As the Latin Mass continues its resurgence, and more of the faithful are able to avail themselves to the old Rite, may they learn to understand and fully appreciate the great ritual and symbolism of the traditional liturgy.

[Photo credit: Patrick Craig]

Posted on September 17, 2017, in liturgy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 48 Comments.

  1. Extremely interesting. We had so very much.

    • Thank you Mary Anne. We are recapturing rest assured. Tradition is the future.

      • I was actually taught by my trad priest (I was a solemn mass server) that it was because in the ancient church the altar was BOTH ad orientem and vs populum, meaning the congregation faced west. This can actually be backed up by visiting some extant chapels in the ruins of 2nd-5th century monasteries and convents in Europe. So, to the congregation, the gospel side was on the right, which was ‘right’, but which also meant it was on the left from the perspective of the celebrant. When the Tridentines pretty much overtook every other rite gradually in the following millennia, they made everyone face East, leading to this confusion about the gospel side and epistle side. The Tridentine Rite is beautiful but one must remember it isn’t the most ‘legitimate’ or even the oldest rite. Millennia before it were the equally, if not more, beautiful Sarum Rite and Celtic rites (think St Columba’s original Iona Abbey) which fell out of use partly due to the encroachment and spread of the Benedictines and other Romish orders and partly due to the dissolution of monasteries and convents by Henry VIII, which must’ve destroyed many more rites we’ve never gotten the chance to hear of. Who knows how many more rites were lost from similar reformations in the rest of Europe. And of course there are the numerous sui iuris eastern rite churches that precede Western rites by millennia. One good thing though is that parts of the Sarum Rite has been rescued into the Anglican Use Missal for the the Anglican Ordinariates (for former Anglicans) in communion with Rome. Mostly churches previously influenced by St JH Newman’s Anglican Oxford Movement before he (and they) became RC, these Ordinariate churches are also all ad orientem, with copious genuflections, bell-ringings, subdeacons, acolytes, incense and torches but with the added bonus that they have the rigorous choral tradition of Anglican churches, allow female acolytes and use sublime hymnody, overly talented organ scholars and English liturgy in keeping with Newman’s Tractarian tradition. (I seriously think part of people’s attraction to the Tridentine Rite is the abysmal state of New Latin rite hymnals and music in general. Even the Sistine Chapel Choir doesn’t sing as well as, say, the King’s College London Chapel Choir, or The Sixteen, or even the Lutheran Dresdner Kreuzchor and St Olaf College Choir (all of which I’ve heard). But mostly it’s the Vat II hymnals compared to the NEH. The former would drive even St Hildegard away.)

      • @ zimin Actually, the catacombs before 300 AD had the altars against the East wall. Some Basilicas have the doors facing East like St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. During the Canon of the Mass, the Archdeacon would cry out “ad orientem” and the people turned their backs on the pontiff to face East from the offertory through the final collect. St. Paul outside the walls has the altar in the sanctuary facing East. Nearly every Catholic Church in the world faced East until 1900 AD. This is not a recent thing.

        The Anglican Use (I said it for two years) is not growing in any appreciable manner. Many of the students I had at Our Lady of the Atonement 2003-2005 no longer practice the faith.

        The Traditional Latin Mass (Roman Rite) propagated the Faith of the Ages throughout the world. The Mass of Pope Paul VI doesn’t have a very fruit filled legacy. Christ came the First Christmas from the East and He will come again from the East at the end of time. At Mass we have our backs to the direction of Satan (West) and our faces to the Holy Trinity in the East. The Coptics spit toward the west at a baptism. The sun rises in the East for a reason; not because of any coincidence or contradiction…..

    • Amuji Elvis Titus

      I need it so much please.

  2. This is fascinating, but I do have a question of sorts. In the Lutheran church, the book (whatever it is called) is also moved to the left side and the Gospel read from there. But at all times, the pastor faces the congregation. So I’m not quite sure about this facing of the North and East. Do you mean to say that the priest is on the north end or the east side of the altar, or something like that? In any case, I never noticed that Lutheran churches are constructed facing a particular direction. I think they face whatever direction fits the property. I’m not sure about that. Just thinking of the churches I am familiar with, three have the altar on the north end, two on the east end. I’d have to think about more churches, because I do know of several others. I am also wondering about synagogues and temples, because in their service, they carry the Torah around the sanctuary (if they call it that), celebrating its existence, but the temple I am familiar with has the front on the east end. I am aware that liturgy and many other practices with ritual meaning come directly from the worship of the Jews, which God specifically prescribed in the Old Testament.

  3. Come to think of it, thinking of Catholic churches in the city, the altar in the Cathedral is on the west end, but there is a convent (I think it was; closed now) where I’m sure the altar was on the east end, because the entrance is on the west. I haven’t been inside that one.

    • Great questions. Historically churches were constructed so that they faced east. The priest and faithful were all on the same side of the altar, which for centuries was against the wall. These days the term “ad orientem” (toward the east) is more of a liturgical direction than necessarily the actual geographical direction. Of course, the significance of facing east is in anticipation of Our Lord’s return at His second coming.

      • OK, that explains some things. Thank you. Most Lutheran altars are against the wall, by the way, and in many places, there is a kind of podium where the readings are done. The altars not against the wall seem to be in the more recently built churches.

  4. One more thought. The Catholic mission to the Indians has the altar on the north end of the building.

  5. I have always wondered why the servers lift up the priest’s chasuble.

  6. When I went on pilgrimage to Rome, we visited one of its most ancient churches: the church of S. Clemente. According to our chaplain, the layout of the church was based on the Roman court of justice and its most prominent feature was two stands to the right and left of the altar, where the epistle and gospel were read out respectively. These stands were modelled on the witness stand, traditionally located on the right, where testimony was given during a trial; and the seat of the judge, located on the left, from whence sentence was pronounced.

  7. Fr. Donald Kloster

    The Eastward “ad orientem” prayer of the Holy Mass is in expectation of the Second Coming. Many Cathedrals have the doors facing East in imitation of St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major in Rome. The only Major Basilica that the sanctuary faces East is St. Paul outside the walls.

    There was an ancient tradition of turning to the East during the Mass of the Faithful. The Mass of the Catechumens possibly was said facing West because that is the direction of Evil. The Coptics, for example, spit toward the West during their baptismal Rite.

    The Deacon would call out “ad orientem” right after the unveiling of the chalice. I’ve also heard that the Gospel is said facing North to preach to/evangelize the pagan north. The fact that the priest gives the absolution before communion facing South would make sense in light of the connection with the realm of grace.

  8. The Gospel was not rejected by the Jews as stated in the article. What about Mary and Peter and John and …? God had a remnant.

    I am so blessed to attend Novus Ordo and hear the Gospel and all the readings proclaimed in the venecular which is the tradition of Jesus. I am also blessed that the Novus Ordo lectionary covers an overwhelming majority of the Word of God where the Tridetine hits the highlights.

    As to tradition being the future (see below response) – Novus Ordo is a return to tradition, the oldest tradition based on the liturgy of the Jews which was celebrated around a table with Jesus and the Apostles facing the people, speaking the common tongue, and including more than the ordained in the celebration. Also, studies are showing as cited by leaders in the Triditine Movement that the numbers are not growing, so the future is not bright for the Triditine Movement and I am grateful.


    • Fr. Donald Kloster

      Where is your proof that the Traditional numbers are not growing? Msgr. Pope himself admits that he has only “anecdotal evidence.” The actual evidence points in the other direction and I take issue with anyone who can’t quote actual figures of national trends instead of isolated occurrences.

      I have 19 years of experience saying the TLM in 5 Diocese on three continents. Msgr. Pope’s experiences are very different from mine.

      Mr. Case, it must be repeated once again that there were less than a dozen TLMs in the entire USA prior to 1988. There were approximately 200 in 2007. There are over 500 as of 2017. That is clearly growth, except for those that don’t want to admit to the actual facts.

      That growth is in spite of strong resistance by many bishops. That growth is despite the fact that the narrative is always that the people don’t want the TLM. It is a lie because back in 1970 almost no one wanted the Vernacular Mass; it was forced on them. As a result, traditional Catholics left the Church in droves. We went from 80% Mass attendance in 1965 to about 30% by 1980. What was left were largely progressive Catholics or traditional Catholics that were uncomfortable with the changes, but wanted to remain faithful.

      It is patently false that Jesus heard the readings claimed in the vernacular. There were actually three languages spoken in the Holy Land at the time of Jesus. Furthermore, he would never have heard the sacred scriptures read by women (He worshipped in the Temple almost all his life and only for a few days in the Sacred Liturgy)!

      The FSSP now has over 500 members. They started 29 years ago with 12 members. Name one other men’s religious order with that growth. You can’t.

      • Very well said Fr. Kloster. Thank you.

        Also, to Brendan’s other erroneous claim, the Last Supper would have been offered with the disciples and Our Lord dining on the same side of the table, as Bouyer pointed out years ago. Also, the liturgical language of Our Lord was Hebrew, though the vernacular would no doubt have been Aramaic. Finally, while the Last Supper was the First Mass, the Mass itself is the Sacrifice of Calvary, something often loss on those most enthusiastic about the Novus Ordo.

      • As a Lutheran, I would hold that the sacrifice at Calvary is the ONLY mass. However, I am curious to know why the central point of the sacrifice at Calvary, the ESSENTIAL point, is lost in the Novus Ordo, since I am not familiar with it. The only Catholic services I have ever attended were in Latin (prior to Vatican II, actually).

        To clarify, Lutherans believe Jesus’ body and blood are really present in Communion, but we don’t believe in Transubstantiation. We believe the communicant receives BOTH.

    • Speaking as a Lutheran, I consider the liturgy and things like vestments, church art, and the like, to be very important for a number of reasons. Liturgy quotes Scripture. All other music paraphrases. We should worship God with all our talents, including visual arts. But also speaking as a Lutheran, I consider worship in the vernacular to be essential. God intends for us to UNDERSTAND in our mother tongue. That’s why we Lutherans have Bible translators. (Wycliffe is not the only game in town.) Latin is nice, but it keeps God distant from people who don’t speak Latin, which means most people. I know enough Latin that when I sing the classical religious works like Requiems and the like, I know what I am singing. But I think most of the people in the choir did not know what they are singing.

      Jesus would have read scripture in Hebrew, though He spoke Aramaic, which is a related language, perhaps very close. At the time, Koine Greek was the Lingua Franca, though Latin undoubtedly was getting a foothold since Rome dominated Israel. The people spoke Aramaic, and Jesus would have preached to them out in the open, in Aramaic.

      I know Catholics who appreciate the Tridentine Mass. I was old enough to be aware of the things going on when the vernacular was introduced, and I remember all the dissatisfaction. It would be good to have both available, it seems to me. But it’s not my church, so I have no say. It’s up to the members and other folks who are within Rome to make those decisions.

  9. Fr. Donald Kloster

    @patg2 I do appreciate your perspective, but you really have “no dog in this fight.”

    The Mass is not a once and done prospect and neither is the Sacrament of Baptism.

    We were saved by our Baptism into the Church (past tense), we are being saved as we frequent the sacraments (present tense), and we will be saved if we remain true until our death and particular judgement (future tense).

    The Sacrifice of the Mass is a Once and Future occurrence. In the Book of Revelation, the Lamb is being slain and yet lives on. Each Mass is a re-presentation of Christ on the Cross. At each Mass, we are opening a window into eternity.

    Finally, the Jews had/have their Sacred Language and it is Hebrew. The Catholic Church has its Sacred Language and it is Latin. Latin never changes as does English or German…I am fluent in both and have seen changes in both of those modern spoken languages within my lifetime. I am also now fluent in Spanish and ditto.

    None of the 21 Ecumenical Councils has ever called for the elimination of Latin as the language of the Church. Martin Luther was a religious engineer of sorts and he fashioned a religion according to his own preferences. For 1520 years there was One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Everyone could identify the One Church Christ Founded. As of 1900, there were 1,600 Christian divisions. Now, there are over 45,000 conservatively. There has been a veritable explosion of “New” Martin Luthers who all have picked up the bible and claimed they know it better than the Councils of Bishops who put the Sacred Scriptures together at the close of the 4th century.

    • Thank you for your response. Because of your message, you persuade me I DO have a dog in this fight. 🙂 We don’t canonize Luther; he, like us, was a mere man, though God works through men. We will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran perspective in just a few weeks. Other than observing the anniversary each year, and studying his catechism prior to confirmation, we don’t really talk about him. We talk about Jesus and salvation.

      You and I agree that baptism saves. And that we can voluntarily choose not to remain true until death. I find your comment about Revelation especially interesting because it explains much.

      I have Catholic friends, and we have frequent discussions. That is one reason this interests me as a Lutheran.

      The writing in the Bible comes from God. It must remain inviolate. We need to preserve it at all costs, for our understanding of the Bible, and we need to learn the two languages: Hebrew and Koine Greek.

      Obviously, I would disagree with your characterization of Luther and what he did and intended to do. I decry all of these sects since many of them are plainly false and lead people away from Christ and salvation. But it would be a mistake to blame Luther for this. None of the founders of these sects and cults have patterned their views and practices after Luther, or the early church. I don’t know whether you would be open to learning of corrections to many myths about Luther, or even if you are interested in talking to a Lutheran at all. You’re welcome to talk to me, or not.

      • I should clarify a couple of points, and apologize for not writing more clearly in the past. I became a dog in this fight when you attacked Luther. I have not attacked Rome here.

        Second point. Luther was emphatically not responsible for most cults and sects. They arose out of the anabaptist movement. He was very opposed to the anabaptists, and in fact, they denied the Trinity at the time. So to blame Luther for the cults that have anabaptist roots (they deny that baptism is a sacrament with all that entails), would simply be false.

        I hope this helps.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        @patg2 Logically speaking, the article above is about the Latin Mass. Unless I’m missing something, the Lutheran Church has never had Latin Masses. So, no you don’t have a “dog in the fight” when it comes to the Latin Mass.

        I can think of no circumstance where I would go on a Lutheran website and critique Lutheran liturgical practices.

        My Father was raised a Lutheran, so I’m not in the dark about the denomination (de nomine of the One Church from which it separated). One of the Catholic priests with whom I credit my own priestly vocation is a Lutheran convert (he became a Catholic right about the time he was graduating from college). Finally, I was in a written debate with a Missouri Synod Lutheran Minister for many years. He actually wrote a book about St. Padre Pio. He admitted that he was very close to converting to the Catholic Church until his mentor and close friend (an elderly priest) died. To me, he has not converted because he fears what his family, peers, and small congregation would say about him if he ever crossed the Tiber.

        If you insist I attacked Luther (I only stated the truth of what he did), then you must admit you attacked the Latin Mass (which I don’t think you did). The two statements by both of us were merely expounding our positions. Today, it seems that everything gets labeled an “attack” even when the intent was to explain.

        I will say that you seemed to undermine your position when you admitted Jesus would have read the scriptures in Hebrew instead of the vernacular of Aramaic. The Catholic Church has always used Ecclesial Latin which was different from the common Latin spoken on the street.

        For me, the only way a Lutheran is reading this post, on this site, is that the said Lutheran is thinking of converting or looking for a verbal sparring partner.

      • Well, no, I can’t agree with several things you said. I haven’t attacked the Latin mass (you are correct about that). I have Catholic friends (which is WHY this blog interests me) who value it, and I side with them more than with their opponents. All male Jews learned Hebrew (if they didn’t always speak it), so that wouldn’t compare. As far as I know, Catholic laity are not taught Latin. The Scriptures need to be preserved in the original language.

        Luther is not responsible for the cults and sects that arose from the anabaptists, and if you look at some of the doctrines of these cults and sects, you will observe they are in no way compatible with Luther or anything he stood for, so he can’t be blamed for them. They were contemporaneous, and not influenced by him. I don’t hesitate to label these offshoots as cults, and I will explain why if asked, particularly with their rejection of infant baptism, which to my mind warrants the millstone Jesus mentions. It is not a fact that Luther is in any way responsible for such heresy. I would submit that if there is any responsibility for any of this, it would lie with Gutenberg. The invention of the printing press made it possible for dissenting opinions to be heard by the masses. I would hold that making a false statement about Luther is an attack. Your intent may have been otherwise, and you may not agree it was an attack, but I always think that a false statement is an attack because God forbids us to bear false witness against our neighbor. I have plainly stated here the reason why it is false,.

        I have extended conversations with my Catholic friends. I do think that gives me some grounds for comment. You are probably right that Lutheran churches never had services in Latin.

        As far as who you know who became Catholic, irrelevant. Popular opinion doesn’t determine truth.

        I do not seek a sparring partner here. Do you? Nor, for the record, am I interested in converting. I AM interested to learn the HISTORIC reasons for certain practices (also in the Lutheran church), which is what this post is about.

  10. Fr. Donald Kloster

    @patg2 I was surprised to read that you side with your Catholic friends who value the Traditional Latin Mass more than with their opponents. There is hope! o{]:)

    One clarification is that 2 generations ago many laymen learned Latin and it was a mandatory course in every Catholic education. Today, there are a lot of laymen who know Latin. Altar boys must be familiar with at least the basics.

    I am currently in a Spanish speaking country. The Archdiocese of Guayaquil has 6 parishes with the Traditional Latin Mass. Spanish is at least as close to Latin as Aramaic was/is to Hebrew. It is not very realistic to imply that only Jews can learn a Sacred Language. There are many, many laymen who understand Latin to varying degrees.

    Martin Luther is not directly responsible for the other splits in the One Fold of Christ; a unity of doctrine that had existed for 1500+ years. He did open a door and he was the first to publicly separate from the Church and encourage others to revolt. It must be said that Luther believed that one should “sin to vex the devil.” He also was a vowed religious who abandoned celibacy, poverty, and obedience. The woman he married was also a vowed religious. They both had made public vows and thus were not free to marry. Finally, at the end of Luther’s life he admitted that corruption had seeped even into his own fledgling religion. The Lutheran Princes were not the models of virtuous ideals of the “Reformation” some history books would imply. For them, they became incredibly rich by separating and confiscating Catholic Church properties.

    I mentioned three Lutherans in my previous post. Only one was a Catholic convert. My own father was a Lutheran who did not die as a Catholic or a Lutheran. He was non practicing at the time he was hit by a truck training for the National Championship of cycling in the 60-64 age category. He was a past US National Champion. We had many discussions/debates about the faith. Rev. Ruffin is still a Lutheran Minister and it is not irrelevant that we had many discussions about theology. It is precisely because of my experiences with Lutherans that I am very familiar with their history. It must be also said that the Lutheran faith is largely being abandoned in favor of a more independent minded Evangelical movement. You know, pick up a bible and you are your own authority. It is a slippery slope without a knowable authority and a knowable field of doctrine.

    • Thank you for the interesting message. Hard to know where to start. Why are you attacking Luther so relentlessly in this discussion? No, Luther didn’t open the door. Many others tried and failed, and the roots of the anabaptists are prior to Luther. There were also other dissenting groups, and the Coptic Christians were also a separate group. They were the result of the baptism of the eunuch by Philip. As far as I know, Rome has never questioned their orthodoxy. The church killed people who attempted reform prior to Luther, and it was the printing press that made it possible for him to be successful, so like I said, blame Gutenberg.

      I also read Spanish, and agree it is close to Latin, although at the time of Luther, few people in Germany were taught to understand Latin, which bears no resemblance to German in vocabulary. The reason Greek and Hebrew are important is because Scripture is written in those languages. There is no Scripture that was originally written in Latin (and it might interest you to think about the fact that in Jerome’s Vulgate translation, he CORRECTLY translates into LATIN, that Jesus had four brothers and named them, and He had sisters. And there is more evidence as well.)

      I never believed the Lutheran princes were paragons of virtue. God works through whom He pleases, and often it is not virtuous people.

      There are a lot of incorrect bits of information circulating about Luther, particularly in regard to his marriage to Katherine. Part of it stems from the claim Luther left the Catholic church. He was excommunicated. In essence the church broke his vow. I think he realized that a bad or evil vow is meant to be repudiated, and it was made with insufficient knowledge. I would call this at least “color of fraud”. That would be a legal term you might not be familiar with.

      Regardless of who you knew or what faith he professed, your discussions with them aren’t relevant here. It is interesting to learn where you got your information, but I do not require that knowledge.

      As for hope, please abandon that. My interest is in being knowledgeable enough to talk with Catholic friends, and in the historic roots of some Lutheran worship practices, not in following Rome.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        Now it is clear to me that you don’t want to tolerate me shedding any light on the life of Martin Luther. I’ve never attacked him no matter how many times you insist that I have. Your definition of an attack is very different from mine…obviously. What I have said is that he split from the Church (this seems self evident to anyone who has access to an encyclopedia) which I would beg you to cite sources to the contrary.

        I also said he broke his vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience. Those are apples and oranges compared to Masonic vows. The former are the Evangelical Counsels (virtuous), the later demonic cult vows (sinful).

        I also said he married a vowed religious. I’ve never seen anyone doubt that fact. Now please cite the sources disproving the above two statements.

        Now, if you were to say Fr. Kloster had a history of belonging to a wild Fraternity and got into many fist fights in his college days, that would not be calumnious. It would not be an attack. It would be a fact and I would agree that I did many regrettable things in my college days.

        If you were to say that Fr. Kloster once faked a seizure in a Catholic High School and cost his family thousands of dollars in hospital bills, you would not be slandering me. It would not be an attack. It happened and I admit it was foolishness.

        The problem is that there are those that have problems staying true to virtuous vows. It is the reason why so many marriages fail. It is the reason why so many financial contracts are broken. When someone marries God (an ordination or a consecrated religious), they have no one but themselves to blame when they leave the vowed life. God certainly always holds up his end of the bargain!

        The very reason I’ve had so many talks with Lutherans is absolutely relevant here since you wrote that you are a Lutheran. Again, we are not corresponding on a Lutheran website. I didn’t come here looking for a Lutheran debate.

        The Latin Mass is the center of why this website exists. I’m glad you stopped by and I hope you continue to do so.

        Just food for thought. There are only Two Covenants with God. There is not currently/never was a prophecy for a Church to come after the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church Jesus founded. Matthew Chapter 16 is very clear that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. If I ever wanted to reform the USA, I could not reform it from without (starting a new country)…any reform, by definition, comes from within. If I ever wanted to reform our family soda business, I could not do it by starting another soda business. In both cases, it would not be a reform, but a type of revolution or at the very least a competing brand.

      • I never said you shouldn’t tell the truth about Luther. It is a fact that he took a vow of celibacy. It is a fact that his wife also did so. It is NOT a fact that he left the Catholic church. He was excommunicated. He did not “leave” the Catholic church to get married. He didn’t WANT to get married, but felt he should set a good example. A vow based on false information is not a vow. The teachings of the Catholic church regarding the nature of salvation and how you acquire it do not agree with the Bible, and that’s all I will say about that, but it was this issue that prompted the Reformation.

        For evidence of the fact he was excommunicated and did not leave voluntarily, any accurate source of the Diet of Worms will tell you this. So the claim that he split or left is false. He TRIED to reform from within.

        It is not my desire to have a debate here. And I maintain that your conversations with other Lutherans remain irrelevant. Other than that, I do read things here from time to time, if the topic interests me. And will continue to do so. For what it’s worth, your definition of “Church” and mine are different.

    • By the way, speaking of vows, I suspect you and I would agree that a Masonic vow is evil and should be broken. By way of example. I don’t hold that a vow such as Luther made is in the same league, but it was still an improper vow for reasons stated.

  11. Fr. Donald Kloster

    @patg2 Martin Luther was indeed excommunicated, but that is not expulsion from the Church. You are confusing the terms. An Excommunication is a punishment (punitive action) that is calling the offender to repentance. In no way is one thereby expelled from the Church. There have been many who have been excommunicated, repented, and died as Catholic in good standing. Almost none of them started another church as a result of their excommunication! Even St. Peter merited excommunication for denying Our Lord three times. The difference between him and Judas? Judas would not relent and committed suicide. St. Peter repented and later led the Church until his own martyrdom.

    Furthermore, unity is the subject at hand. The Latin Mass unifies and reverses the curse of the Tower of Babel. The Catholic Church understands unity and has re-unified many times over the centuries. A flock is never complete where sheep decide to stray. A spiritual army is always weaker when any its soldiers abandon the unified fight. In fact, a deserter from any army merits severe retributive punishment(s). John 10 clearly talks about One Fold and One Shepherd. Jesus never prophesied that there would be 45,000 denominations.

    There are at least 4 main Lutheran splits just in the USA. There is no head of the Lutheran Church, no direct successor of Martin Luther. God does not operate that way. The Jews always had the Patriarchs, the the Prophets, and then the Kings; always a visible head. The Church has an unbroken line of popes. Every Christian denomination can only go back to Jesus through the Catholic Church!

    There is no way for the Lutheran Church to agree on a catechism; too much division. There is no way for the Lutheran Church to agree on morality. There is no eremitic life in the Lutheran Church. There is no visible manifestation of the virtue of celibacy (Matthew 19 and 1 Cor 7) in the Lutheran Church.

    Back when I was a seminarian stationed at the Corpus Christi Cathedral in 1991, I had a young man visit the grounds. He said he wasn’t raised very religiously, but was now convinced Jesus was God. He had visited several Protestant denominations in his search to find the true Christian Church and was struck by a common denominator; they all talked against the Catholic Church. He said, “as a logical man I take that as a compliment in the Catholic Church’s favor.” He later took instructions and became a Catholic. He was a “tabula rasa” who looked at things more objectively than most are able.

    • I am well aware of what excommunication means. However, Luther’s life was also endangered, and since Luther sought to return the Roman church to the understanding of the Christian faith as it was under the Apostles, and clearly he would not succeed, why should he keep striving?

      Those of us who truly accept Jesus’ sacrifice as total payment for our sins, to which we CANNOT add one smidgen, and also as total sanctification, are what Luther called the “invisible church”. This is what is one church under Christ. I go directly to Jesus. I don’t go THROUGH any earthly organization.

      We will have to agree to disagree about celibacy. That which is undertaken voluntarily is fine with me. Compelled celibacy, not. The Latin Mass does not reverse the curse at Babel. The only way to reverse it is through each person’s mother tongue. That’s why at Pentecost, each person heard the Apostle in his own mother tongue.

      Your anecdote about the young man who visited you in Corpus Christi is interesting, but not relevant. I should also note that the Catholic church did more than just talk against other Christians. It martyred many. Do you defend that and the Inquisition?

      One more thought about your many anecdotes. Are you familiar with the logical fallacy “ad populum”? I find them entertaining, but WHO accepts an idea does not determine whether it is true. Truth stands on its own, even if only one person, or no one, believes it. And incidentally, this is exactly what I told an Episcopalian priest when I told him I would no longer attend his services because he promotes abortion. He asked me to stay and try to change people’s minds. I told him truth isn’t decided by a democratic process. It simply IS.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        Luther’s life was indeed endangered, but he didn’t have to leave the Church to remedy that. He did leave the Church and died a natural death. No one killed him even though there were ample opportunities. The same could not be said for hundreds of thousands of peasants who had their land confiscated, were imprisoned, or executed if they dared keep practicing the Catholic faith. Our history books in the USA have conveniently ignored that fact. It should come as no surprise since the founders of the USA were fleeing their own Anglican persecution. The Lutheran Princes were indeed brutal to those who refused to swallow the new faith. You keep trying to infer culpability only one way. Keep in mind Luther was an Old Catholic who was well schooled in punishing (brutally if need be) anyone who did not conform to his new theology.

        The 17th century had the death penalty for heresy. One could be executed for many things back then; it’s a bit unfair to try and shade it with the modern mentality that errs on the side of protecting the guilty. It worked both ways back then. I would say that at least our side had tribunals/ecclesial courts. The Lutherans had no such courts.

        I will not agree to disagree about celibacy. Even the Jews had celibacy and it is clearly taught in the New Testament. It was unjustly eliminated by a “Reformation” that did not concern itself so much with reforming as it did transforming. A reformation is a return to a virtuous Church. How did throwing religious out of their convents and confiscating Catholic lands and Churches add to virtue on any front?

        The Church obtained those lands in Germany over centuries by purchase, donations, or annexation. Who had the right to confiscate them? The same thing happened to Catholic properties in Russia by the Orthodox after the 1917 revolution. It is never commendable for anyone to brutalize the religious life.

        Anecdotes teach us many things. Jesus used parables which are a very close cousin. I’ve lived on 3 Continents and have seen much of human nature; no matter the culture. Even an observant man who never left his own home town can learn a lot by anecdotes.

        I’m not sure why you’d even be in an Episcopal Church. It adds even more value to the anecdote about the young man looking for the true Christian Church. I was trying to drive home the fact that the Protestant Sects have a lot over which they disagree. The major area that binds them in agreement is a negative…talking against the Catholic Church.

        The last thing I’ll say right now is not by anecdote. Over the years, I have met many Protestant converts to the Catholic Church. To a man, they will always say they are thankful for their biblical/moral foundations of their non-Catholic days. It is a polite and amiable feeling toward their former religious families that they manifest. Whenever I have met a Catholic who has left the faith for another religion, they can’t help themselves from disparaging the Catholic Church profusely. I’d much rather the former in my fold.

      • I doubt seriously if anybody would justify some of the actions of Lutheran princes, but Luther is not to blame for their actions. Or are you to blame for your children’s sins, assuming you ever had any? Annexation is often accompanied by confiscation. I’m not so sure that there wasn’t plenty of fault on both sides (in fact, selling indulgences to the poor and taking their bread money for what is, in my mind a false teaching, would qualify). We can go off into a bitter dual tirade on all the atrocities people committed in the name of Jesus, but He would approve none of it. Luther died a natural death because the German princes protected him.

        Your anecdotes do not teach a moral lesson as Jesus’ parables did. Not comparable or in the same league. I enjoy them, but they are not evidence.

        My reasons for being in an Episcopal church are not relevant here. I was always a Lutheran. I visited a few times. So what is your point?

        As for celibacy, what you are saying sounds to me like it comes originally from the idea that all sex (even that in marriage, which was a gift from God, and the marriage bed is undefiled) is sinful, which came in turn from pagan religions. There is no basis for it being somehow more holy, in the Bible, Paul’s preferences notwithstanding. So we disagree. Marriage is a symbol of the relationship between Christ and the church (which is made up of believers). My statement we should agree to disagree merely says that I will respect your opinion, and that you will not condemn me for mine. Celibacy violates the very first command given by God: be fruitful and multiply. How can that then become a mandatory virtue? Celibacy goes against the God-given human nature, the ability to keep His first command. The result is that many people become incapable of keeping the vow, which has led to many scandals. We were also commanded to go out into the world and make disciples. How does living in a cloister fulfill that command? I will not persecute anyone for choosing this lifestyle, but I won’t justify it either. It is up to them. Their choice. Part of Christian liberty.

        I have met some of the people who rail against the Catholic church. I understand some of the reasons why they would do that. They can be deeply wounded by some teachings. If I were a Catholic, the idea of purgatory would terrify me, and if I determined the teaching wasn’t biblical, I’d be pretty angry at what I went through.

  12. Fr. Donald Kloster

    I never wrote that anecdotes were the moral equivalent of parables. I clearly wrote that they were cousins and thus related. They are evidence in the sense that they communicate a truth that was experienced. They are not statistical, but they happened and ignoring them doesn’t make us wiser.

    The bad actions of Lutheran Princes do not reflect well on the Lutheran faith, especially since Luther himself never decried them. The point is that you kept alluding to an impending death of Luther as if he were sure to die (he obviously didn’t). There were hundreds of thousands Catholics who suffered a lot more than residing at their friend’s castles. That must have been most inconvenient and uncomfortable for Luther! The irony is palpable even now.

    The most surprising thing about this exchange is that a Lutheran like yourself would turn a blind eye to celibacy as it is clearly taught in the scriptures (Mt. 19 & 1 Cor 7). Jesus was celibate. St. Paul was celibate. St. John the Baptist was celibate. St. John the Evangelist was celibate. Even the other 11 apostles left their families to be “all things to all men.” Even St. Joseph and St. Mary retained their chastity.

    Jesus taught what he taught even if it is inconvenient for modern “theologies.”

    Finally, the Lutheran Worship Service looks nothing like the ancient liturgies that were handed down by the Apostles themselves. Then too, Gregorian Chant is the successor of the sacred music that would have been heard in the Temple by Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. It is absent (not surprisingly) from the Lutheran Services. Getting rid of the Mass and Sacred Music is not a reform of Indulgences.

    • Private experiences, even if told to others, are not evidence of truth. They add nothing of value to the Bible itself. I simply enjoy reading them.

      I would hold that “Lutheran” princes that engaged in violence weren’t Christians. At least not unless they repented. I suspect most did not. I’m not at all convinced that Luther had any particular obligations. He had plenty to do. While it would be nice if he had denounced them (and I don’t know that he didn’t), it doesn’t prove anything. This is called an argument from silence, a fallacy.

      I already mentioned that Jerome translated the verses about Jesus’ brothers and sisters into Latin CORRECTLY. He also names the brothers, just as in the original. Some people try to claim that these were really Jesus’ cousins, but the fact is, there are perfectly good words in both Greek and Latin for “cousin” and neither uses them in those texts. You will find that both the original and Jerome use the word for “cousin” in reference to Elizabeth. So your point here is falsified. Nor can we use special cases (John the baptist, who was clearly a prophet of God, and we do not have prophets any longer because the Bible is complete) as proof of the norm. Also note that Paul said that he thought that celibacy was better, BUT NOT REQUIRED.

      Celibacy may be commendable when done voluntarily, but when required, that’s another matter. And the QUALIFICATIONS for being a leader in the church, we are clearly told in the Bible, is to be the HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE, with children who obey. No celibate Catholic priest is qualified to be a priest. Although at the time this requirement was first announced, all the existing married priests were forced to divorce (how biblical is that?) Rome no longer forces that on married people accepted into the priesthood, chiefly because of a merger where the priests in the merging group were already married.

      As for Gregorian Chant, we use it in Lutheran services any time the choir sings. Next? And I never equated getting rid of the Mass and sacred music as a reform for indulgences. I mentioned indulgences in connection with the atrocities of “Lutheran” princes. What you said is called Straw Man, another fallacy.

      • I should make note of the fact that we Lutherans are fighting the same battles to retain biblical worship. That’s one reason this blog interests me so much. We haven’t had the problems to the level of the Catholic church, however. We have a few congregations that have “praise bands” but many do not, and worship reform was never mandated from on high. I won’t worship in a church that HAS a praise band. I should also make note of the fact that I have belonged to congregations where the pastor chants the communion service. I don’t think we use Gregory’s melodies, because those are probably copyright, but the melodies used are not mandated by God, and the musical form is the same.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        I would like to note that you mentioned a “private experience” contained in your last paragraph statement about Gregorian Chant. However, the exception does not prove the rule. Exceptio probat regulum, in casibus non exceptis. That too is a logical fallacy.

        Martin Luther called using Gregorian Chant a manner of imitating the apes. “The text and notes, accent, melody, and manner of rendering ought to grow out of the true mother tongue and its inflection, otherwise all of it becomes an imitation, in the manner of the apes.” In his first hymnal published in 1524, there was no Gregorian Chant. Furthermore Gregorian Chant is, by definition, sung in Latin. Martin Luther eliminated Latin from the German Services. The Anglicans have a Gregorian Chant tradition in Latin, the Lutherans never have except for a few exceptions trying to imitate the style (and even then it is was never traditionally done in Latin).

        The fact that Luther did not decry the forceful ingestion of Protestantism into the peasants who did not want to convert, proves that he was not beyond inflicting a new religion on men against their will. I do not think he really wanted a reform, to me all the evidence points to a revolution. I disagree with one of your former suggestions that the invention of the printing press helped aid Luther’s cause among the people. No such thing is true. Fewer that 1% of the population could read in the 16th century. Perhaps it helped with the 1%, but not with the common man! There’s that 1% again!

        Celibacy has never been forcibly inflicted on anyone. No one held a gun to my head at my ordination. I think that the imitation of Jesus to the point that one leaves every attachment to follow Him is to be commended. I could never have been a 24 hour hospital chaplain for 8 years in three hospitals and had my marriage survive. The Catholic Church has always taught that celibacy is a calling. She has also always taught that the majority are called to marry. You never addressed my point that the Jews and Christians were never without celibacy until the Protestant split. Then too, you have a huge White Elephant in the Gospel of Matthew and the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians.

        There is no straw man argument presented when someone uses an excuse (indulgences) to pursue another ulterior motive (destruction of the Mass) and then gets exposed by the facts of what actually transpired. That is what as known as shining a light into the darkness.

        St. Jerome had a debate with Helvidius in the 4th century about the “brothers” of Jesus. Helvidius defended your position, not St. Jerome. You are mistaken. Please provide a citation of the names of the supposed siblings of Jesus. None of the early historians (not even Josephus, a Jew and no friend of Christianity) mention them.

        If I ever could talk with Luther, I should like him to answer where one finds communion rails in the scriptures. Then I’d like to know where he finds Sunday Worship in the scriptures (the Adventists are quite correct in their literal interpretation of the scriptures). Finally, I’d like to ask him where the bible allows an Easter Sunday date (Quartodecimani vs. Anicetus) or a fixed Christmas anniversary (December 25).

      • This is so full of points I find flawed that it would take a book to respond properly.

        When it comes to private experience, it’s not just one instance I speak of. Many cults are FULL of private experiences. It drives many televangelists. We have the Bible for a reason. It is the only objective source of truth.

        I don’t follow Luther blindly. I don’t agree with him on everything. I would argue that Gregorian chant is appropriate in any language. Funny you insist it must be in Latin. I’d be willing to bet Luther found it to sound like a funeral dirge, when we should be full of JOY at Jesus’ salvation. I appreciate it, but I know other Christians who think so.

        It didn’t require the entire population be literate for Luther to succeed. 1% literacy is enough to inform a population.

        I agree celibacy is a calling. So is the ministry. They intersect, but they are not synonymous. You are right about your own life from what I can tell. But many priests cannot keep celibate, and therein arise the scandals. Most people cannot anticipate the long term consequences of a vow of celibacy. Regardless, the Bible clearly establishes that church leaders (which would include clergy) requires that a man be husband of one wife. Celibates do not qualify. Not according to the Bible.

        I am not trying to discredit the Mass by referring to indulgences. I can’t comment on what other people might do.

        Jerome translated the verses about Jesus’ siblings CORRECTLY in the VULGATE. That’s my source. What he said otherwise I do not know nor care. The fact that he translated the verses correctly is sufficient. There are at least two places in the Gospels where Jesus’ siblings are listed, and in one epistle James was identified as Jesus’ brother. I don’t have time right now to provide citations, but perhaps I can later.

        There are references in Acts that establish Christians worshiped on the Lord’s day. Don’t get me started on Seventh-day Adventism. I am very well informed about them, and they are so dead wrong on so many things, I have lost count.

        And what is your point about communion rails not being in the Bible? We don’t have a quarrel on the church year.

        I’m trying to figure out why you keep attacking Luther. It’s not relevant to this blog post. I’m not attacking the Pope here, or anything comparable. You won’t convince me of anything, and most people who read here are the choir you are preaching to.

  13. Fr. Donald Kloster

    You keep saying I am attacking Luther; perhaps you think that by repeating it you make the accusation a reality. Perhaps you are not cut out for apologetics discussions. To dispute what someone has said theologically or otherwise is not an attack. It is rather a very clever tactic seeking to deflect the real issues at hand.

    St. Jerome never wrote that Jesus had siblings. He defended the opposite. Even Martin Luther believed in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary! Please list the names of his siblings and your source (how many male siblings did he have and how many female).

    Even in a modern language like English (that does use the word cousin), if you were to go to many neighborhoods in any major city or even my more familiar East Side of San Antonio you would hear and even read the word “brother” applied to anyone with an African heritage. In no way would that mean that they were necessarily talking about siblings. Even here in Ecuador, the word hermanos is often used for the extended family. In 2000 years if someone were to interpret the word “brothers” or “hermanos” as strictly siblings, in all idiomatic compositions from the 20th and 21st centuries, they would be mistaken. It is quite different for Aramaic in that the word for cousins simply does not exist. I had this discussion with my Latin teacher, Fr. Brannon SJ who is fluent in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He was also a Peritus at Vatican II. I trust his and St. Jerome’s knowledge of the languages Hebrew and Aramaic imminently more than I trust mine or yours.

    Finally, I don’t want to continue on here. I would be willing to continue with my e-mail address. I’ve been in several apologetic exchanges (old school letter style) that lasted over 5 years. One went on for about 8 years. You may contact my Diocese and they will give you my e-mail when I confirm it is you. Fr. Donald Kloster class of 1995. Diocese of Bridgeport (203) 372-4301.

    My final words would be that you recently admitted you don’t agree with everything Luther taught. Therein lies the problem. Trying to pin down a non-Catholic on their beliefs is like trying to fish with your bare hands. I can honestly say I believe everything written in the Didache, the Baltimore Catechism, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Lutheran Church could never write a Catechism because of the huge number of splits and the great variance of theological opinions. You can actually find out what I believe by looking it up, you don’t have to consult my personalized belief system. God has a right to dictate religion to us from revealed sources Patriarchs, Prophets, Kings, and now His One Church. We don’t have the right to cut and paste a tailor made religion that suits our taste.

    • I would say accusing Luther of bad things is an attack. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Some of the things you have said about him are untrue. Where do I disagree with Luther? Perpetual virginity! He didn’t figure out EVERYTHING. I also don’t agree with his assessment of Gregorian Chant. I do not disagree with what is in Luther’s Small Catechism, which consists of the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Office of the Keys, Baptism and Holy Communion, and a couple of other small items, plus a short explanation (Luther’s) and many Bible verses. I do not agree with everything Luther taught/said, but I DO agree completely with everything the BIBLE teaches, rightly understood. You don’t have to “pin down” what I believe. If you interpret the Bible correctly, that’s what I believe. All of it. I believe what was written in the Didache is accurate, although the Didache is not scripture and I do not treat it as such, and I am familiar with parts of the Baltimore Catechism, but I don’t agree with what I have read. The Didache is one of several pieces of evidence that early Christians baptized infants, and Matthew 28:19 commands it, along with Jesus’ words commanding us to let little children come to Him.

      Your argument about how the word “brother” is used doesn’t settle the question. The Bible is PRECISE. Mathematically so. God would not use the word “brother” in an imprecise way. All those other usages you cite are popular, colloquial uses. And they’re not the only ones.

      Once more, I am not talking about anything Jerome SAID. I am talking about how he translated the relevant verses into Latin, in the VULGATE. Concerning Jesus’ brothers, names given below, but His sisters are not named. There were at least two, because the Bible says “sisters”, but because the New Testament was written in GREEK, not three (since Aramaic has a dual, so that would mean at least three). Oh by the way, your argument about there being no word for “cousin” in Aramaic doesn’t hold water because the New Testament was written in Koine Greek, not Aramaic.

      Matthew 13:55. Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?

      The context indicates they are talking about his BIOLOGICAL relations.

      Matthew 25:46ff. The fact they were with Jesus’ mother, and He then said the disciples were His brethren clearly indicates the PEOPLE were referring to Jesus’ biological half-brothers.

      And others.

      Galatians 1:19. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.

      Here, James is identified as Jesus’ brother, and the apostles were collectively mentioned separately, not as His brothers.

      I will call your diocese. I called today, but they were already closed.

  14. Ronald Sevenster

    A more simple and I think more intelligible explanation is that the left side of the altar is the right side from the perspective of the Sanctuary, i.e. from the perspective of God as He is symbolized in the “ad orientem” celebration. So the left side of the altar (from the pews perspective) is “at the right hand of God”, while the right side of the altar (from the pews perspective) is “at the left hand of God”. So it seems reasonable that the reading from the Gospel, which is the more important reading, should be done from the left side of the pew sitters, since this symbolizes “the right hand of God” to which Jesus is elevated. The “right hand” or the right side is always the place of pre-eminence in Scripture and Jewish tradition.

  15. The Rev. Richard Bowley

    I always thought it had something to do with the Crucifixion, as the robber on Jesus’ left rejected Him and the one to His right accepted Him.

  16. Why is the moving of the missal back to the right not mentioned? In the end all of Israel shall be saved.

  17. There is something that has been missed on the significance of reading the Gospel on the left side of the altar. The Latin Church borrowed the language of Roman jurisprudence in order to describe the New Covenant and this language found expression in the liturgy (we may notice that the Roman Canon reads like a legal document). To a certain extent the ceremonies of the Mass mirrored those of the Roman courtroom. Now the lay out of the Roman court was as follows: on the right was the witness stand, and on the left the stand where the judge pronounced sentence. Therefore the Latins saw it fitting to read the epistle on the right (where witness to the the New Covenant and the Gospel on the left (where Christ announced His pardon to mankind).

  18. Beautiful explanations. I just thought it was symbolic of the shift from the Old Covenant to the New.

  19. Ekaterina Werenowska

    Thanks for this!!
    I’ve been attending the Latin Mass for years…just because I love it…never really thought much about the symbolism until a friend asked me…

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