The Seven Turns in the Traditional Mass

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The following post is the latest from frequent contributor Fr. Donald L. Kloster, a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Fr. Kloster has served for over 6 years as the pastor of 36,000 faithful in the poorer parish of Maria Inmaculada Eucarisitica in the Archdiocese of Guayaquil, Ecuador. He is a graduate of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Philadelphia, having completed his Master’s Thesis in Moral Theology. A native of Texas and a graduate of the University of Texas (Austin), Fr. Kloster also spent two years as a student (and then novice) at the 7th century Benedictine Abbey of Disentis, Switzerland.

In the Novus Ordo the priest is instructed, in the 1970 Missal, to turn to the right and face the people six times. He is told to turn and face the people once during the Initial Rite, once at the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and four times during the Rite of Communion. On two of these occasions, he is to complete the circle. The other four times he turns back to his left. Surprised? You should be because the rubrics, largely ignored for nearly fifty years, presupposes that the Mass is being offered ad orientem.

In the Traditional Latin Mass, there are seven turns. One extra turn to the right is present in the Traditional Mass during the Mass of the Faithful. But, like the Novus Ordo, there are two complete turns.

The turns are done to the right because the Roman Rite is emphasizing the Right hand of God. Think about it. We make the sign of the cross with the right hand. We genuflect on the right knee. The priest blesses us with his right hand. He is to distribute communion with his right hand. The Gospel is read at the right hand of the Tabernacle (as God faces His people). The priest should enter the Sanctuary with his right foot first.

The first turn in the Mass is the Dominus Vobiscum before the Opening Collect. The Priest is inviting all those present, baptized and unbaptized, into the Mass of the Catechumens.

The second turn to the people is the Dominus Vobiscum before the Offertory. The Priest invites only the baptized faithful into the unveiling of the Gifts (pre-sanctified). The bell is rung to alert the faithful that the gifts are being prepared.

The third turn, and here’s where it gets seriously elevated in importance, is the completed circle before the Secret. At this point, a spiritual window has been opened and we are entering into eternity. The fact that the priest has completed the turn is communicating to us that the Alpha and the Omega has been summoned. The Canon will invoke the 40 saints of the Ancient Litany. The Sacrifice of the Mass is imminent. The angels are congregating. That glorious and terrible day on Calvary is being re-presented.

The fourth turn is at the Ecce Agnus Dei. The priest shows us the Holy of Holies, something that the Jews were not allowed to see. He is inviting the sheep into their green pasture. He has seated them in a meadow of plenty and has superseded the Mana from long ago. The New Covenant is being re-ratified and helping us to remember the Second Coming of Jesus Christ from the East. The Lamb of Revelation is slain but still alive.

The fifth turn is the Dominus Vobiscum before the Post Communion Prayer. This is our thanksgiving. It is the prayer than animates our gratitude for our Divine Selection as Catholics. It is in this moment that we should remember to always cherish all our past sacramental practices.

The sixth turn is at the Ite Misa Est. Here we are being called to turn ourselves toward the world and sanctify it. We are being sent out as sheep among wolves but we know that in the strength of the flock we have the fortitude to resist temptation and deftly navigate around any potential ambush.

The seventh turn is at the Benedicat Vos. The priest completes his second full circle. We have been Blessed and invigorated. The window of eternity has now been closed. We are returning to our earthly battle for heaven. The Second Gospel awaits and we prepare for the final countdown of our own death, judgement, heaven, and hell.

The Traditional Latin Mass is full of wonderful reminders of our faith. Just viewing the Once and Future Mass is a catechesis that teaches us all we need to know about our Divine Lord. Nothing happens in the Mass without our hearts, minds, and very souls being touched. As the Holy Mass “turns” so should your devotion and your love. The seven turns invite us into the intimacy that the Holy Trinity so desires with us. The priest turns and with him all of creation must respond. Our Lord continues to call us. He will keep turning to us. The only question is how poorly or how well we respond.

Posted on October 15, 2017, in liturgy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I never knew about the turns. They are certainly meaningful and add even more lustre to the Mass of all time which I grew up on, was married at, and have grieved so about because my children have missed so much. Thanks

  2. Surprised? You should be because the rubrics, largely ignored for nearly fifty years, presupposes that the Mass is being offered ad orientem.

    Not really.

    As background, I’ve long suggested that people should avoid suggesting bipolar differences on liturgical questions when in fact it is more complex. Beyond traditionalist and supporters of the Councilar reforms, I would suggest a third group – conservatives — distinct from traditionalists. I remember the period after the Council and would argue traditionalists have as much to disagree with conservatives as they do with the progressives. Among the deeds of the conservatives was a post-Counciliar push to impose as much liturgical uniformity as possible. Pope Benedict hints at this in noting the progressives were more open to diversity with traditional and renewed liturgical practices.

    One example is the altar. My own parish, one that the term “advanced” was often applied to, had a free standing altar prior to the Council and the priest faced the altar and people rather than the apse. While uncommon, this was not prohibited as the example of Fr. Pius Parsch indicates.

    Clearly the rubrics recognize that some altars will be free standing and others will be against the apse. So the rubrics to face the people are just that — a recognition of diversity.

    • Fr. Donald Kloster

      Your observation is well noted but incomplete. Rubrics are just that. They are red lettered instructions, not suggestions.

      When I was in Rome at the catacombs on the Appian Way, (that must have been my trip in 1995) I asked a guide if I could see any free standing altars from the 1st century. I had constantly been told that the early Christians used free standing altars. Several of them consulted and then told me they had never seen one. In the catacombs, the altar was carved out of the East wall and a crucifix placed over it. The rubrics of the 1970 Mass don’t suggest anything, they instruct the celebrant to turn. Anything less is a revolt or a snub (either tacit or explicit).

      The altar at St. Peters and many Cathedrals had always had the celebrant face the doors because the doors faced East. Proof positive of your position, right? Wrong. The Deacon was instructed by the rubrics (there’s that word again) to cry out “ad orientem” as the Canon was beginning. At that point, everyone would turn their backs on the celebrant to face East. That was the fulcrum of the Mass. To face the Rising Sun who is the God-man. The fact that parish churches around the world prior to 1900 were built (nearly exclusively) with the sanctuary facing East proves my point more than you could ever attempt to disprove it.

      • Father, you are a better person that to think you have proven something than to refute claims that I never made, while suggesting it did.

        There are no surviving churches from the first century. Your guides never saw a first century church of any kind. The oldest church in Rome dates from 309 AD.

        My point remains that prior to the Council, priests celebrated without facing the apse without any charges of disobedience. A priest today is free to celebrate the Tridentine Mass at a free standing altar facing the people rather than the apse. You are free to make the case there is some greater, more meaningful symbolism in him not doing so, but the Church does not demand facing the apse.

  3. There is no turn at the Agnus Dei. There is a turn at the communion rite, but only if communion is distributed during Mass?

    • Fr. Donald Kloster

      The rubrics always speak to the highest form of the Mass. If there is even only an acolyte, who is receiving Holy Communion, there would be a 7th turn. The rubrics presuppose that there will be communicants.

      • Father, I was pointing out that there is no turn at the “Agnus Dei”, though I guessed that you might have meant the “Ecce Agnus Dei” prayer for the Communion rite if Communion is distributed to the faithful during Mass.
        Granted, almost all the TLMs attended by the faithful today have Holy Communion distributed during Mass; but this is by no means a requirement, and not presupposed, but rather supplied for, by the rubrics. I would also put forth that the faithful receiving Holy Communion during Mass does not elevate it to some higher form, in fact, I would argue that Masses with large groups of people would be better without distribution of Communion to the faithful during the Mass. That being said, I prefer the norm to remain for distribution during Mass for regular parish Masses.
        I like the article, and I think it still applies from a practical perspective, but think you should clarify the “4th” turn above is not at the Agnus Dei. I appreciate your writing, and hope you will continue to contribute.

  4. Fr. Donald Kloster

    Thank you Maybe. I went back and looked at the submission I sent to Mr. Williams. He turns out to be a better editor than I am as a careful proofreader! I did mistakenly leave out the Ecce in front of the Agnus Dei. It was my fault, mea culpa. I knew what I meant, but others usually catch those overlooked errors. I gave a talk back in 2008 when I mentioned a declension in Latin when it was actually a conjugation.

    I would never advocate for leaving out the distribution of Holy Communion during Mass. Anyone in a State of Grace has a spiritual positive right to receive the sacraments. What we do need to change is the practice of everyone coming to Holy Communion when they should be more conscious of their own frequent confession. That being said, most Traditional Latin Mass faithful are much better informed and observant than their Novus Ordo counterparts. I’m not as worried about people approaching Holy Communion at a TLM.

    There is indeed a hierarchy where Holy Mass is concerned. A Solemn High is preferable to a Misa Cantata which is preferable to a Low Mass. A Mass where communion is not distributed would be perhaps in a cloistered Monastery where the Acolyte does not want to receive Holy Communion. This is obviously not the norm anticipated by the rubrics.

    • Unanimous Consent

      The mandatory distribution of Communion during Mass is actually an entirely new creation and only actually inserted into the Missal in 1962. Before that, the insertion of Communion included the Third Confiteor, because it was an insertion of the Rite for Communion outside of Mass from the Rituale.

      It used to be fairly common, and I would argue more pastoral, to simply distribute communion before daily Mass. That allowed the working man/woman who could not stay for the entire Mass to receive Him.

    • Unanimous Consent

      Additionally, in the old rite, the turns are done regardless of communicants presence. They are done even if the Priest offers Mass entirely alone.

  5. Fr. Kloster,

    Did the original rubric directives of the 1970 Missal remain intact in subsequent printings of the Missal; and if not, until when did they remain?

    Thank you.

    • Unanimous Consent

      They were by and large omitted from the Missal and were only included in the appendix.

      When the Bishops debated the revisions of the translation, the way of offering Mass ad orientem was only included as an appendix to the grey book.

    • Fr. Donald Kloster

      I’m confused by the reply of Unanimous Consent on the rubrics of the 1970 Missal. The six turn rubrics are indeed in the 2011 Missal itself.

      Every Missal I’ve ever seen has the rubrics included throughout the text. The original Paul VI Novus Ordo Missal came out in 1970. There have been 3 other Missals with minor revisions: 1975, 2002, and the most recent in 2011. I even remember as a boy that the priest used to say “for all men” during the consecration of the Precious Blood. Now we have the dangling modifier “for all.”

      Every one of the Missals contains the rubrics with the six turns. Every Missal presupposes the Mass is being offered toward the Liturgical East (ideally toward the East of the Rising Sun).

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