The Seven Turns in the Traditional Mass
Posted by Brian Williams
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.