Tuesday, July 19, 2016

WHAT THE AD ORIENTEM?

Let's face it, the Liturgy of the Church is meant to help Catholics both individually and collectively to "worship and Praise" God the Father, through His Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus worship and praise of God is a work of God not a human endeavor alone.

Flowing from this "work of God" is our Catholic response to follow Christ where we are sent and to practice the "good works" that flow from our Catholic Faith.

There are two ways in the Latin Rite in both forms for the priest to celebrate Mass, either facing the people or priest and laity facing the same direction, often called ad orientem or toward the east, meant to be understood symbolically although a literal eastern orientation is not excluded.

Someone commented on one of my posts where I recommended what Pope Benedict began and Pope Francis continues that the crucifix be placed on the center of the altar facing the priest when he celebrates facing the people. Thus everyone is symbolically facing Calvary or the "east" in this expression of ad orientem. But the comment suggested that the priest seldom if ever looks at the crucifix as though praying to it, but rather looks most of the time at the Roman Missal.

Be that as it may, the more important symbol is that the priest himself is standing before the crucifix whether or not he looks at it. Thus I could be reading a prayer book standing before the crucifix and still praying symbolically eastward. I don't have to look at the crucifix but my body is oriented toward it in prayer.

But I have heard of some bishops forbidding ad orientem Masses in their dioceses. Progressives are somewhat rigid in their approach to this. I know of no bishops, though, who have forbidden Mass facing the congregation although they may prefer and do allow ad orientem. This seems to me to be the correct pastoral approach.

If Mass is allowed by a bishop to be celebrated in his diocese ad orientem, there should be strict guidelines that a priest follows. Parochial vicars and other priests in the parish should follow the directives of their pastor and not create divisiveness in this regard in the parish with various priests yanking the congregation around.

In other words, the bishop should have guidelines about how to catechize a parish about ad orientem before it is implemented and that in communities with only one Catholic Church, at least one Sunday Mass should be Mass facing the congregation but with the crucifix acting as the symbolic eastern prayer direction.

Bishops do not and should not disallow either orientation as both are allowed. As in most things Catholic, it isn't "either/or" but rather, "both/and"!

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