So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Ad Orientem worship—the way forward and the way back.

NLM | SMC 2013 | OF Mass celebrated ad orientem

Consider this: without a return to ad orientem worship, most parishes will slide farther away from the worship of God toward the worship of man. Point of fact: most parishes are already the scenes of decadent liturgies that merely attempt to entertain "worshippers" with praise & worship songs or badly altered traditional hymns that sing like monuments (or is that felt banners?) to political correctness.

When a priest and congregation pray in the same direction, i.e., toward the liturgical East, which is to say the direction from which the Son of God will return (that is, the Lord Who returns during every valid consecration and at the end of time), the Liturgy, to a large degree, is stripped of the cult of personality surrounding the priest. If his back is turned toward the congregation, so-to-speak, people can, if they so choose and are free of the deleterious conditioning of a generation's worth of rejection of the ars celebrandi, look past the priest "toward" the Son of God and the Sacrifice on Calvary that is made present during the Mass.

The way back to liturgical sanity.

'Going back' to ad orientem worship will allow us to recover our spiritual bearing, our orientation to God. Far too often one gets the sense that the priest rarely prays the Mass when facing the people. If tone of voice, casualness of gesture and content of homilies indicate anything, the priest is merely saying rather than praying the Mass toward the people.

For a brief but highly illuminating read,

The various "directions" or emphases which occur during the Eucharist Prayer (Canon) are virtually lost because the priest does not provide the emphasis with his voice and/or body to direct our attention toward the living and true God. Why is that? Is it because his own heart is removed from Christ in the Sacred Liturgy? Everybody has their absentminded moments, but it seems that people's attention spans, priests' and people's, are more often no longer than the span of a gnat's.

Ad orientem worship, then, enables people to pray the Mass better than when being burdened by, for example, the constant distraction of observing the priest's gaze flit around the congregation when the Mass is celebrated versus populum or toward the people. Is it any wonder that a priest is inwardly distracted and outwardly distracting when he celebrates Mass facing the people?

Excellent Eucharist

The future of the Church can and must be Eucharistic in the fullest sense of the word. There is no Church and no authentic evangelization without a true Eucharist. It is said that the Holy Eucharist, the Mass, is the source and summit of the Christian life (Lumen Gentium 11). Without the Mass celebrated well, Catholics are living a stunted life, a life burdened by awkward innovations that glue the attention to the trite and mawkish things which diminish that sense of permanence and hope conveyed through beautiful liturgy. That is, liturgy which points to the unfading glory of God.

Ad orientem worship preserves the sense of mystery so fundamental to liberating the imagination from the limits of a tedious rationalism and an addiction to indulging paltry innovations that are nothing less than sad attempts to entertain but which are merely distractions masquerading as worship of the living God.

Ad orientem worship liberates us from the temptation to exalt ourselves as the source of worship. Ad orientem returns our minds and hearts to the Holy Spirit and helps us recognize that all prayer is the initiative of God. The Holy Spirit carries us "forward" toward the Risen Son.

The Mass is, in a few words, everything for everyone: eternal life; mercy; hope; joy; love; faith. Everyone, that is, who surrenders his will to God. An obstinate sinner risks making a mockery of the Mass and losing his or her soul if he or she receives the Holy Eucharist unworthily.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 1 Cor. 11:27-32
God is not bound by His Sacraments (CCC1257). He can and does act in ways beyond the Sacraments only known most fully to Himself. Nevertheless, Christ gave us the Sacraments and He has chosen to be present among us in and through outward signs He has instituted to give grace (BC3:13). Who are we to reject what God sees fit to establish "for our good and the good of all His holy Church"?

Ad orientem worship, far better than versus populum worship, preserves the sense of journey toward the altar of the crucified Lamb. All Catholic worship begins at the foot of the Cross. The entrance to a church built according to the traditional cruciform design is the foot of a cross. As people of the Cross, we pass from the profane through the narthex or vestibule (a purgatory of sorts) to enter into the nave of the church and, led by Christ's call to follow Him (St. Matthew 4:19), travel toward the sanctuary and the apse (where the tabernacle containing the reserved Body of Christ should be located!). We journey toward the head (caput ecclesiae) of the Church, Jesus Christ, under the vault of heaven, symbolized by arches and a high ceiling (the vertical or transcendent dimension of the Faith). At the transept of our hearts, the Lord descends from heaven (apse, sanctuary) to enter under our individual roofs (Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,...).

The two orientations, the vertical and the horizontal given direction by ad orientem worship, patterns upon the congregation the image of the Cross.

Read also:
The Normativity of Ad Orientem Worship According to the Ordinary Form’s Rubrics by Dr. PETER KWASNIEWSKI

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