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).

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ad Orientem Worship: Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli

An excerpt from an article by the good Bishop of Paterson.
From the earliest days of the Church, Christians also faced east when at prayer. In fact, Tertullian (160-220 AD) actually had to defend Christians against the pagans who accused them of facing east to worship the sun. Many Church Fathers, such as St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Basil and St. Augustine, also speak of the practice of facing east. In the 3rd century, the Didascalia, a treatise on church order from northern Syria, set down the rule of facing east during the Eucharist. It said, “Let the place of the priests be separated in a part of the house that faces east. In the midst of them is placed the bishop’s chair, and with him let the priests be seated. Likewise, and in another section let the laity be seated facing east” (Didascalia, Chapter 12).
Before Christianity was legal in the Roman Empire, Christians worshipped in their homes. One of the oldest known house churches has been discovered on the far eastern edge of the Roman Empire, in present day Syria, at Dura-Europos. This house church dates from 233 A.D. Archaeologists have uncovered an assembly room in the house where as many as 60 people would gather for prayer. The room was designed with an altar against the east wall. In this way, the priest and all the faithful would together be facing east when celebrating the Eucharist. (Some folk would have us believe that our early brethren heard Mass celebrated versus populum, i.e., with the priest facing the people. Nonsense!)
Writing in the 7th century, St. John of Damascus gives three explanations for the eastward stance of Christians at prayer. First, Christ is “the Sun of Righteousness” (Mal 4:2) and “the Dayspring from on high” (Lk 1:78). Facing the light dawning from the east, Christians affirm their faith in Christ as the Light of the world. Second, God planted the Garden of Eden in the east (cf. Gn 2:8). But, when our first parents sinned, they were exiled from the garden and moved westward. Facing east, therefore, reminds Christians of their need to long for and strive for the paradise that God intended for them. And, third, when speaking of his Second Coming at the end of history, Jesus said, “For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Mt. 24:27). Thus, facing the east at prayer visibly expresses the hope for the coming of Jesus. (cf. St. John Damascene, An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, Chapter 12). [READ MORE HERE]
(Bishop Serratelli) is the Chairman of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). He is a member of the Vatican’s Vox Clara Commission. He also served as co-chair of the Vatican’s International Dialogue with the Baptist World Alliance.
As a member of the USCCB in Washington DC, Bishop Serratelli serves as chairman of the Committee on Divine Worship. He is the past chairman and present member of the Ad hoc Sub-Committee for the Review of Scripture Translations. He is a present member of the Ad hoc Committee for the Review of the Catechism.
Ad orientem worship is, of course, a regular or habitual feature of the Extraordinary Form (TLM/Usus Antiquior) and the Divine Worship of the Ordinariate. The Ex-Form never abandoned the practice, and the Anglo-catholic converts to Rome who have become the heart of the Ordinariates (Walsingham (UK), Chair of Saint Peter (NA), and Our Lady of the Southern Cross (Australia)) have, for the most part, preserved ad orientem worship in their Ordinariate congregations. Of course, with a few exceptions, our eastern Catholic brethren have faithfully preserved ad orientem worship in their liturgies.

We—i.e., Tradition-minded Catholics—must hope that, after the long adolescent liturgical rebellion has finally faded, all Latin-Rite Catholics of "the West" will reclaim our heritage and thus our ad orientem identity, an identity that has us oriented to God without the distraction of Fr. Celebrity or Fr. Narcissist staring at us across a cardboard altar.

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