Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Some thoughts on Ad Orientem

I have not been able to post as frequently as I originally planned, but be assured there will be at least several new posts every week.  In fact I'd say that it is safe to say there will be around one post a day; at the least of the random musing style.  Today however is something of a more serious, tradition and identity flavor.

As you can tell from the title of this post, I will be briefly discussing the celebration of Mass ad orientem.

The most common object to the Mass being celebrated ad orientem is that "the priest has his back to be."  I must be honest and say that this object drives me partially insane.  When Father celebrates Mass, most specifically during the Canon, he is not talking to the congregation.  He is not talking to you, me, or whoever else may be sitting in the pews.  He is talking to God.  That is why a like to call ad orientem (which can be confusing for some people since it literally means towards the east) "ad Dominum" or "ad Deum"; meaning towards the Lord or towards God.  How beautiful is it to think of what those two phrases mean.  When a priest celebrates Mass ad Dominum on a traditional altar that has the tabernacle on it, the priest literally is facing the Lord, for Christ Jesus is physically present in the tabernacle.  Does this not seem  like an infinitely better way to celebrate Mass?  Who is more important, Christ or the people?  The answer for me is obvious, and  I feel any serious Catholic with a belief in the Real Presence will feel the same.  Perhaps I am being presumptuous, but why would anyone ever, ever want to look at people instead of God? 

When a priest is celebrating Mass, he is leading us in prayer.  An analogy I like to use (I admittedly read it/heard it from somewhere else, but I do not recall where/who) is when you are in a taxi, airplane, train etc., is the person steering looking at you?  Would you be offended that he has his back to you?  I would think not.  You would want his eyes on the road.  The same thing applies at Mass.  The priest is leading the congregation in prayer towards God.  Thus it makes no sense to say he has his back to you.  Its for a reason.  He is speaking to Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament.  No matter how much some people may want to believe, they have absolutely no "power" or ability to consecrate the bread and wine.  That is solely between Christ Jesus and His priest. 

Yet another argument I have heard against ad orientem or ad Dominum worship is that Christ did not have His back to the Apostles at the Last Supper when He celebrated His first Mass.  Historical evidence points to the truth.  It was customary back then for all the guests to sit at one side of the table; take Leonardo Da'Vinci's Last Supper for instance.  Christ and His Apostles all sat on the same side of the table. 

To be continued...

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