Rome, July 8, 2016 A.D.: His Eminence, Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, has called upon all priests of the Roman Rite to return to praying the Mass ad orientem.
Ad orientem, is the Latin for “facing the East”. In matters liturgical, it means facing the Tabernacle placed at the center of the narthex of the Sanctuary, that is the point on the central axis between the High Altar and the back of the Church. Though, technically, in Major Basilicas, the doors of which open to the East, it means facing the main doors, as the Pope does at the Basilica of St. Peter and St. John Lateran, at Rome.
Ad orientem, means, thus, that the priest when he offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, would be facing away from the congregation, in most churches, and showing them his back.
Here are some sound reasons, to heed the Cardinal’s invitation:
- He is the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, hence it must be presumed he has the Pope’s permission to issue this invitation, therefore, not to, would signify disrespect at the least, for proper ecclesiastical authority.
- He is the most eminent member of the College of Cardinals from Africa, so not to heed his invitation might make some thing that one is a racist, like Cardinal Kasper.
- Catholics and even all the Orthodox, have faced ad orientem, during Mass for 1965 years. The practice only was attacked after Vatican II, by the bad example of Paul VI, who tolerated and practiced this.
- Ad orientem, has always been the liturgical law in the Roman Rite, even the rubrics presuppose this, but priests have been constrained by political forces in the Church, and often threaten gravely with spiritual, legal and physical violence if they kept this tradition.
- This practice is more biblical, because when Our Lord Ascended into Heaven, He ascended into the East, and the Apostles and Disciples gazed for a long time to the East to see if Our Lord would immediately come back.
- This practice is more eschatological, for when the Mass is offered in this direction, the whole congregation of the faithful show that they are awaiting the imminent return of the Lord, at the end of time.
- This practice is more theological, because the Priest faces the Son and the Father, in the Holy Spirit, and the congregation worships the Triune God with the Priest.
- This practice is more mystical, because the priest, and the congregation with him, turns to God, face to face, as Moses did on Mt. Horeb, when the living God revealed Himself for the first time, face to face to a human being.
- This practice is more prayerful, since by facing in this way, there are less distractions, and the dialogue of prayer, which should be directed solely to God, is directed solely to God.
- This practice is more priestly, because the priest has the intimacy of praying to God without distractions and with his own face veiled to the people, as it were, since they cannot see him face on; while the faithful join him in the same attitude of prayer, sharing in it in their own way.
- This practice is more ecclesiological, because priest and faithful pray in the same direction in unity.
- This practice is more pastoral, because it manifests evidently to all the faithful that the Mass is a prayer to God.
- This practice will promote vocations, because men and altar boys will recognize more clearly that the role of the priest is not to be an actor before men, but a priest before God, and that the Mass is a solemn act of sacrifice and worship, not a stage for entertainment.
- This practice will promote reverence, because facing God in this way removes all need for showing off to the congregation, and obstructs it.
- This practice will promote mass attendance, because the faithful, wearied throughout the week by their mundane duties, will at last have the most important moment of their week, the prayer of the Canon of the Mass to themselves as a prayer time with God, their Lord, Savior and Redeemer, without distractions.
- This practice will promote the restoration of the Ancient Liturgies of the Church, because the silly language and non reverential rubrics promoted by the Aggiornamento will be more easily seen for the discordant realities that they are.
- But most importantly of all, Catholics always have prayed the Mass in this way, and if that or all these reasons are not enough, there is something gravely lacking in the faith of the local church and her pastors.