Ad Orientum

Ad orientumAs some of you know the Ordinariate ‘commends’ but does not mandate the celebration of the mass ‘ad orientum’.  I have only ever celebrated occasional masses ‘versus populum’ and each time I felt like I was in some way a performer, one of the actors in the liturgy, instead of the priest leading the people in worship. While this does not lessen the sacredness of the liturgy or take away the ‘sacrifice of the mass‘.

In truth, the Eucharist performs at once two functions: that of a sacrament and that of a sacrifice. Though the inseparableness of the two is most clearly seen in the fact that the consecrating sacrificial powers of the priest coincide, and consequently that the sacrament is produced only in and through the Mass, the real difference between them is shown in that the sacrament is intended privately for the sanctification of the soul, whereas the sacrifice serves primarily to glorify God by adoration, thanksgiving, prayer, and expiation. The recipient of the one is God, who receives the sacrifice of His only-begotten Son; of the other, man, who receives the sacrament for his own good.

Celebrating mass ‘versus populum’ does put the focus on the assembly rather than on the unifying act of priest and people praying the mass to the Father.  Fr Richard Simons states that;

You cannot imagine what it was like to say words like “we” and “our Father” and “us” while standing at the head of a congregation that was turned together in a physical expression of unity. No matter how one might argue to the contrary, it is impossible to say “we” while looking at 500 people and not be speaking to them.

Of course, there are reasons for ‘versus populum’, not least of all is the physical nature of some of the sanctuaries in our churches, St Peters being a perfect example.  But on the whole the norm for the Ordinariates should be ‘ad orientum’.  I would leave you with the words of Mngr Charles Pope;

Neither do I argue for a return to Mass wholly facing the altar as was done in the past and still often is in the Extraordinary form. The Liturgy of the Word is authentically directed to the people of God for their edification, instruction and attention. It ought to be proclaimed to and toward them, as is fitting to its purpose and end. But the Eucharistic Prayer is directed to God,… the celebrant is leading the faithful on procession to God. St. Augustine often ended the his sermon and the Liturgy of the Word by saying, “Let us turn to the Lord” and he then went up to the altar, facing it and leading the people to God.

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