Saturday, September 06, 2008

ad orientem


Another aspect of our human life is the work we do in sacred worship. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is also called the Sacred Liturgy. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has set the stage for a renewal and renaissance of Catholic worship. This was the intention and objective of the Council Fathers at Vatican II. As mentioned before, we will be learning and using some Latin for common parts of the Mass on one weekend a month. The first Sunday (and evening before) in Marysville and the last Sunday (and evening before) in Duncannon, we will be using the Kyrie (Greek: Lord Have Mercy), Gloria (Latin: Glory to God), Sanctus (Latin: Holy, Holy), Pater Noster (Latin: Our Father), and Agnus Dei (Latin: Lamb of God). They are found in #862-869 of the large Music Issue of Today’s Missal. 'Catholic' comes from the Greek word katholikos which means 'universal' One obvious and poignant way to demonstrate the universality of our church is to use a universal language as well as our own vernacular.

If you watch the TV Mass on EWTN, you will be familiar with these. Even though only once a month, we will become more comfortable and familiar with our rich patrimony. Eastern Orthodox Americans speak fluent English yet use plenty of Greek in their weekly worship just as Jewish Americans use Hebrew in theirs. Latin is the official and traditional language of the Roman Catholic Church and coexists with the vernacular.

Once a month we will also utilize one of the options afforded the celebrant. Every priest is allowed to celebrate Mass facing the people (versus populum) or facing the Tabernacle (versus apsidem). I will do the latter once a month so you can appreciate and experience one of our beautiful customs going back to antiquity. Originally, all priests had to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy AD ORIENTEM, i.e., facing east. Churches were literally built so that the priest AND congregation both faced EAST during public worship. The reason was that the sun rose each day in the east. The Son of God rose from the dead on Easter morning, when the sun rose in the East. Hence, Christians were keen to respect that by facing east when they worshipped their Lord and Savior. Churches were built from Ancient to Mediaeval times facing east. The priest was not seen as ‘turning his back’ on the congregation, rather, BOTH priest and congregation were facing east TOGETHER. Does the bus driver or airplane pilot have his/her back toward the passengers OR rather is he/she facing the same direction of the destination everyone hopes to arrive at?

One of the dangers of exclusivlely celebrating Mass versus populum (facing the people) is that the Celebrant may be tempted to see himself as performing for the congregation. He is not on stage as an actor nor is a director or conductor guiding those in the audience. He is a LEADER of prayer and leaders POINT in the right direction. Great Generals led their armies in battle and both faced the same direction to victory. When the priest and the people both face the same direction, they are also doing the same thing, i.e., worshipping God.

The Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, the Byzantine Catholic Churches, and many Lutheran and Anglican churches have worship services where the celebrant faces east with the congregation. Where it is geographically impossible to face east (ad orientem), the custom arose for the priest and people to face the Tabernacle (versus apsidem) since that is where the Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity of Christ was always present. Facing the Blessed Sacrament was in essence facing east since the east symbolized the Rising SON (and not just the rising SUN). Therefore, once a month, I shall celebrate Mass facing the Tabernacle, just as you do every time you sit in the pews. WE will be facing the same direction TOGETHER and not me turning my back on you as some would erroneously claim. It is only once a month but I think it important to do since it is part of our legacy, it is done all the time in the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite (Tridentine Mass) and it is a valid and licit option in the Ordinary form (Novus Ordo or Vatican II Mass). The Scripture readings and homily will still be given facing the people since they are directed toward you. The prayers of worship directed toward God, however, will be facing Him as He IS present in the Tabernacle. Just as we have a diversity of music and language, we have a diversity of proper liturgical forms as part of our Catholic heritage. We should embrace the fullness of whom we are and how we worship.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Protecting the Flock

Politicians have awoken the sleeping bear. American Bishops are adamantly correcting the inaccurate and erroneous remarks of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and they are vigorously defending the actual teachings of the Catholic Church on when human life begins and the immorality of abortion. Let no one forget, although Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden (John Kerry and Ted Kennedy) are democrats, Tom Ridge and Rudy Giuliani are pro-choice republicans. ALL of them fail to defend the innocent lives of unborn children killed by abortion. All claim to be Catholic and while ignoring the Magisterium's moral teachings, are often seen going to Communion.
Thankfully, Archbishop Wuerl of Washington issued this letter to his clergy: courtesy of Fr Z

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