Question: What are “Ad Orientem” masses? Why does St. Mary’s offer them?
In the past year and a half of being stationed at St. Mary’s, you may have heard me announce our Saturday morning Ad Orientem masses. You may even remember that I had an extensive bulletin insert* and both Fr. John LoCoco and I preached on it over the summer. What does Ad Orientem mean? It’s a Latin phrase to explain a simple concept: instead of the priest facing the parishioners during Mass, he faces the “Liturgical East,” which is the direction the Lord will return again at his Second Coming. To explain the purpose of this, St. Augustine says it best:
"When we rise to pray, we turn East, where heaven begins. And we do this not because God is there, as if He had moved away from the other
directions on earth..., but rather to help us remember to turn our mind towards a higher order, that is, to God."
The priest isn’t turning his back on the people, he is showing in his gestures that both he and the congregation are worshipping together, and he is “leading them” to the Lord. The Church is the Bride, and Christ is Her Bridegroom— it only makes sense that the Church face toward Christ, and the priest is a part of the Church. The Mass celebrated does not change, but rather our focus and perspective is placed upon Christ. If you listen closely to the prayers the priest prays, they are all oriented to God, and now so is the posture of the priest. We stop looking at the presider, and rather at the Eucharist. To paraphrase Cardinal Sarah, when a priest faces the East, he is less likely to treat the altar as a podium as a professor giving a lecture. A priest who faces the same direction as the people, toward Jesus, is more like a shepherd leading his sheep.
To that end, I invite you to join us for our Ad Orientem masses, occurring on Saturday mornings at 8 AM all throughout Lent and the entire Easter Season.
Following the Ad Orientem masses, on the first Saturday of each month we also celebrate a parish Holy Hour, our opportunity to worship Jesus in His presence, when He is exposed in the monstrance (depicted in the image below). Our Holy Hours include the Exposition of the Eucharist, during which the priest takes the Eucharist from the tabernacle and places it in a clear monstrance, allowing those in attendance to look directly at and pray to Christ. This is followed by Benediction, during which the congregation and priest pray particular prayers recognizing the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
During our Holy Hours, confession is also made available through the hour. The announcement of our Holy Hours will be both through the bulletin and in pulpit announcements.
St. Teresa of Calcutta once wrote: “When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then, when you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.” To best communicate with Christ, we should be in His presence. Our next Holy Hour will be on April 6th, and I welcome you to attend. It could be the supplemental key to keeping your Lenten season holy.