Celebrating Mass ad orientem
To more fully encounter Jesus Christ celebrating our Saturday morning Mass each weekend ad orientem, as well as a few throughout the year on Sunday's. That is, the priest and congregation facing toward “the east”, where the Lord will come at the end of time. The posture of the priest and congregation turning toward the east is our mutual journey to encounter God. As Jesus said, “For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27). In this regard, facing the east echoes the prayer of Christians for the coming of Jesus.
When the priest is addressing the congregation he faces them, however, when he prays to God and leads everyone into prayer he faces toward the sanctuary. For example, during the Eucharistic Prayer the priest is speaking to God as he says, with eyes raised to heaven, “To You Oh God, Almighty Father...” in other words the priest is not speaking to the people but to God the Father, in remembrance of what Jesus did during the last supper.
We have celebrated St. Mary’s Saturday morning Mass ad orientem since 2018 and have prayed certain Masses ad orientem throughout the liturgical year, for example, this past Advent and the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in June. There have been a few people who expressed concerns about the occasional introduction of ad orientem Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays, those concerns were brought to us and as a staff we discussed them thoroughly. However, after the Masses that we pray ad orientem, many people are spiritually moved and encouraged us to offer other opportunities.
Praying the Mass ad orientem is a spiritual experience that allows us to be reinvigorated in our faith, more attentive to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and more perfectly aware that our prayer is being addressed to God the Father. The Mass prayed ad orientem offers an opportunity to align, focus and connect ourselves with the priest leading and praying for the gathered faithful, to the cross of Christ crucified for the spiritual nourishment of all of us who are striving to be holy, and so to give greater praise and glory to God the Father.
For a better understanding of Holy Mass ad orientem and your role in the sacrifice of the Mass we encourage you to click the YouTube image below to watch Fr. Mike Schmitz speak on Praying the Mass Like Never Before. The YouTube image will take you to the spot when he begins to talk on ad orientem, however, if you have time, we recommend watching the talk in its entirety. Please also use the image of our faces to hear our explanation of ad orientem from a recent Catholicism 101 Q&A Session.
Through the intercession of our Blessed Mother and St. Anthony the Hermit, may we be drawn more intimately to our Lord this Lent and conform our hearts more perfectly to His.
Msgr. Ross Shecterle and Fr. Andrew Linn