13 July 2007

Headin' for Gloryland

With the “all-motu-all-the-time” news coverage we’ve had lately, I’m getting sick and tired of references to the priest “with his back to the people.” It’s just childish and (I think) purposely ignorant to describe the position of the celebrant in that way.

It is called ad orientem or eastward-facing. Is that so hard to remember? The celebrant’s position is not in relation to the people; it is in relation to God. It is an ancient symbol when all of us – including the celebrant – face east as we celebrate the Holy Mass “in joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord.”

And in those places where the tabernacle is in its proper place – that is, front and center – is it somehow ok for the celebrant to stand “with his back to Jesus?” Of course, plenty of places have solved that problem by moving the Blessed Sacrament to some obscure corner, so much so that people are reduced to being latter day Mary Magdalenes saying, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him."

All of our Masses in this parish – whether at the High Altar or in the Sacred Heart Chapel – are celebrated ad orientem. If you hear someone, in their ignorance, commenting on “the priest standing with his back to the people,” please correct them. Explain to them that we are really a forward-looking people. We’re looking forward to the final day, when Jesus will return in glory. And explain that we do it together. Explain that Father isn’t there to entertain. He’s there in the place of the shepherd, heading with his flock to that final destination: heaven.