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CHICAGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - In preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas, a pastor is celebrating the Mass toward the liturgical East.
Father Anthony Bus, C.R., pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Chicago, Illinois, is instituting the offering of the liturgy ad orientem — toward the East, where the priest faces toward Our Lord in the tabernacle — during Advent, the season that prepares Christians for the birth of Christ. In a Sunday bulletin and Facebook post, Bus announced the change.
"Today it is imperative that we remove all distractions that veil the sacred drama unfolding on the Altar of Sacrifice," he said. "This sublime mystery of God's presence among us, incomprehensible to be sure, begs from us attentiveness."
The ancient form of the liturgy was offered for about 2,000 years toward the East, the direction from where the Lord will come at the end of time. The new form of the Mass, the Novus Ordo ("New Order"), in 1970 allowed a shift in orientation away from the altar and towards the people, versus populum.
In clarifying the position of the Church regarding ad orientem worship over versus populum, Cdl. Burke, former head of the Vatican Supreme Court, praises the return to the ancient practice of the Church to face the East, the Lord, during the Holy Mass: "It is not a question of the priest turning his back to the faithful but rather directing himself, with the faithful, to Christ Who makes sacramentally present His Sacrifice for our eternal salvation."
Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, requested parishes worldwide to begin offering the Liturgy ad-orientem in 2016. His call for a return to the ancient practice of the Church to face toward the Lord "during the Rite of Penance, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and the Eucharistic Prayer, all, priest and faithful, should turn together towards the East, to express their desire to participate in the work of worship and of redemption accomplished by Christ."
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before his election to the papacy as Pope Benedict XVI, commented in The Spirit of the Liturgy on the relationship between the 12 disciples seated around Christ at the Last Supper and the ancient practice of the Roman Liturgy:
They were all sitting, or reclining, on the convex side of a C-shaped table. ... Nowhere in Christian antiquity could the idea have arisen of having to "face the people" to preside at a meal. The communal character of a meal was emphasized by just the opposite disposition: the fact that all the participants were on the same side of the table.
Critics argue that versus populum has increased the "active participation" of the people. However, figures show that between 1965 and 1995, Mass attendance dropped from 55 percent to 25 percent in the United States, calling into question whether this change in liturgical orientation (along with other novelties introduced post-Vatican II) have truly been beneficial.
Church Militant reached out to St. Stanislaus for comment, but as of press time has received no response.