Father Anthony Bus, C.R. implemented ad orientem worship in his parish, St. Stanislaus Kostka in Chicago, Illinois, at the start of Advent. He recently published a letter explaining to his flock why he will continue to offer Mass "to the East" through Christmas and beyond.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family and the Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God, I joyfully proclaim to you that we will continue offering the Holy Eucharist in the manner of our ancestors, the priest and the people together raising their eyes to the East, toward the Father and from where the Lord will come at the end of time. Having celebrated the Divine Liturgy ad orientem through the seasons of Advent and Christmas, I will continue this posture of prayer as we move forward here at St. Stanislaus Kostka.
That this option for offering the Sacred Mysteries of our faith was nearly universally eclipsed in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council was unfortunate, to say the least. Over the years I have read innumerable commentaries on the ongoing need for the renewal and reform of the Mass. I assess, and agree with others, that a major key to authentic and enduring renewal is a simple gesture that is powerfully transforming. That the priest and people together raise their eyes ad orientem inspires a shift in focus that reawakens the senses to the very essence of the Catholic liturgy and, therefore, a reawakening to the essence of our Christian identity.
We need only look to the Holy Family and the saints who have preceded us on the journey. Their lives were characterized by a steadfast gaze on God, looking away from themselves in order to fulfill God's will in their lives. Even Christ Jesus, when among us in the flesh, pointed beyond Himself, to the Father.
With the Ancients of Old, the essence of our faith is not only a turning away from ourselves, but also a mutually shared sacrifice that is deeply life giving. Not only did Christ point us to the Father, He offered Himself in atonement for our sins for the purpose of our salvation. The Blessed Virgin Mary participated deeply and intimately in the Sacrifice, and down through the ages the saints have done likewise.
In gratitude we share in Christ's Sacrifice, and that of our ancestors, when we gather in sacred assembly — a gathering that is both communal and collective as well as private and personal. The Sacrifice is central to our adoration and worship of Almighty God, preceded and followed by our being fed in Word and Sacrament. Our turning ad orientem facilitates a proper response to having been fed with the Word of God as well as an appropriate preparation for the Supper of the Lamb.
The posture of the priest and the people together offering Christ and themselves in Christ, to the Father, is refreshingly countercultural and a healing remedy to the self-indulgence and narcissism sadly characteristic of the times in which we live. The priest, in persona Christi, is the shepherd who leads the flock and feeds the flock, as together, priest and people make the arduous journey from here to the full realization of Christ's kingdom.
At the altar of sacrifice, the priest lays down his life, and the sacred assembly does likewise. This is our mutual fiat — our "yes" — spoken and offered in thanksgiving that the Lord receive us as a people in need of redemption. The Lord indeed comes to us with redeeming grace and remains with us in spite of our infidelities and failings. Together, priest and people offer themselves in Christ, to the Father, as a plea that God make all things new and keep us on the narrow but difficult path that serves humanity, even as it carries us to the homeland.
Simply put, in our time, priest and people have fallen prey to the seduction and sickness of a radically secularized society. Our turning ad orientem, following the ancient manner of offering the Sacred Mysteries, is a humble gesture that powerfully places all things in sacred perspective — we go to the Father in Christ and Christ comes to us, that we not collapse as we strive to fulfill our mission of sacrificial love in deference to the Lord.
Republished with permission.