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To Further The Aim Of Vatican II… Phoenix Parish Reintroduces An Ad Orientem Mass

January 2, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGANImage result for ad orientem

PHOENIX — A large parish church of the Diocese of Phoenix reintroduced an ad orientem Mass to be one of its Sunday morning services in hopes this would help achieve the conscious, active participation in the liturgy called for by Vatican II.
The reintroduction of this Mass, in which the priest and people both face toward the Lord instead of facing each other, was explained in two letters in parish bulletins of St. Thomas the Apostle Church before this form of Eucharistic Celebration began on the Feast of Christ the King, November 25.
The chief aim of the Second Vatican Council in proposing a reform of the liturgy “was that ‘all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 14)’,” the letter in the November 18 issue of the parish bulletin said.
The letter added: “A proper understanding of participation, then, hinges not on more people doing more things, but on a deeper awareness of what it is that we are doing in the Liturgy, which is ‘the “logicizing” of my existence, my interior contemporaneity, the self-giving of Christ. His self-giving is meant to become mine’ (Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 58).”
(The Spirit of the Liturgy, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, later to be Pope Benedict XVI, was published in 2000 by Ignatius Press.)
The parish letter was signed by the three priests in residence at Phoenix’s St. Thomas the Apostle, Fr. Steve Kunkel, the pastor; Fr. Musie Tesfayohannes, the parochial vicar, and Fr. Robert Bolding, president and rector of St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix.
Kunkel’s assistant, Janine Campo, told The Wanderer on December 18 that there hadn’t been any feedback from people since the ad orientem 11 a.m. Mass began three weeks earlier.
Asked whether attendance had increased or decreased from the usual size at this Mass, Campo said it wasn’t possible to say because of such variables as the arrival of the Advent season and of winter visitors.
Campo said she wasn’t aware of how widespread the celebration of ad orientem Masses may be.
The November 18 letter added later:
“The turning of the priest at Mass to face the people cannot be understood as reflecting a change in Liturgical or Eucharistic theology. The primary character of the Mass is not a meal, but a sacrifice. The Eucharistic Prayer is not a closed dialogue between the priest and the people, but rather a prayer offered by the people, through the hands of the priest. And this prayer, as all Christian prayer, is offered to the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.
“These are the realities the Liturgy ought to express and, through its ritual forms and gestures, help the people of God understand,” the letter said.
“Regardless of the practical reasons that may in some circumstances make Mass facing the people desirable, the Congregation for Divine Worship makes it clear that the ‘physical position, especially with respect to the communication among the various members of the assembly, must be distinguished from the interior spiritual orientation of all. . . .
“ ‘The Church as well, which takes concrete form in the assembly which participates, is entirely turned versus Deum (towards God) as its first spiritual movement’,” it said.
The letter cautioned against a misunderstanding of the nature of the Mass through “the liturgical innovation” of the priest facing the people, seeming to give the celebration “more of a communal feel.”
A perhaps unforeseen problem had arisen, the letter said, with a feeling that people facing the priest at Mass “are more involved or closely connected with the action of the priest. But when this sense of connection is brought about by communication between the priest and the people, by an interaction or appearance of an interaction between the priest and the people during the Eucharistic Prayer, then we have already gone astray and lost the central focus of the Mass.
“Our main intention of reintroducing the tradition of priest and people turned together toward the Lord,” the letter said, “is to reorient our focus to God. It may be worthwhile to quote Cardinal Ratzinger . . . at length on this point:
“ ‘In reality what happened was that an unprecedented clericalization came on the scene. Now the priest — the ‘presider,’ as they now prefer to call him — becomes the real point of reference for the whole liturgy. Everything depends on him. We have to see him, to respond to him, to be involved in what he is doing. His creativity sustains the whole thing.
“ ‘Not surprisingly, people try to reduce this newly created role by assigning all kinds of liturgical functions to different individuals and entrusting the “creative” planning of the liturgy to groups of people (who) like to, and are supposed to, “make their own contribution.” Less and less is God in the picture. More and more important is what is done by the human beings who meet here and do not like to subject themselves to a “pre-determined pattern.” The turning of the priest toward the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle’,” the letter continued quoting Ratzinger.
“ ‘In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is closed in on itself. The common turning toward the east was not a “celebration toward the wall”; it did not mean that the priest “had his back to the people”: the priest himself was not regarded as so important’,” the letter quoted the cardinal.
The priests’ letter to the St. Thomas the Apostle parishioners concluded:
“Finally, it is our sincere hope that this practice will help us enter more deeply and consciously into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to respond more fully to Sacrosanctum Concilium’s call that we learn more to offer ourselves with Jesus to the Father. It is unnecessary, and not our intention, to exclude the forms that have developed in the past several decades.
“Hopefully, the restored practice of offering Mass ad orientem, side by side with the continued newer form of versus populum, will give all of us a deeper and broader sense of the Church’s worship,” they wrote.

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