John J. Kilgallen | Dec 8 2012 - 6:26pm | 0 comments
We now enjoy public discussion about a Mass in which the priest faces ad orientem; some like to refer to this position as ’with his back to the people’, while others like to refer to this position as ’towards the east’, itself a reference to the direction from which in olden times God was expected to come. One might ask, Is not the Mass, in which the priest faces the people, also versus Deum, i.e., toward God? In any event, the Mass, with priest facing the people, is in the presence of God - a fact which very much subordinates a direction toward Him. The real point of the ad orientem, I think, is its emphasis on the sense that all experience, priest and people, as they face, not each other, but God. By not looking at the people, but by looking with the people toward God, there should be an undistracted attention to God to the benefit of everyone’s adoration of God. But this reference to the priestly position only leads me to my more important points, which are two. First, did you ever count the number of times in the Eucharistic Liturgy that the priest says "I", i.e. refers to himself alone? Looking at the many prayers of the Mass, with the intention of noting when the priest separates himself from the prayer of "we", of everyone - this is a useful examination which shows just who is praying the prayers of the Eucharist. I can think of only two instances when the priest prays aloud about himself: "I confess to almighty God..." and "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you..." Second, are we aware that there are two ’Offertories’ in the Eucharist? A first Offertory, with that traditional title, refers to our offering of gifts of bread and wine (symbols of our offering back to God all we have received from God). Would that our Offertory prayers were as clear in English as they are in Italian: in Italian, we actually say offriamo, i.e. we offer, but in English we say we have bread to offer, but do not explicitly say we offer it. In any event, we do have a second offertory, one which in a sense replaces, or better consumes the first offertory in itself. This second offertory occurs when we say that ’we offer’ ’this life-saving bread, this cup of salvation’. Our own offertory, concentrating on our own gifts and using our own powers, is early, only to be surpassed by a second, more pleasing offertory (which absorbs the first into it): the offering of Jesus to his Father. John Kilgallen, S.J.