N THE PAST TWO WEEKS, there were a lot of discussions in the Church about the orientation of the liturgical celebration. I have written about the Three Common Misconceptions about “Ad Orientem” Worship and hopefully that helps clear up some of the misunderstandings and confusions.
I have been reading a book called, The Mass and the Saints, which contains quotations on the Mass from the saints selected by Fr. Thomas Crean, O.P.. The third chapter of the book is about the orientation of the Mass. As we continue to learn and discuss about this topic, we should take the saints’ words into consideration. After all, the Church canonized them so that they may be our examples and we can learn from them. So, here are four quotes on “facing east”:
ST. GREGORY OF NYSSA : “We turn ourselves to the east to pray. Not that God may only be seen there, for he is everywhere, and is not limited to any particular place; but because our first home was in the east. I mean that dwelling that we had in Paradise, from which we were expelled – for God planted a paradise in Eden in the east.”
ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO : “We turn to the east when we stand to pray, since this is where the sun and the stars rise. It is not, of course, as if God were there alone and had forsaken the rest of creation. Rather, when these earthly bodies of ours are turned towards the more excellent, heavenly bodies, our minds are thereby prompted to turn towards the most excellent being, that is, to our Lord.”
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS : “It is also fitting to do this (pray towards east) because of Christ, who is the light of the world, and is called the Orient.”
ST. ROBERT BELLARMINE : “When our Lord died on the Cross, he was looking towards the west. So we pray facing east, as if to look at the face of the Crucified. And since he ascends above the heaven of heavens to the east, we, so to speak, accompany him as he ascends by our prayers and petitions. And finally, it is believed that he will come from the east in judgement: For as lightning cometh out of the east, and appeareth even into the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
I hope you would appreciate the wisdom of the saints. I think I have written enough on the topic of AD ORIENTEM; this will be my last post on the orientation of the Mass for now. I am glad that the recent controversy gave us to opportunity to rediscover and to learn more about our rich Traditions. I pray that the Liturgy might be renewed with charity.
Note from CCW President: I was taught that we face liturgical East because Christ will return from the East when He comes again. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than myself could elaborate on that. There was also a (beautiful) practical value to facing East. The priests would say Mass early in the morning, and when the sun rose, it would “color” the stained glass windows in a marvelous way. There was often a huge stained glass window behind the Altar.