Armed with endless catechetical bulletin inserts and homilies all over the internet, a priest who would like to introduce his parish to the awesomeness of all that which is ad orientem, is in need only of perhaps an especially fitting occasion for the joyful shock of everyone looking to the Lord together to take place.
Advent is just such a time for ad orientem introductions to the parish. But think of the backlash he might get…
But Father! But Father! We put poinsettias all over in front of the altar, all up and down the steps! Just to create the proper stage for our work takes weeks of committees and planning and fund raising. Think of the different levels of draped boxes and end tables, the pillars, the decorative pot wrapping with bows! Don’t deny us a chance to beautify the sanctuary! It’s our contribution to Holy Mass for Christmas! We’ve had the Christmas Crib there already, just waiting for Jesus, since Thanksgiving. Mary and Joseph and the ox and donkey and camels and sheep and wise men are there already. We’ve done this for years!
All that’s super great and commendable and much appreciated by our Lord. I know. I know. Just not in front of the altar. And not during Advent. Use the gradines of the ad orientem altar at Christmas time for some of the flowers, and another appropriate place in the church for the crib scene. It can be done.
The benefit of all this upheaval, you ask? Very simple: Everyone will be looking ad orientem, to the arrival of our Lord, both in the spirit of that first Christmas under violent and oppressive Roman occupation, and now looking to the second coming of our Lord while we live in this valley and shadow of death.
Instead of the priest looking at the Lord’s flock and being ever so tempted to put on a performance, and instead of the parishioners looking at him, just another sinful human being, putting him pedestal, ever so dangerously for absolutely everyone… instead of all that, everyone will together be looking to the Lord in the Sacrifice of the Mass, as it should be.
Ad orientem changes so very, very much. It’s Jesus who is important. All of a sudden it’s not about us, alone in the universe. Instead, it’s extremely evident that it’s all about Jesus, Christ our God, Son of the Immaculate Conception, among us, Emmanuel. These are difficult times. We need clarity.
The first rays of the Dawn from on High are shining through the darkness. Let’s turn to Him, together. Amen.