Friday, September 12, 2008

Parish Bulletin Article on Ad Orientem

I published this brief article about ad orientem in my parish bulletin this past weekend:

Ad Orientem – Turning Towards the Lord

In order that the parish can see our newly restored altar in its full beauty, and used as it was intended when it was built by our forefathers, during this weekend and next I am celebrating the Masses at the high altar ad orientem, that is, facing the high altar rather than “facing the people” at the small altar as most of us are accustomed. The phrase “ad orientem” means “toward the East”, and this phrase is used to describe this posture because, in the early Church, most churches were built so that the altar faced the East. The East, being the direction of the rising sun, was seen as symbolic of Christ, as He is our Sun of Righteousness, the Light of the World, and the Daystar of the new dawn. Sometimes people refer to the posture of ad orientem as the priest celebrating Mass “with his back to the people”, but this is a mistaken way of looking at it. The idea isn’t that the priest “has his back to the people”, but that he and the people are facing the same direction, that is, united in facing the Lord at the altar. Our holy father Pope Benedict has encouraged the re-appropriation of this ancient custom, urging us to “turn toward the Lord”, and has used it himself in public celebrations of the Eucharist. As I have mentioned before, contrary to what many people have been led to believe, the Second Vatican Council did not mandate that Mass must be celebrated “facing the people”, and indeed, the rubrics and instructions of the Roman Missal, in several places, clearly presume that Mass will be celebrated according to the immemorial custom of ad orientem. Thus, to use this posture is perfectly legitimate, even in the “new Mass”. There is a great richness and depth in celebrating the Mass so that people and priest are facing the same direction, united in prayer. I hope that we all may have our faith enriched and gain a new perspective on the liturgy by making use of this ancient tradition over the next two weeks.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The High Altar Restored at St. Stanislaus

This past weekend, our newly restored high altar and Mary altar were "unveiled".

The Sanctuary
(all photos may be viewed full-size by clicking on them)

A Closer View of The High Altar

The Mary Altar

The high altar has a frieze of the Last Supper on its front, which the portable novus ordo altar obscures. It was repainted by our 8th grade teacher and some of her students.

I did the best I could with my camera and the lighting in the church, but photos don't do them full justice. One thing I am going to look into is redirecting some of the sanctuary lighting to bring out the gold detail a bit more. The detail is gold-flake paint, as well as 23 K gold leaf on the cross, scrollwork, and finials of the high altar. The crucifix niche of the altar also has gold leaf in the half-dome and half-pillars. I hope you can get some idea of how beautiful they are from the photos. The monogram on the Mary altar has also been done in gold leaf.

Not only have we restored the appearance of the high altar, but we have also "restored" the high altar to use as it was intended! This past weekend, I celebrated all the Masses Ad Orientem, something that hasn't been done publicly at St. Stanislaus for 35 years or more.

Singing the Gloria

During the restoration, the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in the Sacred Heart altar (on the right side of the church), so as to facilitate the work without the danger of irreverence to Our Lord. The Sacred Heart altar has not been restored yet (it will be done later this fall), so it provides a a point for comparison to the newly restored altars:

During the Saturday vigil Mass, after my homily, I transferred the Blessed Sacrament back to the tabernacle in the high altar. Here I am reverencing the Sacrament before the transfer:

And the reposition:

Mass continued with the Eucharistic Prayer:

...Do this in memory of me...

Behold the Lamb of God...

And, of course, Mass concluded with the final blessing:

I have celebrated Mass ad orientem privately on many occasions, but this is the first time I have done so publicly. I have already noticed a couple of things, and I'm sure more observations will occur to me as I go forward.

I'll save those for the moment, though - I will share what insights and observations I have after I have done this some more. Which leads me to mention that I will be celebrating the Masses ad orientem again this weekend, for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

I'll have more photos up next week from those celebrations.

Our 9-11, and Another 9-11

Of course, today is the infamous day when Muslim terrorists, in a cowardly act of mass murder, killed over 3,000 innocent civilians in the World Trade Center. May God have mercy on the twisted and perverted souls of those who committed these acts, and on all who would seek to imitate them.

But the half-life of such evil is relatively short, as it always is. There was another time when it seemed that the Islamic imperialists had a knife to the West's throat.

In 1683, the Muslim armies had been advancing across Europe, and had besieged Vienna for months. It seemed that Vienna was bound to fall. But then King Jan III Sobieski of Poland led his army of over 80,000 men to the relief of Vienna, and drove off the besieging army, effectively ending the Muslim advance.

The Battle of Vienna

September 11, 1683 happened because Christian Europe was willing to rise up and defend itself. September 11, 2001 happened because America let down its guard and preferred to deny reality. Let us never forget that terrible lesson.