How to Popularize ‘Ad Orientem’ Without Disorienting People

Here’s how to better acquaint God’s people with the beauty and naturalness of the ad orientem posture at Mass

The fact is, most people see the eastward orientation as a very big change. As such, it is bound to be controversial; simply presenting scholarly arguments isn’t going to be enough to warm many people up to the idea. Those of us who see value in this orientation are going to have to do a lot more to accustom people to the idea.

A further obstacle is that not all priests, even those open to the ad orientem posture, are willing to withstand the ire of their bishop in such a matter—and perhaps that is a good thing. Bishops do moderate the liturgy in their dioceses and priests should instinctively want to maintain unity with their bishop. There may be times when it is best for a priest to accept his bishop’s preference rather than insist upon his rights. This is less a question of law than one of prudence and respect. Upon ordination, every priest promises respect and obedience to his ordinary. Thus, if a bishop indicates that he does not want Mass to be celebrated ad orientem as a general practice, a priest should think long and hard before insisting upon his right to make that consistent change in his parish.

With all this in mind, I wonder if those of us who support the eastward orientation for the Eucharistic Prayer might consider some more subtle ways of acclimating the faithful to it. There are a number of points in the liturgy and in liturgical practice when the celebrant is addressing a prayer to God and can make this more obvious by “facing” God.

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