What is Ad Orientem?

Source: Ad Orientem (used with permission from the pastor, Fr. VanDenBroeke)

“What is Ad Orientem? The phrase Ad Orientem, which means ‘Toward the East’, refers to the practice of the priest celebrating the Mass facing the liturgical East, which is represented by the crucifix behind the altar.

In Eastern Catholic churches and the Traditional Latin rite,  the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass/Divine Liturgy, is offered Ad Orientem with the priest and the congregation worshipping facing are the Tabernacle/Altar together.

Ad Orientem is the traditional way the Mass was celebrated for hundreds of years. After Vatican II, priests had the option of celebrating Mass Ad Orientem or Versus Populo (toward the people). This ancient practice is very beneficial and helps draw both the priest and people deeper into the mystery of the sacrifice of Christ , offered at every Mass.

“When the priest faces the people (Versus Populo), it is easy to assume the priest is always talking to the people. However, when the priest is facing the crucifix, it is clear that he is talking to God. This is the most important reason why Ad Orientem is an important way of celebrating the Mass, because it helps make clear that the priest is talking to the Father as he offers the prayers of the Eucharist.”

There are many other articles on this topic in the EWTN library.  This one might help to prevent distraction or disturbance around which direction a priest chooses to face:“Praying Ad Orientem Versus” by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Articles that help to explain the significance of Ad Orientem:

The Church permits facing either way, so it is also liturgically correct to face the people when offering the Novus Ordo Mass.  Celebrating Mass Ad Orientem is currently an option and not mandatory for the Novus Ordo Mass according to the Catholic Church’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.  Many Latin rite priests prefer and would like to offer the Novus Ordo Mass this way. This parish offers daily Novus Ordo Mass Ad Orientem – the pastor leads the US Grace Force.  Some priests would like to offer Mass Ad Orientem, but may have been told by their local chancery not to do so (i.e. televised Masses on EWTN).  Either way, it is important that the central focus be on honouring Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  If Jesus is in the centre already, Our King ought not to be moved or hidden away.

The faithful should not stop going to the Mass over this issue.  The evil one wants to cut us off from Mass and the Sacraments… Instead, focus on the essence of the Mass – the Consecration and Holy Communion and not the frame which can change. We do not go to Mass to be entertained. We respect and support priests regardless of which way they choose to face. Jesus reclined at the Last Supper, the first Mass – focus on what is most important in whatever rite you have the privilege of attending – the Holy Sacrifice of Christ to redeem our souls.

A Latin rite pastor who offers the Novus Ordo had this note on his website:  “All Masses at this parish are said ‘Ad Orientem’.  Please watch video for more information on what ‘ad orientem’ means!:”

Other introductions to Ad Orientem:

Usus Antiquior Liturgical Resources

Attempts to try to cancel the traditional Latin rite (“Usus Antiquior”) of the Catholic Church and hostility towards those humbly devoted to it, will ultimately be judged by God Himself.  Do undo others.

Question asked to His Eminence Cardinal Raymond Burke“I wanted to ask if you have any statements about the Church post Traditionis Custodes?”

Cardinal Raymond Burke“Simply that the More Ancient Usage of the Roman Rite is a great treasure in the Church, going back to the time of Pope Saint Gregory the Great and even before. It must be fostered and continued in the Church. The interpretation of the present legislation that would limit the faithful from having access to this most beautiful form of the Roman Rite must be corrected. I am confident that Our Lord will have that come about. The lay faithful and the priests should not be discouraged, because Our Lord will not permit that this most beautiful form of the Roman Rite be lost. In reality, it is clear that it is desired as the form of our most perfect encounter with Our Lord sacramentally. And it will continue to nurture the faithful spiritually, as you can see here today, with the participation of so many lay faithful –with their families, young people, old people. It’s just beautiful. [You can see] their deep love for the Church, and for the Sacred Liturgy.”

Source: 1Peter5

Many families go to the traditional rite because they appreciate the sermons there that provide thorough and faithful doctrine and moral teachings, as well as a beautiful uplifting liturgy, sacred music and Gregorian chant. They want to be with, and want their children to meet, other sincere Catholics who are serious about educating, living and defending the Church’s moral teachings and catechism.  Many are home-schoolers with larger families, who have seen the moral collapse in Catholic schools  or who brought their children to the Novus Ordo at their local parish and heard sermons containing errors. They also may have been persecuted there, for wanting their children to be able to kneel to receive Holy Communion on the tongue. If it happens at their parish, parents will question why they should be forced to undergo medical interventions in order to avail themselves and their children to the means of their salvation, the Mass and the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church?

At one parish that currently offers two rites (Novus Ordo and the Usus Antiquior) in 2022, it was noticed that at the Usus Antiquior (always using the Communion plate which is still mandatory in the old rite), there were eleven altar boys, eight choir members, congregational singing, more community building fellowship after Mass and a Confession lineup, compared to the Novus Ordo Mass where there is one server. Why is that?

Someday there will be an accounting for particles of Christ in the Host that have been lost, discarded and not properly cared for. The 2006 Novus Ordo Vatican document Sacramentum Redemptionis instructed: “The communion plate [aka chin paten] should be retained for the communion of the faithful, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling”. It used every day in the Novus Ordo on EWTN which can viewed on TV and the on the Internet worldwide. The 2012 General Instructions on the Roman Missal G.I.R.M for the Novus Ordo omitted to mention this. A canon lawyer and another priest who is faithful to the rubrics, verified in 2022 that it is currently optional and “perfectly fine” to use the communion plate/paten – it is “strongly recommended” for the Novus Ordo and not verboten.

Why wouldn’t it be used to prevent particles of the Host (God) from falling and being trampled on? Before God, what excuses will be justified for the lack of care and reverence for particles of the Blessed Sacrament? The Communion plate remains in use at Novus Ordo Masses where there are no altar boys – it is simply held under one’s chin and carefully passed along to the next communicant, for example in Mother Teresa’s convents and in Masses in Catholic schools for girls or in parishes. Altar boys can put the Communion plate under the hands of those taking communion in their hands in order to catch Hosts and particles. We see this at Novus Ordo Masses.

At Novus Ordo Masses, without Communion plates, Hosts are sometimes seen falling on the floor. When they are picked up, why is nothing done to purify the area for particles when we believe the Host is the Body of Christ?  Certainly at Usus Antiquior Masses, if a Host ever falls by accident, great care is taken to purify the area of any remaining particles. There is more danger of sacrilege from Communion taken in the hand at Novus Ordo Masses, compared to exposition of the Blessed Sacrament where at least one or more adorers are always present to make that no one walks off with the Host. Perhaps one reason some prefer the traditional Latin Mass is because of all of the particles of Christ being lost and discarded on the floor through Communion in the hand at the Novus Ordo?

Most of the above links for the Usus Antiquior (traditional Latin Mass) are courtesy of Una Voce.