Why Mass “Ad Orientem” Makes Sense

OK, let’s have some controversy up in here!

Let me begin by saying that I am not a Rad Trad.

No, really. I mean, anyone who has been on this blog for longer than a year should know by now that I love Praise and Worship music, mass in the vernacular, Eucharistic Adoration, youth groups, and all the other accoutrements of modern Catholicism. But I also love veiling during mass and prayer, kneeling for communion, and Gregorian chant. In short, I’m a Catholic, a blend of new ritual and ancient tradition. But sometimes, in the faith, Β those ancient traditions get glossed over or forgotten.

One of those traditions is mass Ad Orientem, literally “to the east,” where the priest and the people face the same direction for mass. I used to think this was an outdated and non-inclusive idea, with the priest having his back turned to the congregation. Was it not better for the priest to be seen, to offer sacrifice for them and above them?

Mass Ad Orientem
Mass Ad Orientem

Thanks to my friend Michael, and the many tireless hours of arguing with me about this that he put in, I learned what this tradition actually meant. The priest is a leader, a father, the head of the congregation. Like Moses leading the Hebrews from Egypt, he goes on before us towards God. He’s one of us, facing towards heaven, offering sacrifice in our names, not toward our faces.

Though I am not saying that Versus Populum (towards the people) should be banned or that it’s evil (like some really out-there people have said) I am saying that people should know more about both styles of worship. Versus Populum, though it feels more inclusive, also feels more insular; the priest offering the sacrifice of the mass toward the people instead of with them.

Mass Versus Populum
Mass Versus Populum

Both Ad Orientem and Versus Populum masses can be very reverent and beautiful, and I’m not saying that one automatically is more reverent than the other independent of other variables such as music, the homily, and the reverence of the celebrant. But I do think that celebrating Ad Orientem would foster a deeper spirit of reverence, bring some of the richness of our tradition into our worship today.

I’m going to leave y’all with some memes, to really lighten up the post.



Love to all!


6 thoughts on “Why Mass “Ad Orientem” Makes Sense

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