Sunday, January 12, 2014

Looking to the East!

At the risk of repeating myself, I feel compelled to underline a thought or conviction, which comes from first-hand experience here in the Byzantine world of Ukraine, and namely, that Divine Worship also according to the Roman Rite should be oriented. When speaking of the single "offender" within my usual space, that means that the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite (preparation of the gifts and Eucharistic Prayer) ought to take place with everyone in church, including the celebrant, facing toward the Lord, ad Orientem.

Again this year in Ukraine, I had the privilege of celebrating Christmas according to both the Gregorian (25 Dec.) and the Julian (7 Jan.) Calendars. I hope the Pan-Orthodox Synod in 2015 addresses the very important issue of calendar and that we all might be able to sanctify the year with the major feasts on the same days. Meantime, I am personally enriched by the opportunity to experience both. That means for me a much more intense encounter with the Byzantine Liturgy at Christmas time, this year again as celebrated by the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.

For much less than the space of my lifetime, the Roman Rite has partially forgotten our millennial tradition of everyone praying together facing toward Christ, something which has not been lost to the Byzantine tradition. It is at these times that I understand very clearly just how much your average Roman Catholic Parish has lost. As any hardworking parish priest can affirm, liturgy albeit the "Source and Summit" is not everything. Catechesis has been sorely neglected over these decades as well, producing or contributing to the laxity, but there is no denying that the discursive style of most parish liturgy is diseducative. Any child will tell you that contemporary liturgy is made up by Father of a Sunday or Saturday, with or without the help of the ladies on the liturgical commission, who know next to nothing about what the Church has always and everywhere believed and taught.

I am profoundly grateful to be able to celebrate Mass here in the chapel of the Nunciature with respect for the rubrics ad Orientem. Most priests and bishops, with a bit of study and a little self-push to overcome inertia, would be wonderfully surprised by the benefits of this small change. Obviously, much more needs to be done. In the absence of the regular and worthy celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, I guess you could say that here in Ukraine one can also draw mutual enrichment from the "other lung", in this case, from the Byzantine tradition.

Let us pray that the Lord will show us His mercy and shine His Face upon us from on high!


  1. Your Excellency, do you have any advice right now about how a parish priest can begin to implement ad orientem celebration at parish Masses?

    1. It is something a priest needs to pray about for himself and for his people. He has a personal threshold which is what has kept him from being touched by Pope Benedict's words over the years. He needs to be confident in the rubrics, presiding from the sedilia for the Liturgy of the Word and turning properly the 3 times to address the people gathered. He needs to let the people share in his journey to embrace the better option.


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