Robert Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Worship of the Catholic Church, recently pleaded with bishops around the world to resume worship Ad Orientum. Ad Orientum, or facing the liturgical east, for the entire congregation to include the priest was how the Catholic Church worshiped until Vatican II. The local changes made to have priests face the congregation, and turn their back on the tabernacle is a matter of great controversy.
In the traditional Catholic Solemn High Mass the priest always says mass Ad Orientum. Priests may also offer mass Ad Orientum under the Norvos Ordo (or Vatican II mass). Vatican II documents never explicitly directed bishops to have priests face the congregation during mass. This liturgical change it happened “on its own” along with a whole host of other changes. The controversy around this is very rich, and I am only beginning to understand the various historical positions.
I’ve heard many compelling theological arguments supporting Ad Orientum, however I wanted to reduce this to the lowest level of natural law I could in my head. So I looked at the behavior of a child to see what would our natural inclinations be in this situation. I used the example of my five children as infants to see if I could discern a pattern of some sort.
When a child awakes from a nap, wherever they are, they call for their parents. The child will have at least one or more needs after walking: cleaning, hunger, loneliness, being too cold or hot. The child will cry out. First as a whimper, then as a scream until they get some attention. When you come to “rescue” the child, they will almost always be looking our direction. Standing, sitting, climbing it will not matter. They will be looking for you as they call out.
In a way, Ad Orientum worship is not much different than a child awakening. When we go to church we all need cleansing, nourishment, companionship and comfort to continue on our journey to heaven. The priest, the servers, the laity are all just children in the eyes of God. So when we call out to the Father in prayer we should all be looking in the direction he is coming from. This is what Ad Orientum means, looking towards the spiritual east the direction which God will come.
It does not sound like such a bad idea.