Offering of the Holy Mass ‘ad orientem’
Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
La Crosse, Wisconsin
12 December 2016
His Eminence, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, has announced that the Holy Mass at the Shrine will now regularly be offered with the priest facing the East or ad orientem. While individual priests, on pilgrimage to the Shrine, wishing to offer the Holy Mass facing the congregation or versus populum, may certainly do so, in accord with current Church discipline, the regular celebrations of the Holy Mass at the Shrine will be ad orientem.
In his homilies for both the Third Sunday of Advent and the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Cardinal Burke offered a catechesis regarding the orientation of the priest and people during the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass. He explained that the priest at the head of the congregation will, with the congregation, turn toward the Lord during the prayers and, above all, during the Eucharistic Prayer, in order to render more visible our recognition that it is Our Lord Himself Who inspires our prayer and Who acts during the Eucharistic Prayer to make sacramentally present His Sacrifice on Calvary for our eternal salvation. We all turn to Him; we all look to Him.
He further explained that the practice of the priest facing the congregation, which developed during the years after the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, was not in fact a discipline ordered by the Council. He observed that, while it may have seemed helpful at the time, it now seems fitting and indeed important to return to the ancient practice by which the union of the priest who offers the Sacrifice of the Mass, in the person of Christ, and the congregation is visible to us all and inspires in us a more ready recognition of Christ in our midst, as He is most fully and perfectly present in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Quoting Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, he explained that the teaching of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on the Sacred Liturgy does not speak of a change in the ancient discipline according to which “during the Rite of Penance, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and the Eucharistic Prayer, all, priest and faithful, should turn together towards the East, to express their desire to participate in the work of worship and of redemption accomplished by Christ.”
He explained that, returning to the ancient practice of the Church, we all face the East, we all face the Lord, during Sacred Worship. It is not a question of the priest turning his back to the faithful but rather directing himself, with the faithful, to Christ Who makes sacramentally present His Sacrifice for our eternal salvation. He expressed the hope that, purifying and enriching the liturgical practice at the Shrine, we will be one with Our Lady of Guadalupe in giving witness to the all-merciful love of God present, in a most extraordinary manner, in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
He also explained that facing our Lord in Sacred Worship gives form to our daily living. In everything that we think and say and do, we are to turn to the Lord. Each day, we devote ourselves anew to the conversion of our lives to Christ. We live, intently engaged in the life of the world, but always with our eyes fixed on heaven, on our true destiny and the final destiny of the world. We are called to worship and serve God. We are called to make Christ, not ourselves, the center of our lives, so that we truly serve God, directing our minds and hearts more and more toward Him with fidelity, generosity and obedience.