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Saint of the Day: Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati
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Ad Orientem and Versus Populum both make sense

Simcha Fisher - published on 05/14/14

Here we see a cartoon meant to illustrate why it “makes more sense” for the priest to be facing the altar and the crucifix, as he does when celebrating the Traditional  Latin Mass:

PIC ad orientam versus populum cartoon

I’ve seen this cartoon in various places, most recently here. It’s cute, but misleading. Recall what the catechism says:

1368The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church which is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and entire. She unites herself to his intercession with the Father for all men. In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.

When the priest and Christ crucified are both facing the same way, it brings out the idea that Christ allows us, with the priest as a mediator between heaven and earth, to share in the sacrifice that He re-presents to the Father.  This is particularly obvious during the Elevation, when the priest raises the consecrated Host above his head, and the congregation makes a profound bow.

It’s an error to refer to Ad Orientem as “the priest with his back to the people”; but it’s also an error to refer to Versus Populum as “the priest with his back to God.” Each orientation is a valid way to celebrate Mass, and both expresses something true, mystical, and profound about what is happening.

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