A blessed Trinity Sunday to you all! My name is Joseph Brown, and I will be one of the summer helpers this year. In fact, this will be my second summer here; four years ago, I worked for Fr. Scott before attending The Catholic University of America, from which I have just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. Thank you for welcoming me (back) to the parish for the summer. I hope to grow in faith and sanctity with you over the coming months!
One thing I wanted to reflect on this Sunday is the Holy Liturgy. At some point, we will pass from this earthly life and, pray God, enter purgatory where we will be purified, so that we may be able to see God face to face. We will join the angels and saints in the heavenly worship of God, the true heavenly liturgy. The Church gives us the earthly liturgy as a way to participate in Christ’s perfect worship of the Father, as they are essentially the same one act of Christ at work. This is why the ordained priest is the only one who can offer the Mass. He is configured in a special way to Christ to be able to perform the same act of worship once completed by Christ on the Cross, albeit in a sacramental manner, not in a bloody manner.
One way the Holy Liturgy teaches us is through its deeply meaningful symbolic actions and postures. The tradition at this parish has been to celebrate Mass with the priest facing the tabernacle during the Christmas and Easter seasons. Though it may seem like the priest has his back to the people, this is an ancient practice called ad orientem, which is Latin for “toward the east.” Traditionally, Churches were built on the east to west axis, with the altar facing the east, the rising sun, to symbolize that we are in waiting for Christ, the true Sun, to rise over the earth and dispel the darkness. This means that the priest is not facing “away from the people” but that the priest and the faithful are facing in the same direction, the priest leading the people to God. Just like Christ ascended into heaven, not to distance Himself from us, but to show us that where He has gone first, (heaven!) we, too, will soon follow.
In conclusion, when the priest faces God to celebrate the Mass, we can be assured that where the priest goes first, we, too, will follow. The priest and faithful stand together facing God, to show that through the Mass, we will be drawn into the heavenly liturgy where we will be face to face with God, perfectly incorporated into Christ’s self-offering to the Father.