Tag Archives: Ad Orientem

God the Father — The Forgotten Person of the Most Holy Trinity

By Br. Alexis Bugnolo

One of the most serious deficiencies in modern Catholic literature regards the lack of emphasis, as is due, on God the Father. I do not mean on God, as Father, or on God, as a father, but on the First Person of the Most Blessed Trinity: God the Father. I say this because nearly all modern errors seem to me to have arisen because we Catholics are weak in our devotion to God the Father.

(Here I use devotion in the sense of time spent praying to, not as regards loyalty or faith).

So, as a son of Saint Francis, whose entire vocation began with his decision to leave everything behind and take God as his father,  I want to give you some reflections on this Most Important of all Persons in Heaven and Earth.

The First Person

God the Father is the First Person of the Most Holy Trinity. — You probably have heard that 1000 times in your life. But what does it mean?

Yes, it does mean that when we name the Persons in the Most Holy Trinity, we name the Father, first of all of  Them. And it does mean that we do this, because Jesus spoke this way, on the day He was about to ascend into Heaven and gave the Great Mandate to the Apostles and His Disciples, saying:

All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. . (Mathew 28:19-20)

But it means more than that. And this part is not frequently explained to the faithful, due to the abysmal state of formation given priests in seminary. — I draw what I am about to say from Saint Bonaventure’s Commentary on the First Book of Sentences of Master Peter Lombard which is in its English translation about 850 pages long.

Because the First Origin

God the Father is the First Person principally because He is the First Origin. Or as the Fathers say, He is the Origin without an origin.

God the Father is the First Origin because from Him alone there proceed both of the other Divine Persons. — I say alone, here, in reference to 2 together — That is, there is no other Divine Person from Whom there proceeds 2 persons.  From the Son, there proceeds 1 Person — the Holy Spirit — and from the Holy Spirit there proceeds 0 Divine Persons. It counts down, 2, 1, 0. That makes the Father the First Origin and the Origin of Origins, because God the Son is the Origin of the Holy Spirit and God the Holy Spirit is the Origin of all living spirits and souls, as the Fathers say.

Paternity and Originality

The awesome Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity which God has revealed to us in the preaching of Jesus Christ, and into which we are reborn in Baptism when the life of the Holy Trinity comes to dwell in us by sanctifying grace, is something Which we should meditate on every day and at every moment of our lives, since such attention is the very essence of true religion and true adoration. — To no other nation has God made Himself known in such an intimate and totally correct manner: not even to the Jews of old, His Chosen People!

So let us contemplate God the Father briefly.

He is the Origin of origins, since from Him there proceeds the Eternal Son and the Eternal Holy Spirit.   They Each proceed from Him from all eternity, and there is never a moment when They were Not proceeding from Him. Yet Both and Each of Them has proceeded from Him perfectly and completely and there is no becoming nor anything in process of becoming in the processions of Each.

The Scholastics say that this is the great reason on account of which the Eternal Son taught us to name the First Person, the Father, so that we might understand that just as our own fathers are the first cause and principle of our own personal existence, in conceiving us, so the Eternal Father is the First Cause and Principle in the Holy Trinity.

This Firstness or priority, is not according to time. Each of the Divine Persons are equally co-eternal. It regards, as I said, that the Father is the Source of Two, which is more being the source of Persons, than the Other Two Persons enjoy.  This priority in being a cause or origin is called Authorship.  English is one of the few languages which is blessed to have the word, authorship — which means the quality or status of being the author of something. Authorship is the English translation of one of the senses of the Latin word, auctoritas, which is normally translated, authority. In many translations of the Fathers of the Church or even of Saint Thomas, the English translators err by rendering it as authority. Because if you say that the Father has more authority than the Son, you fall into the heresy of subordinationism, which held that the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity are not perfectly equal in dignity and power to one another.

But to say that the Father is First and Preeminent in Authorship is exactly true and rightly said. And this is why it is essential to our Holy Faith to give a special esteem to God the Father, in His Paternity — a word which means the quality or status of being a father.

Paternity and Authorship are concepts which explain one another and which cannot be separated. They also explain why men who have no sense of paternity, are men with deficient comprehension of their own masculinity. Because to be masculine according to the order of nature in man is to be an author, and not just a co-author, because it is that which the father contributes which decides whether the child is male or female. So in this, a human father, every human father, is more an author than the mother, and thus enjoys, in a manner analogous, but very remote, a primacy in authorship like God the Father.

This is the profound theological, philosophical, biological and mystical reason why only male human beings can become priests in the Catholic Religion. Because it is the duty of the Priest to take the place of the Son, Who in His masculinity reflects the Paternity of the Father from Whom He comes and according to Whom He is the Perfect Image and Word and expression of communion with God the Father.

This is also the reason that celibate and chaste men alone perfectly suit the priesthood of Christ, because just as the Father begets without a female or carnal principle, so the Priest reflects perfect communion with the Eternal Father when he takes to himself no wife, no companion and no sort of flesh.

Infinite in Wisdom and Charity

If we would like to, as it were, get to know the Person of God the Father, we need to contemplate that He is the eternal source of Infinite Wisdom and Charity. This is not only because He is God, Who is Wisdom and Charity, but because He generates Divine Wisdom in begetting the Son and Holy Charity in breathing forth the Holy Spirit.

You see, the Father is so Good, that He simply cannot give in measures. He gives all. He has the simplicity to give all and not hold back anything, and everything He does is holy and good and everlasting. He is not about casual friendships. He loves from eternity to eternity. He is not about half truths. He speaks forth infinite Knowledge. He is not about solitude. From Him come forth the other Two of the Trinity, Which finds its cause, as it were, in the Father alone.

A Father to imitate

It follows that we Catholics, being reborn as adopted sons of the Eternal Father when we were baptized into Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, are called to imitate Our Father in Heaven. This is our essential duty. This is the sum total of our Catholic Religion. I explained this the other day, in my reflections on the Our Father.

This is why it is a GREAT offence when the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not offered to God the Father and when this objective of the Mass is not clearly signified by the direction in which the priest offers. A priest cannot signify this if he faces in a direction which is inside the congregation. If some allowance can be made, it is only in those Basilicas which were built facing the East. Otherwise it can only be well signified, unambiguously that is, when the priest faces to the apex of the nave, away from the congregation, as all priests did for 1940 years, until Pope Paul VI allowed the diabolic innovation of facing the congregation.

We should, rather, imitate the Father in being preoccupied in speaking the Truth, His Son, and all other truths by holding fast to them and acquiring knowledge of them, as our duty in life requires and as our salvation needs. We should imitate the Father in being preoccupied in loving everyone with our whole heart, that is generously and truly and not in appearances, seeking the salvation of all.

We gravely fail our duty as adopted sons, therefore, when we lie or hate others. Worse of all, when we hurl lies at others to insult them, tear them down and destroy their reputations.

The concealment of the Primacy, Authority, Authorship and Priority of the Eternal Father is also the most grave sin of our age. Fathers who do not act like men,  fathers who do not teach their sons to be men and their daughters to be women. Fathers who do not rule their families in wisdom and truth. Fathers who do not come to the aid of the State by serving in public offices as true men and true fathers. Men who do not  act like fathers in caring for and protecting the Church. Men who do not act like men in all their affections and personal relations.

And all of us, in tolerating all these sins and abuses.

The Father must be obeyed

Finally, it is not a coincidence but rather a profound mystery, that it is the Father who revealed the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. This is because, since Infinite Truth in the Eternal Word and Infinite Love in the Eternal Spirit come forth from the Father, it is right that the Fathers of the Church attribute to God the Father, the giving of the Law principally, because it is through laws that fathers express their love and concern for their children, to both instruct them in goodness and protect them from evils.

Obedience to the Eternal Father is the true spirit of Christianity. And this is why the Church is Hierarchical, with a Pope, Bishops and Priests ruling the adopted children of the Father. This is also why Holy Mother Church, through Canon Law, and Our Lady, through Her example and apparitions, teaches us obedience and shows us which is our true Pope and which is a false usurper.

The false sons who rebel against the true Father in Heaven, therefore, are known by their ignoring of Canon Law and their usurpation of the offices of Pope, Bishop and priest. While the true sons of the Eternal Father are shown in those who humbly like little children accept Canon Law for what is it and always was, and words as the expression of determinate truth, not what-ever-I-want-to-be-truth.

Our Father, Who art in Heaven

Hallowed be Thy Name! — Our Lord, Jesus Christ, gave us the remedy for all these problems, we need to get back to praying to the Father and to praying the Our Father, to making the imitation of the Eternal Father our religion and in putting everything else in order and subordinated to Him. Stop calling anything good. Only one is Good, God alone.

As the First Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Origin of Origins, the Eternal Father, full of Wisdom and Charity, is the Personification of Goodness. If we seek true goodness we will find true blessedness. And we cannot find it elsewhere than in the bosom of God the Father, that is, in being for Him alone true sons, worthy to be taken into His lap and eternal Embrace!

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Ad orientem, the Catholic & Apostolic thing to do!

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Rome, July 8, 2016 A.D.:  His Eminence, Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, has called upon all priests of the Roman Rite to return to praying the Mass ad orientem.

Ad orientem, is the Latin for “facing the East”.  In matters liturgical, it means facing the Tabernacle placed at the center of the narthex of the Sanctuary, that is the point on the central axis between the High Altar and the back of the Church.  Though, technically, in Major Basilicas, the doors of which open to the East, it means facing the main doors, as the Pope does at the Basilica of St. Peter and St. John Lateran, at Rome.

Ad orientem, means, thus, that the priest when he offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, would be facing away from the congregation, in most churches, and showing them his back.

Here are some sound reasons, to heed the Cardinal’s invitation:

  1. He is the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, hence it must be presumed he has the Pope’s permission to issue this invitation, therefore, not to, would signify disrespect at the least, for proper ecclesiastical authority.
  2. He is the most eminent member of the College of Cardinals from Africa, so not to heed his invitation might make some thing that one is a racist, like Cardinal Kasper.
  3. Catholics and even all the Orthodox, have faced ad orientem, during Mass for 1965 years.  The practice only was attacked after Vatican II, by the bad example of Paul VI, who tolerated and practiced this.
  4. Ad orientem, has always been the liturgical law in the Roman Rite, even the rubrics presuppose this, but priests have been constrained by political forces in the Church, and often threaten gravely with spiritual, legal and physical violence if they kept this tradition.
  5. This practice is more biblical, because when Our Lord Ascended into Heaven, He ascended into the East, and the Apostles and Disciples gazed for a long time to the East to see if Our Lord would immediately come back.
  6. This practice is more eschatological, for when the Mass is offered in this direction, the whole congregation of the faithful show that they are awaiting the imminent return of the Lord, at the end of time.
  7. This practice is more theological, because the Priest faces the Son and the Father, in the Holy Spirit, and the congregation worships the Triune God with the Priest.
  8. This practice is more mystical, because the priest, and the congregation with him, turns to God, face to face, as Moses did on Mt. Horeb, when the living God revealed Himself for the first time, face to face to a human being.
  9. This practice is more prayerful, since by facing in this way, there are less distractions, and the dialogue of prayer, which should be directed solely to God, is directed solely to God.
  10. This practice is more priestly, because the priest has the intimacy of praying to God without distractions and with his own face veiled to the people, as it were, since they cannot see him face on; while the faithful join him in the same attitude of prayer, sharing in it in their own way.
  11. This practice is more ecclesiological, because priest and faithful pray in the same direction in unity.
  12. This practice is more pastoral, because it manifests evidently to all the faithful that the Mass is a prayer to God.
  13. This practice will promote vocations, because men and altar boys will recognize more clearly that the role of the priest is not to be an actor before men, but a priest before God, and that the Mass is a solemn act of sacrifice and worship, not a stage for entertainment.
  14. This practice will promote reverence, because facing God in this way removes all need for showing off to the congregation, and obstructs it.
  15. This practice will promote mass attendance, because the faithful, wearied throughout the week by their mundane duties, will at last have the most important moment of their week, the prayer of the Canon of the Mass to themselves as a prayer time with God, their Lord, Savior and Redeemer, without distractions.
  16. This practice will promote the restoration of the Ancient Liturgies of the Church, because the silly language and non reverential rubrics promoted by the Aggiornamento will be more easily seen for the discordant realities that they are.
  17. But most importantly of all, Catholics always have prayed the Mass in this way, and if that or all these reasons are not enough, there is something gravely lacking in the faith of the local church and her pastors.

Priestly Solidarity and the Altar

Immagine 052Signs and Symbols are not reality, they signify or indicate it.  And a good sign or symbol indicates in a manner understood by all, that which it was intended to indicate.

There are many such signs and symbols in the Ancient Roman Rite which are not so easily understood today.  Part of this has to do with the great cultural changes which have taken place since the time of the Protestant Reformation and the French Revolution.  In the second, just mentioned, phase of cultural change, the slogan of the day was, “Equality, Liberty, Fraternity”.  In the name of a slogan, often what happens is the opposite of the slogan.  In the French Revolution, the slogan was practiced as if it meant, “Superiority for the Revolutionaries, Liberty to do as we please to our enemies, and Fraternity in homicide and the destruction of the State and Church.”

Egalitarianism is one of the doctrines which are consequent to the slogan of the French Revolution, “Equality!”.  So deep is this only-apparent value in French Society today, that you must beware when taking a train, because the first class car is not the first car in the train, it can be positioned anywhere among the many coaches.  When I happened to be in France a few years ago, I asked a Frenchman the reason for this bizarre practice, and he said, “We are a nation that abides by equality for all.  If the first class car was always first, it would mean that all others were second class citizens!”  To which I wryly remarked, “Well if equality is so important to the French, tell me, why is it that the First Class car is still called “First Class”?”

Egalitarianism seeks as a philosophy to affirm the equality of all, by means of symbols, which are not so apt; they are not so apt, because as a philosophy, Egalitarianism is not really about equality, it is about disorder.  Right order requires, as I mentioned in my previous post on the Short Treatise to Order and Disorder, a relation among superior and inferior, before and after, father to son, etc..  When you affirm that all should be equal in dignity or rights, then you are affirming that there should be no order.  That is why the slogan of the French Revolution was the slogan of a chaotic political movement which pushed the slaughter of thousands of noblemen and clergy and anyone else who decried its own barbarity.

In the recent history of the Catholic Church we have seen the pervading influence of modern culture, the culture in which we live, find its way into proposals regarding how the Church should be or is conducting its Mission in the world.  Some of these proposals have taken root in the manner in which the liturgy is conducted.  And one of these regards where the priest stands when offering the August Sacrifice of the Mass.

Now, to be a priest, is to be a mediator, and to be a mediator is to stand between the two things among which one mediates. As Aristotle remarked, a means participates in both extremes.  And commenting on this observation of the great Philosopher, St. Bonaventure drew out its conclusion regarding Christ’s own Priesthood:  to be our Mediator, the Son of God became man, so that having assumed a singular human nature, the Man Christ, the Eternal Word could occupy, as it were, a middle position between the Eternal Father and sinful humanity.

The Incarnation, therefore is signified by an intermediary position.  And thus, the priesthood’s proper role as mediator can rightly be signified by an intermediary position.  The Redemption, too, is signified by an intermediary position, because it is precisely when God become Man is put to death as a criminal, that the Son of God as Mediator takes the absolute position between the All Holy God and sinful humanity.  The position from which the great prayer of Christ upon the Cross obtained the Redemption of the world!

This is what, I believe, is signified in the ancient practice, found in all the liturgies of East and West, known in popular terms, today, as the position Ad Orientem.

When a priest offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass he must stand at the Altar.  If he stands at the Altar facing the people, the Altar is between him and the people.  If he stands Ad Orientem, the people are at his back, and he is between Altar and people.

Priestly Solidarity, that is the solidarity a priest should have with his people, as mediator for them with God, is signified well when he stands at the Altar and faces Ad Orientem, that is, toward the Tabernacle, the Aspe of the Church, the liturgical direction of God. Doing so, makes him take an intermediary, and hence sacerdotal position, the position of a mediator, who prays for AND with his flock, to God, supplicating Mercy, seeking pardon and grace.

Ad Orientem, therefore, can be seen as the optimum position for the priest offering sacrifice, for the mediator, for the sacerdos who wishes to stand together with Christ, in the most significant physical position possible, with the One who offered Himself on behalf of mankind to the Father, and who now offers Himself again for the flock gathered in prayer with His priest on earth.

In such wise, the Altar no longer divides priest and people; the priest no longer looks down upon his flock, but rather, with them, looks up to God. — Seen thus, it is easy to understand why the alteration of the position where the priest stands to offer the Sacrifice, affected the architecture of churches and the desire of architects to depart from the classical forms of Catholic church design (But I’ll leave that topic for another post).