Saturday, October 25, 2008
“Ad orientem” is from “oriens” meaning “the rising sun” -- thus “the East” or “the dawn” – and with the preposition “ad” ( “to” or “towards”).
In the Early Church the bodily posture of priest and people at the “Eucharistia” was a symbol of Christian hope. Jesus Christ was identified with the dawn and rising sun. And as such His dawn (rising from the dead and then coming in glory) marks the consummation of all things and the restoration of Paradise (Eden lies in “the east”). Not only the celebrant but the whole assembly, united in the one body of Christ, looked to the risen Lord who shall come in glory to restore all things. The eucharistic feast is in anticipation of the messianic banquet at the consummation.
So “ad orientem” is not the priest being bad mannered with his back to the people, but it is the whole people of God looking with awe and joy at the resurrected Lord Jesus and in expectation and hope looking for his coming in glory.