In the recent number of the UK’s best Catholic weekly, the Catholic Herald, there is a blurb which informs us that Benedict XVI contributed some text for a book on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the election of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew. Benedict wrote about how eastward-facing worship points to salvation.
The Pope Emeritus has praised worship ad orientem in a book which celebrates the 25th anniversary of the election of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
In his book extract, the retired Benedict XVI writes: “A shepherd of the flock of Jesus Christ is never oriented only to the circle of his own faithful. The community of the Church is universal, also in the sense that it includes all of reality.”
He continues: “This is evident, for example, in the liturgy, which does not indicate only the commemoration and fulfilment of the saving acts of Jesus Christ.
“It is journeying towards the redemption of all creation. In orienting the liturgy towards the East (the Orient), we see that Christians, together with the Lord, desire to proceed towards the salvation of creation in its entirety. Christ, the Crucified and Risen Lord, is at the same time also the ‘sun’ which enlightens the world.”
Turning, re-turning, our liturgical worship ad orientem – having priest and people in unity facing the symbolic East – will help to revive our long-enervated Catholic identity.
In his last years, and in the midst of recent controversy, Benedict chooses to remind us of what he has written of for many years and which he also strove to promote also through his monumental Summorum Pontificum.
I cannot imagine that Benedict does not know of the controversy surrounding Card. Sarah’s perfectly reasonable and measured appeal to priests to begin (again) to celebrate Holy Mass ad orientem. Surely he knows well what Card. Sarah did and how many have reacted. His choice to write even a brief comment about ad orientem worship is, to my mind, significant.