Our Lady of Fatima and worship ‘ad orientem’

OLFatima-200For a while, in preparation for talk, I’ve been reviewing the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima.

I noticed something interesting.

Say that you are waiting for someone really important to arrive, perhaps someone you love.  You watch in the direction whence your expected love will come.

Say that your beloved is departing, though you long to spend more time together.  You watch your beloved go off until lost from sight.

Sound right?

For the first apparition, the children saw Our Lady standing on the holm oak.  When she left, she rose surrounded in light and disappeared into the East.  So the children were looking to the East.  This happened at the end of the other apparitions as well.

On 13 October 1917, for the “miracle of the Sun”, one of the observers, Fr. Joao Quaresma wrote:

“To my great astonishment I saw, clearly and distinctly, a luminous globe coming from the east and moving to the west, gliding slowly and majestically through space. With my hand I motioned to Monsignor Gois who was standing next to me, and who had been making fun of me for coming. Looking up he too saw this unexpected vision. Then suddenly this globe, giving off an extraordinary light, disappeared.”

From the earliest times Christians have believed that Christ would return from the East.  Given the hope of Christians to see the Lord whenever and however He comes, it makes sense for us all to face the symbolic, liturgical East.

I’m just sayin’.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. I offer the parish Mass (OF) every Saturday (and Tuesday) morning ad orientem. I didn’t know this, or I might have shared this in my homily. So I posted it to our Facebook page; thanks Father!

  2. Father G says:

    I, too, have been aware of the “ad orientem” reference in the Fatima apparitions and have mentioned it in my talks about Our Lady of Fatima to my parishioners.

    There is also an “ad orientem” reference in the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

    In the Nican Mopohua, this how it describes Saint Juan Diego’s first meeting with Our Lady : “He heard singing on the little hill, like the song of many precious birds; when their voices would stop, it was as if the hill were answering them; extremely soft and delightful; their songs exceeded the songs of the coyoltotl and the tzinitzcan and other precious birds…He was looking up toward the top of the hill, toward the direction the sun rises from,, toward where the precious heavenly song was coming from.”

    Other English translations put it as “He was looking toward the east…

  3. Rosary Rose says:

    Father, all my life I have struggled with receiving the Blessed Sacrament standing up when the Angel taught the children by prostrating himself before the Eucharist. If an Angel bows before Christ in the Eucharist, who am I to stand? I pray the Act of Reparation and beg God’s forgiveness for standing.

    There is an old Catholic tradition that will help increase personal awareness of Christ’s Presence. The tradition is to cross yourself (make the sign of the cross) every time you pass a Catholic Church. My parents would make the sign of the cross whenever they drove past a Catholic church because they were passing Jesus. I do it now and if someone is in the car with me, they usually ask why I’m doing it, and I explain that I am recognizing Jesus present in the church.

    In church, we should also bow when we pass the tabernacle. Every. Single. Time. (That is, if we can find the Tabernacle…)

  4. Simon_GNR says:

    Facing eastwards while celebrating Mass is good, but what about churches that are not correctly oriented? Facing “liturgical east” will have to do, I suppose.
    It dismays me that when our parish church was built in the late 1950’s, they had a large plot of land on which there was plenty of room to build a church on the proper east-west axis, but they chose to build it with the liturgical east actually being north-west. They made no attempt to build it on the correct alignment. They had the opportunity to follow the traditional layout but they chose not to. Ironically, the temporary corrugated iron “tin tabernacle” chapel that the new church replaced was correctly oriented east-west. Had I been a parishioner then – five years before I was born – I would have had something to say about the lack of respect for tradition.

  5. Simon_GNR says:

    Rosary Rose: “In church, we should also bow when we pass the tabernacle. Every. Single. Time. (That is, if we can find the Tabernacle…)”

    I thought the correct act of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle was a single genuflection (i.e down on one knee) and that a bow was the correct form of reverence towards an altar. (It irritates me when I see people genuflecting to an altar on or behind which there is no reserved Blessed Sacrament: they should be bowing if there’s no Blessed Sacrament and saving their genuflections for when they pass the tabernacle.)

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    That is interesting, thanks Fr. Z.

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