Eastward facing?!

After Communion on the Monday after the Baptism of Christ

After Communion on the Monday after the Baptism of Christ

In the light of my own priestly formation, and the publication of the Ordinariate missal, can the eastward celebration of mass be justified?

Let’s be clear that despite what many think Vatican II didn’t rule out eastward facing celebrations of the mass. It is true that the question was raised as to whether facing East alienated the people and engenders a sort of clericalism — a danger to be avoided. Yet most of the Vatican II documents still assumed that mass celebrated facing the people would be the exception rather than the rule. The general instructions of the ‘Missals’, since Vatican II, also assume that mass would be celebrated Eastwards. I make this point not to denigrate mass celebrated facing the people, with its emphasis on imminent theology, God appearing in the midst of us, but to highlight the legitimate celebration of the mass facing Eastwards, with it emphasis on transcended cosmic theology, in which we ascend to the worship of heaven.

When the priest offers Mass facing eastwards, he is not turning his back on the people to exclude them. Rather he faces the same direction as the people, because he and the people together are offering worship and sacrifice to God. As a Christian community, all are facing ad orientem (i.e. toward the east) waiting in joyful expectation for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ who will return to judge the living and the dead. The priest also offers Mass in Christ’s name and in His Person, in persona Christi (where the identity if the particular priest is unimportant), to God the Father (listen carefully to the words of the mass and note how much is addressed to God the Father), and is leading his people in adoration and worship. He is facing east, the rising sun, which is symbolic of the ‘New Jerusalem’ and he is leading his flock as the Good Shepherd does.

The position of the priest then was not meant to separate the clergy from laity. Rather, it has more to do with the understanding of the Cosmic Liturgy. In early Christianity, all Churches were “oriented” toward the east, meaning that if you were sitting in the pews as a parishioner facing the altar, you would be pointing east. The rising of the Sun was seen in the early Church as a powerful symbol of the rising of the Son, Jesus Christ, from the tomb (ergo, the importance of a “Sunrise Service” on Easter Sunday). In light of this, (no pun intended) the priest and people would face east to symbolically “orient” their prayers to the risen Christ, not seeing the Sun as a god, but allowing the Sun to be a powerful symbol of the risen Christ.

To quote St. Augustine: “When we rise to pray, we turn east, where heaven begins. And we do this not because God is there, as if He had moved away from the other directions on earth…, but rather to help us remember to turn our mind towards a higher order, that is, to God.”

Fr Neil

The Ordinary writes on the Jubilee Year of Mercy

The Ordinary, the Rt Revd Msgr Keith Newton PA

The Ordinary, the Rt Revd Msgr Keith Newton PA

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

On Tuesday, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at St Peter’s Basilica inaugurating the Jubilee Year of Mercy. During the year the Holy Father calls on us to gaze upon and experience the mercy that God freely offers, so that we may then be signs of the Father’s love and mercy to the world around us. Pope Francis, in Misericordiae vultus, the document which announced this Holy Year, tells us that ‘the practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year’. He goes on to say a pilgrimage represents our journey through life and reminds us that God’s mercy is a goal to reach through dedication and sacrifice.

Pilgrimage holds a special place in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. For many of us, pilgrimages to the shrine from which we take our name have been central to our spiritual life. Our entry into the full communion of the Catholic Church was in itself a pilgrimage – travelling together, often at some personal cost, to answer God’s call and to receive His grace. It is natural therefore that pilgrimage should be at the heart of our observance of the Year of Mercy.

For this Year of Mercy we have arranged a programme of pilgrimages. Alongside the pilgrimage to Rome and Loreto in May which has been announced previously, there will be two national events and four regional pilgrimages. The national events are the annual summer pilgrimage to Walsingham and an October pilgrimage to the shrine of Blessed John Newman in Birmingham (replacing for this year the Westminster festival). I very much encourage all of you to do your best to support these two important acts of witness. I hope, too, that you will be able to take part in one or more of the regional pilgrimages in Holywell, Crediton, St Andrews and Arundel. Pilgrimage booklets are being designed and there will be a DVD explaining pilgrimages and indulgences.

Other material being prepared for the Jubilee year includes devotions for the 24 Hours for the Lord, which the Holy Father has asked to be observed in Lent in all dioceses, and an Ascensiontide Novena. Again I would encourage you to participate fully in these initiatives which I am sure will be a great opportunity for us grow in faith together and to take our full part in the Church’s celebration of our Father’s boundless mercy.

With the assurance of my prayers,

Yours in Christ,

The Rt Revd Mgr Keith Newton

Advent viewed by an amateur astronomer.

This term our home ed. student has been studying astronomy, which means we stumbled on the “Catholic Astronomer” blog. In amongst posts on asteroid mining and telescopes there is on, this week on Advent. It is a beautiful reflection by a priest who also enjoys astronomy as a hobby. It is well worth a few minutes to read. Fr Neil said he thinks it should be required reading (Astronomy and theology test is on Sunday after mass!)

Divine Worship: The Missal — Mass in the Ordinariate Use

Divine Worship: the MissalDivine Worship: The Missal was formally promulgated for use from Advent Sunday, and Mass will be celebrated in the Ordinariate Use on Mondays at 7:30 in the Lady Chapel at Our Lady of Ransom Church, starting on Monday 30 November with the Feast of St Andrew.

It brings into modern Catholic worship as a permanent fixture ancient texts such as the Leonine Collect for Purity and the post-Reformation Prayer of Humble Access; things of the Anglican tradition which are now welcomed as “treasures to be shared”. It’s been approved for the three existing Personal Ordinariates in Britain (Our Lady of Walsingham), Australasia (Our Lady of the Southern Cross) and North America (The Chair of Peter), and will be used by future Ordinariates, too. The text allows melodies to be used such as that written by John Merbecke for the first English Prayer Book of Edward VI in 1560, or Martin Shaw’s English Folk Mass, which will be familiar to many former and present Anglicans.

But it’s not an Anglican liturgy — it’s a truly Roman liturgy, approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship, which has identified the Anglican patrimony which can be shared. All communicant Catholics can attend and participate and receive the sacrament at a Mass celebrated in this form; and where it’s celebrated on a Sunday it will satisfy the Sunday obligation. It will be used for the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at 11:30pm at St Gregory’s Church.

Fr Mark Lewis of St Luke’s Ordinariate Parish in Washington DC told the Catholic Register that the Divine Worship missal sends a powerful signal to Anglicans that they can become Catholics and keep their Anglican patrimony, which is now permanently grounded in the Catholic Church.

“With this missal, it gives us stability. We’re going to be here — this is forever,” he said. The stability of the liturgy will not only help parishes evangelize, but also provide a bridge for Anglicans that have taken a wait-and-see posture toward joining the Church.

Father Lewis said the approved variation of the Roman rite also sends a powerful message to the entire Church that the faithful in the Ordinariate are “solid Catholics, faithful to the magisterium and the teachings of the Church” and are here to stay.

Advent Carol Service

This year the Advent Carol Service will follow the said Mass on the First Sunday of Advent, 29 November. Mass starts at 4:00pm, and the Carol Service at around 4:30.

Come and start Advent with traditional readings and music. As well as old favourites for everyone such as O come, O come Emmanuel and Lo, he comes with clouds descending, our music group will be contributing the Advent Prose Rorate Caeli, Walford Davies’ setting of The Lamb and a new setting of I sing of a Maiden.

And of course, there is the obligatory opportunity for seasonal refreshments afterwards, to which all are welcome.

The Calais Jungle

On Saturday 10th October I made a visit with a friend to the migrant camp in Calais called the Jungle and a return visit was made on 7th November.

I had heard much and read lots of contradictory things about this camp via the media. The Jungle is not a new phenomenon. I made contact with those who are working in the camp on a regular basis, some for more than 20 years, although the number of migrants has grown enormously in the last couple of years and there is an estimated 6,000 migrants at the moment.

I have really enjoyed camping and especially at music festivals but am glad of a bath/shower and a comfortable bed at the end of a long weekend’s camping. The Jungle is similar in that most people are sleeping in tents, often donated from music festivals that people just leave behind. Camping in the mud and cold for a long weekend is one thing — living like that for nine months to a year is something else altogether, but normal for the Jungle residents.

Heating, cooking, washing and toilet use is an ongoing problem. There is one toilet per 150–200 people. The standpipes for water are not near the chemical loos. Hygiene is problematic. Warmth and cooking is mostly done by burning scraps of wood gathered from wherever it can be found. It’s more difficult to burn as lots of it is wet from the rain. Cholera and dysentery are a real danger. Trench foot and septic wounds are not uncommon. One meal a day for about 1,500 residents is provided by the French government; many others rely on the charities who hand out food bags on a regular basis.

Yet despite the terrible conditions the human spirit is amazing because in the midst of this ‘Jungle’ a few little shops and restaurants have appeared; there are two churches and a number of small mosques, a library and a small school, all run by the camp residents themselves. A part of the camp has taken on the look of a small African market.

Most of the camps residents are younger men but over the last few months there has been a growing number of women and children as well as young teenage boys who have travelled alone — there is an obvious vulnerability for this group of people.

We spent most of our time then at the library and school. Two amazing guys set up and run this. The provision of food is essential, but means by which they are able to express their dignity were equally as important. The library needs language dictionaries. The school needed insulation, white boards and pens, and the floor finishing off. All the materials for this were delivered on the second visit and made the school a warmer place to meet in the winter months. However, the school is set up for adults, and the growing number of children also need a school — but putting the two together is not a good idea. Children need a separate safe space for educational play.

There are a number of ways we can help:

Firstly always pray — actions that arise out of prayer and contemplation are enduring.

The charities rely on volunteers who give a couple of days to several months. Most of the volunteers are British doing general work of sorting and distributing, and who bring more particular skills such as builders and teachers of languages.

Lobby the government to increase the number of refugees to be admitted to this country.

Can we as the Ordinariate raise £3,500 to build a small school room for the children to learn and play together and find a couple of people with some general building experience to help? Time is pressing and we are due to go out again Friday 11–12th December. Any donations to Central funds mark ‘Calais Jungle’ and Cyril will set aside a restricted fund. Cheques should be made out to OOLOW Eastbourne and sent to Flat 2, Elms Meade, 7 Meads Road, Eastbourne BN22 7DT.

Many thanks
Fr Neil