I had offered the Novus Ordo Mass ad orientem occasionally in convent chapels, but never on a regular basis in a parish. Now that it has become the norm in my parish, I’ve discovered a few things. For one, I have come to relish both speaking to the people and speaking to God within the Mass. Before, the distinction between immanence (addressing your peers) and transcendence (addressing the Completely Other) was lost. Now the two dynamics of sacred worship have come into sharp focus. Now I turn to the people with a more precise intentionality, and I think they more intentionally respond. The congregation is a bit awakened when the priest turns to face them, to look at them and say directly “lift up your hearts.” Likewise, I turn to the altar to pray to God with greater focus and intention. I enjoy a greater freedom, a deeper peace in looking up into the large crucifix, the marble archwork, the stained glass above me.
These more precise liturgical movements clarify what I’m doing at what moment. When I’m praying the Eucharistic prayer, in the name of the people, I can almost feel their prayers streaming through me to the Father. I feel like a true priest, standing on their behalf before the throne of mercy, facing the seat of judgement as first among equals. The directness with which I now pray the Eucharistic prayer has surprised me. The personal enjoyment I feel with the people in those moments of dialogue is refreshing. In praying the Mass this way, I feel at once closer to God and closer to the people. It’s really beautiful.