Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ad Orientem in Oceanside, CA

Fr. Cávana Wallace, pastor of St. Margaret's in Oceanside, CA (just north of San Diego), has apparently begun offering mass ad orientem (Ordinary Form) during Advent. Occasionally when my wife and I would visit family in Vista, CA, we would attend mass at St. Margaret's, so we are familiar with the parish and with the pastor. Fr. Cávana had also begun offering a weekly TLM about a year ago. I am happy to hear the news. Here is what Fr. Cávana said during his homily for the First Sunday of Advent:
This watching and waiting, anticipating the Lord’s return, has historically been articulated throughout the Christian centuries in the language of sacred architecture. Since the fourth century which initiated Christian building projects all across the Roman Empire, churches were built so that, when Christians assembled in prayer, both priest and people prayed together facing the common direction of east. The priest and people did not look towards each other (except during a sermon or homily), but when they prayed, they did so with the priest, like a shepherd, leading his flock in the direction of the rising sun, turning around to assure his flock that they were on the right path and the Lord was with them.

The connection between the light of the rising sun and the glory of the returning Lord are themes which run through the whole season of Advent as well as instinctively during our early morning prayers throughout the whole year.

And even though our local geography does not allow us literarily to face east together in prayer, we use the Cross as our compass, restoring this ancient practice of the priest, like a shepherd, leading his people in the direction of the glory of heaven – which is, of course our common goal, our prayers directed to God.
Of course, this must be translated into our lives every day in order that we might be compatible with Christ so that we can see him, when he returns, face to face. When will that day come? We do not know. Will it come? Yes – for Christ has said he will return. “We watch in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ”.

When we entered through the doors of this church, the narthex pointed us through the darkness, in the direction of where we first encountered Christ, in baptism. Before this Altar we will turn to face the Lord together, and through Holy Communion we will literally “put on Christ”. At the end of Mass, with the dismissal, we will journey onward from here and pass under the “gallery”, depicting above us on the way out, the Lord’s Second Coming and the Final Judgment. And this we should not be afraid of. Our Advent journey does not take us into the night, but towards the morning. As St. Paul has reminded us in the Epistle, “The night is far gone; the day is drawing near. Let us cast aside deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light”. Ven Senor Jesus!
Good stuff.


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