The liturgy has little meaning for people who cannot comprehend its symbolism. Pope Francis laments the modern person, who has “lost the capacity to engage with symbolic action, which is an essential trait of the liturgical act” (Desiderio desideravi, 27).
The materialistic view of secular culture runs contrary to any sort of symbolic understanding of reality or nature. As a result of the eclipse of God, St. John Paul II contends in Evangelium Vitae that the world which was once viewed as mater has become merely matter (22).
In light of the fact that modern culture has lost its sense of symbolism and sacramentality, it seems incomprehensible that Fr. Raymond J. de Souza would argue for a return to the ancient practice of celebrating the liturgy toward the east (ad orientem). Yet as I continue to reflect upon Pope Francis’ call for the need for liturgical formation and greater attention to the ars celebrandi and Joseph Ratzinger’s theology of liturgy, the more I think the time has come for a more generous use of the normative practice of celebrating the liturgy ad orientem.
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Roland Millare serves as vice president for curriculum and program director of Shepherd’s Heart (a continuing education and formation program for priests and deacons) for the St. John Paul II Foundation, Houston, TX, and as an adjunct professor of theology for deacon candidates at the University of St. Thomas School of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary, Houston, TX. Roland earned a doctorate in sacred theology (STD) at the Liturgical Institute/University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, IL. He is the author of the book A Living Sacrifice: Liturgy and Eschatology in Joseph Ratzinger (Emmaus Academic).
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