Due to the many events occurring in the parish and the travels that I have had to do; it has been awhile since my last article. In my most recent articles we were looking at the Liturgy and the importance of “Ad Orientem”. Recently we have been having readings from St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews. I always say that this letter should be Paul’s letter to the Hebrew or Levite priests. It is his defense of the new covenant and he invites them to be a part of it. The vast majority convert and many of the liturgical customs that we still observe today come from the Jewish liturgical rites in function shortly before this time.
In the Book of Exodus chapters 25-33, we can read the liturgical directions that God gives the Israelites through Moses. We see in chapter 33/7-11 how Moses would walk through the camp and all the people would rise and stand at the entrance to their tents, just like we stand in the pews for the entrance procession of the priest. Moses would go into the Meeting Tent to speak to the Lord and the people could not see him and then the column of smoke (we use incense to represent this) would settle before the entrance of the meeting tent as Moses spoke to God face to face. The people could neither see nor hear what their high-priest Moses was doing in the Meeting Tent, but they prayed awaiting his return.
There are 24 rites in the Catholic Church and then within the Latin Rite we have the Extraordinary Form, the Gallican family of rites (4), The Personal Ordinate of the Anglican Tradition, the Zaire Use, some of the older religious orders have their own rites (6), and then there are nine defunct rites, and three lesser distinct rites belonging to other religious orders which brings the total to 48. All of these rites have many things in common and that commonality comes from the liturgical traditions that had developed among the early Christians in the Holy Land before the faith began to spread throughout the world. One of the commonalities all the rites shared until 1970 was “Ad Orientem”. When we started “ad populum” at that time we began to set ourselves apart from the rest of our Catholic brethren around the world.