Since the changes to the Mass, following Vatican II, almost everywhere you go the priest is facing the people. However, in the Roman Missal itself, there are rubrics (the directions) that tell the priest when to face the people. This was a very unfortunate change, that had a profound effect on Catholic worship. For many, it became as Pope Benedict wrote in his book “The Spirit of the Liturgy”, there is a danger that “The turning of the priest toward the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is locked into itself.” In many places, this has in fact happened. The Mass is more about the music, the priest and the activity of the laity. Father feels that he has to entertain the congregation, or they may not return.
For a number of years, my weekday Masses have been celebrated Ad Orientem, and this year I thought the time was finally ripe for our Christmas Masses to be celebrated facing the Lord also. In my decisions to do this, I talked out loud with a few people. On told me that his experience at one of our weekday Mass was that he felt that he “wasn’t left out”.
I once read another priest’s explanation of Ad Orientem as a priest driving a bus and you wouldn’t want to driver to face you as he’s driving, because we are all going in the same direction. I would like to add to that analogy. In the novus ordo, the readings are proclaimed facing the people. It is like the bus driver before the journey. Everyone is gathered together and they talk about where they are going, that is the Liturgy of the Word and homily. Once they know where they are going, and get into the bus, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest faces the same direction as the people. We are “going to the Lord, who is coming to us.”
I believe there is nothing like ad oriented. Ad Orientem helps to increase reverence in the Mass and takes the focus off us, so that we can keep the focus where it should be, on Him!
Here are a few pictures of my altar, (clicking will enlarge in a new window).