I hope everyone is advancing well in their preparation of a gift for the Child Jesus on his birthday and preparing your hearts for his rebirth within you this Christmas. We have been talking about “Ad Orientem” and why it is such an important liturgical principle.
Historically, the Church has always celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass “Ad Orientem” or at least facing the liturgical east (the direction of the tabernacle and crucifix) until 1970. The “Sacramentary” (the title given to the Roman Missal that contained the new rite of Mass for the Latin Rite in 1970) has in the beginning a general set of rules for liturgical celebrations in our rite. It is known as the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, or abbreviated GIRM. In that section #299, “The altar should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible…”. One can easily surmise that “…desirable wherever possible…” is not an absolute mandate, and in fact the rubrics (the small red print intermittent in the Roman Missal) which give specific instructions about how to move and gesticulate as the prayers of the Mass are being said, state various times throughout the order of the Mass that the priest should turn and face the people when saying certain prayers or eliciting certain responses.
So we have an apparent contradiction. The GIRM telling us one thing and the rubrics stating another, as it is obvious that you cannot turn to face the people if you already are facing them, so the rubrics assume the priest is in the traditional posture facing the liturgical east with the people. So what should we do?
(to be continued)