Last week we saw Church law concerning the posture of the priest “ad populum” as compared to “ad orientem,” there in the document that I quoted it clearly states that both are permitted, but when Cardinal Estevez goes on to say that when the priest faces the people we have to understand that the reason for this is not to make the community the primary focus of the liturgy. So if that cannot be the reason to face the people—I ask; why face them? This pronouncement by the Cardinal eliminates any reason for the priest to face the people during Mass, it also underlines the advantage of the “ad orientem” posture: it helps to remember that we are all facing God during the liturgy, not each other.
Pope Benedict, while still Cardinal Ratzinger and head of the Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith (the Divine Office), wrote a book which was published also in the year 2000 called “The Spirit of the Liturgy.” In chapter three of this book he points out the importance of celebrating Mass “ad orientem” and explains many of the reasons why the Church always did that until 1970 and why this should return to be our practice. His main argument is that when the priest is facing the people and the people the priest are facing each other, they enter into a closed circle of communication which closes itself to eternity. “Ad orientem” opens us all to eternity as we look, together, upon the Crucifix and Tabernacle.
Congregatio de Cultu Divino, ‘Responsa ad quaestiones de nova Institutione Generali Missalis Romani,’ CCCIC 32 (2000): 17172. Suprisingly, it has been published, no in Notitiae, but in Communicationes, the official publication of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legal Texts. The English translation is taken from Adoremus Bulletin Online Edition, vol. 6, no 9 (December 2000 January 2001), (www.adoremus.org/12-0101cdw-adorient.html — accessed 30 December 2018).