Now that the dust has settled somewhat following Cardinal Robert Sarah's controversial, but really not-so controversial, comments on the Sacrifice of the Mass being celebrated ad orientem, it seems to be like a good time to reflect on what’s happened. For those wondering, ad orientem means to “face the East”, and in the context of the Mass, it stands in contrast to versus populum (facing the people), meaning that the priest and congregation face the same direction during the prayers of the Liturgy. It should be noted that not all altars in every church are oriented towards the East, but the Church recognizes this as “liturgical East”, and both congregation and clergy still face the same way when worshiping our Lord. To see Cardinal Sarah’s talk in full, you can read it in full here. The most relevant part of his address is as follows, emphases mine:
“I want to make an appeal to all priests… I believe that it is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction—Eastwards or at least towards the apse—to the Lord who comes, in those parts of the liturgical rites when we are addressing God. This practice is permitted by current liturgical legislation. It is perfectly legitimate in the modern rite. Indeed, I think it is a very important step in ensuring that in our celebrations the Lord is truly at the centre.
“At this point I repeat what I have said elsewhere, that Pope Francis has asked me to continue the liturgical work Pope Benedict began. Just because we have a new pope does not mean that his predecessor’s vision is now invalid. On the contrary, as we know, our Holy Father Pope Francis has the greatest respect for the liturgical vision and measures Pope Benedict implemented in utter fidelity to the intentions and aims of the Council Fathers.”Since these remarks have been made, a lot fuss was made about nothing. Cardinal Sarah was correct in stating that “this practice is permitted” already. Indeed, there are several parishes that celebrate the Ordinary Form (OF) of the Mass ad orientem. Many people erroneously think that only those who participate in Mass in the Extraordinary Form (EF, or Traditional Latin Mass) are permitted to face towards the altar. A good example contrary to this assumption would be Mother Angelica’s recent funeral, were the Mass was said ad orientem, in the OF, and with plenty of Latin interspersed throughout the Liturgy, as called for by the various documents of the Second Vatican Council.
You can find the rest here.