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Every Advent (beginning of the liturgical year) we make some changes to our liturgical practice to go further up and further into the mysteries the Church has given us.
The most notable change this year is that the Mass, where possible, will be offered ad orientem or ad Deum instead of verso populo. This does not mean that the priest is going to "turn his back to us," as has sometimes been crudely attributed; it means, rather, that the priest is going to face the people when he is in dialog with them, and then face towards God (ad Deum) with and on behalf of the people when he is making prayer and petition to God, for the good of all the people.
If you had missed the bulletin articles, you can still check them out below. I've also included some common misunderstandings or objections with a different way to enter into this part of the liturgy. Your questions are always welcome: email@example.com.
Council of Vatican II did away with this...
There were many beautiful things written at the Council of Vatican II, especially the document on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), which made no mention of doing away with ad orientem or ad Deum. In fact, the document presupposed that this would continue as it had for the previous 1900 years.
But the early Church faced the people...
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later to become Pope Benedict XVI) noted in his book, the Spirit of the Liturgy, that with only a few rare exceptions, the Church has always and everywhere faced "East" together with the priest. Versus populum really started with Martin Luther.
Pope Francis doesn't allow it...
Not only does he allow it, he himself has offered the Mass numerous times ad Deum. In fact, the only altar, besides the high altar, in use in St. Peter Basilica is the JPII altar, which is ad Deum. Here's a picture of Pope Francis offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass there.
Okay, but he's going to change it...
Our Holy Father just released this past June his Apostlic Letter, Desiderio Desideravi, which was his magnificent love letter to the Church about the importance of the Sacred Liturgy. In paragraph 23, he emphasizes:
"Let us be clear here: every aspect of the celebration must be carefully tended to (space, time, gestures, words, objects, vestments, song, music…) and every rubric must be observed. Such attention would be enough to prevent robbing from the assembly what is owed to it; namely, the paschal mystery celebrated according to the ritual that the Church sets down. But even if the quality and the proper action of the celebration were guaranteed, that would not be enough to make our participation full."
He speaks passionate that every thing must be said and followed so that the people of God receive what is owed to them in the Liturgy. Here are a couple of clippings from the current 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal, with the rubics (red text).
After the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) has been sung or recited, the priest, "facing the people," addresses to them this great proclamation as he holds up the Eucharist.
After reciting with the people the prayer inspired by the Centurion (Lord, I am not worthy...), the priest then says his prayer in a low voice while "facing the altar."
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