If a bishop's orders are not within his legal competence, and a scrupulous presbyter is in doubt what to do, he will find help in the repetition by Canon 14 of the ancient adage Leges ... in dubio iuris non urgent. Doubtful laws, including doubtful episcopal precepts, do not bind. And, while Cardinal Sarah's words were not legislative, a mere presbyter may surely feel that the publicly expressed opinions of a dicasterial Prefect about what is lawful within his own area of dicasterial competence are prima facie reliable guides.
We are all called to do things beyond what is mandated. We are called to be generous with Our Lord. So as we the faithful pledge to be generous with our gifts and talents in the service of the Church despite the stigma the world attaches to that, courageous priests and bishops have done the same and are willing to sacrifice the admiration of the world to honour Our Lord.
It’s up to the faithful to encourage their own priests and bishops to adopt Cardinal Sarah’s suggestions for liturgy. Some of their own brother priests and bishops who prefer the 1970s-style liturgy will likely look down on them for taking the step.
But we can encourage them with the words of the head of the Church’s congregation in charge of liturgy. Cardinal Sarah said this practice should be implemented with “a pastor’s confidence that this is something good for the Church, something good for our people.”
(W)e have lost much of the eschatological, eternal orientation of the pilgrim Church. It is all about here and now, our feelings, the immediate payoff, charisma and personality. Hence, also , the rejection of meditative ‘other worldly’ Gregorian chant, polyphony, splendid vestments, clear and direct sermons that challenge one to perfection and so on. We are way too absorbed in clappy-hands, guitars, emotive ballads, inclusivity and feelin’ good.
H/T Rorate Cæli
Hence, the only posture that can possibly make theological sense at Mass is the traditional eastward stance, praying ad orientem. As Ratzinger shows in The Spirit of the Liturgy, it was due to poor and now thoroughly discredited historical scholarship that people equated versus populum with the practice of the primitive Church and pegged ad orientem as a late development. More thorough research, such as that of Fr. Uwe Michael Lang, has demonstrated that the view of the Church Fathers was substantially correct, namely, that the eastward stance was normative and universal from the earliest period onwards, in both the Eastern and Western spheres of the Roman Empire. This means we inherit a tradition of nearly 2,000 years of worshiping towards the East, with everyone, clergy and faithful alike, standing or kneeling together in the same direction. No symbol whatsoever more clearly expresses the ecstatic orientation of the human person and the essence of liturgy as sacrificium laudis, ordered to the glorification of God. This is why Msgr. Klaus Gamber considered the turning around of the altar and of the celebrant to be the most damaging mutation of the liturgical life of the faithful in the period of the reform. Astonishingly, the versus populum stance was never mandated by the Vatican, nor is it to be found as a requirement in any official liturgical book, and yet in the minds of most Catholics it has acquired the unquestioned status of being the very thumbprint or poster child of the liturgical reform.
Joseph Ratzinger frequently stated his opinion that ad orientem worship should be restored in the Catholic Church, and we know that Cardinal Ranjith, Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, and quite recently Cardinal Sarah, have all said the same thing. Here are Cardinal Sarah’s remarkable words in an interview this past May 23 with the French magazine Famille Chretienne (words echoed in his address at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London):
By this manner of celebrating, we experience, even in our bodies, the primacy of God and of adoration. We understand that the liturgy is first our participation at the perfect sacrifice of the cross. I have personally had this experience: in celebrating thus, with the priest at its head, the assembly is almost physically drawn up by the mystery of the cross at the moment of elevation. … For us, the light is Jesus Christ. All the Church is oriented, facing East, toward Christ: ad Dominum. A Church closed in on herself in a circle will have lost her reason for being. For to be herself, the Church must live facing God. Our point of reference is the Lord! We know that he has been with us and that he returned to the Father from the Mount of Olives, situated to the East of Jerusalem, and that he will return in the same way. To stay turned toward the Lord, it is to wait for him every day. One must not allow God reason to complain constantly against us: “They turn their backs toward me, instead of turning their faces!” (Jeremiah 2:27).
Even if the most crucial “orientation” required of the celebrant is that of his own internal dispositions (reflected in the attentiveness, the evident love, care, and reverence he brings to the mysteries, with a peaceful, serious, and non-ostentatious ars celebrandi, and a willingness to exploit the means placed at his disposal for the elevation of the rite, for example, the use of plainchant), nevertheless, it remains true that Christian worship, as worship of the Logos, demands ultimately that we all once again literally turn towards the Lord in common: convertere ad Dominum. Fortunately, celebrating Mass facing east is making a comeback today, mainly due to the ever-increasing presence of the traditional Latin Mass, but also because there are places, especially in the United States, where bishops and priests have begun to celebrate the modern Roman Rite ad orientem.