It seems that "ad orientem" is becoming a hot topic on the blogosphere. Fr. Cory, one of my facebook friends from near the northern hinterland, posted this on his page. I believe that it bears repeating.
Reverend Know-it-all: A reflection on Liturgy celebrated "ad orientem"
As Father indicates, there are six instances where the GIRM specifically states that the celebrant should face the people. While the GIRM also indicates that versus populum is desirable, it also states that the altar
should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily.Msgr. Guido Marini, the Holy Father's Master of Ceremonies, also makes a strong case for ad orientem. He states that:
"In ancient times, facing east was closely related to the "sign of the Son of man," to the cross, which announces the return of the Lord. The east was therefore quickly associated with the sign of the cross. Where it is not possible for everyone to face the east together in an evident manner, the cross can serve as the inner east of faith. It should be placed at the center of the altar, and should be the spot where the attention of both the priest and the praying community is turned. In this way, we follow the ancient exhortation pronounced at the beginning of the Eucharist: "Conversi ad Dominum," turn to the Lord. Let us look together to Him whose death ripped the veil of the temple, to Him who stands before the Father on our behalf and holds us in his arms, to Him who makes of us a new living temple. Among the truly absurd phenomena of our time, I would add the fact that the cross is placed on one side of the altar in order to give the faithful an unobstructed view of the priest. But does the cross represent an annoyance during the Eucharist? Is the priest more important than the Lord? This error should be corrected as soon as possible, and this can be done without any new architectural modifications. The Lord is the point of reference. He is the rising sun of history. This cross can either be that of the passion, which represents the suffering Jesus who allows his side to be pierced for us, releasing blood and water – the Eucharist and Baptism – or a triumphal cross, which expresses the idea of Jesus' return, and draws attention to this. Because in any case it is He, the one Lord: Christ yesterday, today, and forever."
Celebrating the Liturgy of the Eucharist ad orientem brings our orientation on the Sacrifice. The priest is leading us in prayer. He is making supplication on our behalf. For our part, we unite our sufferings, our joys, our very selves to the Sacrifice of Jesus on the altar. The prayers are addressed to the Father, in the name of the Son through the Holy Spirit. It is not a matter of trying to be a "throw-back" to the past. It is more along the lines of reclaiming what had been lost in the transition.