I went to Mass this morning and although the Mass was in English, the priest had his back to the congregation throughout. I have never seen this before. Why was this? I was born post Vatican II.
During the ordinary form of the Mass the priest may say the Mass either “facing the people” or “facing away from the people.” In either case both the priest and the congregation are not really either facing each other or facing the priest’s back, rather it is simply two different ways that everyone faces the Eucharist. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal permits both postures for the celebration of the Eucharist.
From the Congregation for Worship Prot. No 2086/00/L:
However, whatever may be the position of the celebrating priest, it is clear that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered to the one and triune God, and that the principal, eternal, and high priest is Jesus Christ, who acts through the ministry of the priest who visibly presides as his instrument. The liturgical assembly participates in the celebration in virtue of the common priesthood of the faithful which requires the ministry of the ordained priest to be exercised in the Eucharistic Synaxis. The physical position, especially with respect to the communication among the various members of the assembly, must be distinguished from the interior spiritual orientation of all. It would be a grave error to imagine that the principle orientation of the sacrificial action is [toward] the community. If the priest celebrates versus populum, which is a legitimate and often advisable, his spiritual attitude ought always to, be versus Deum per Jesus Christum [towards God through Jesus Christ], as representative of the entire Church. The Church as well, which takes concrete form in the assembly which participates, is entirely turned versus Deum [towards God] as its first spiritual movement.