The New Missal

I apologize first if this question ask already been asked.

I was reading the texts for the new missal translation and there are some rubrics that indicate that at some points during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest will be facing the altar.

At what points does the priest face the altar? During the entire Eucharistic Prayers? Just during the moments when he receives communion?


As you noted, the Roman Missal (and its General Instruction) direct the priest to face the altar at times, and face the people at times. That assumes ad orientem worship; that is, worship facing “the east”.

The priest is instructed to face the people for the Greeting (GIRM 124), the “Pray, brethren, that…” (GIRM 146), the offering of the peace (GIRM 154), the “This is the Lamb of God…” (GIRM 157), the prayer after Communion (GIRM 165), and the final blessing and dismissal. (GIRM 185)

That the priest is directed to face, or to turn toward, the people, implies that he has been facing something other than the people. This is particularly true during the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist; he turns to face the people during the “Pray, brethren…”, and then can face the altar until the offering of the peace, and then he faces the altar again until he shows the Host to the people saying, “This is the Lamb of God…”

Not necessarily; it merely implies that he may have been facing something other than the people.

At the local Mass that I attend the priest is facing the people as the Eucharistic prayers are said.

Personally I have a preference for ad orientum. “Facing the altar” to me seems a rather vague term. Whether the priest is ad orientum or versus populum he is still facing the altar.

Right, I agree. But “facing the altar” vs. “facing the people” only has value or purpose if the two directions are not the same.

Can the priest celebrating the OF be on the other side of the altar and thus his back at the people?

Yes, the Ordinary Form can be celebrated with the priest on the same side of the altar as the people, thus facing the same direction as all the people. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

To call it “back to the people” is a poor choice of words. The people in the pew in front of me have their back to me, after all.

I agree with what you are saying. I was playing devil’s advocate. I think that it is high time an alternative phrase was found. Especially, when you consider the well-known arguments about whether the priest should be facing the altar with “his back to the people” OR “leading the people in the same direction of the people” (ad orientem). Or, facing the alter, looking over the altar to the people (versus populum). Plus, with the well documented post-Vatican II rush to re-order sanctuaries so that all Masses could be celebrated versus populum because that’s what everyone was initially led to believe had been the result of Vatican II. We are in dire need of a much clearer instruction than “face the altar”; we shouldn’t have to rely on implication from the context.

I would love to see the priest facing the same direction as the people again.
All other reasons aside, it just seems more logical to me.

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