Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican’s liturgy chief, has asked priests to begin celebrating Mass ad orientem, that is, facing east rather than towards the congregation. As Catholics, there could be chances that either positive or negative confusion would float around. So what do we Catholics need to pay attention in our heart to act in charity in the Holy Spirit who teaches us through our reverent Cardinal?
1. Try to understand in the first place why Novus Ordo (the current Roman Catholic mass) is facing the audience.
One of the good sources can be found at https://www.ewtn.com/library/LITURGY/SMADORVE.TXT
2. Understand that Liturgy has not been historically unchangeable.
In the Church, all liturgies can be changed at any time as long as the intention is for “progressive” purpose, approved by the Church and celebrated under a proper guidance of local bishops. It is almost always the case that all self-govern Churches in union with Roman Catholic Church has their own rights to perform such action as long as the pope agrees. The blessed apostles had understood clearly that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they were the first one ever who changed the Jewish worship to include Christ as their Torah and Body & Blood of Jesus as their unbloody sacrifice. The roman liturgy was not formally introduced as a document before probably St. Gregory the Great pontificate. It should also be noted for Roman Catholics that even in the roman Church, each diocese and countries celebrate the mass slightly different one from another as long as it conforms with the local bishop / eparch who is their shepherd. (Recall how St. James, St. Jude, St. Peter and all other apostles are instituting mass with different results, the same principle of obedience and power of bishops are exercised today), all priests (sub-bishop) need to follow the Church, and not invent their own liturgy.
3. Understand that Mass & all Liturgies are prayers worship & prayers between God and His people.
There are some members of the Church who have been incorrectly believing that Mass is a sacrifice between Priest and God alone, others believe that Liturgy is their prayers together with the Church without knowing where to position God other than the Eucharist, while another group might feel that it is between themselves and the priest who lead us to God. There are many different subconscious errors that occur that may cause the Church to take action (it is Her responsibility to teach rightly Her sheeps) and change the direction of priest from facing the East (Cross/Tabernacle/real east direction) to face the people to undo this damages.
4. Persona Christi is valid
regardless whatever rites you celebrate, St. Basil rite, St. James rite, St. Thomas rite, St. John Chrysostom rite, the latin tridentine rite, or novus ordo rite. So we should not fall into a confusion that when a priest is facing the east, people feel he is no longer both Christ & His servant on the altar. It must also be noted that all other Churches or traditionalist must not say that the rite contains error because it has abandoned thousand of years of tradition, which was not made by Christ Himself on earth anyway.
5. Good things for both sides,
there was a great increase in participation and attendance in the Church because the people have let their fear of unworthiness go away. There has been a declining respect in the Eucharist in many different levels because the mass has become more casual and sounds like a mere banquet between priest and congregations. The same impact may occur after this ad orientem change in the Roman Church that might affect people who have less appreciation of the sanctity of liturgy to better respect it, but there could be also some that might feel weird or not respected because “visible” pastoral where the priests can really look at them throughout the mass as a shepherd may fade away. It is also probably necessary to note that Churches who are not progressing might suffer from hardship to evangelize through missionaries or may not reflect the advancement of theological approach that is the latest, leaving the faithful unable to be present in front of God in the way suitable to help them face the current world heresies and hardships
6. How should we react?
We are the sheep of the Christ & His Church, we should taste the Liturgy to enter heavenly realm in any way the Church sees fit, and throw away our uneasiness, judgement or discomfort, because when we go to Church, we don’t come to pray together, but rather we worship God together in liturgical prayers, therefore it does not matter not to not understand Latin when attending tridentine mass as the priests are offering our prayers to the Lord, not to us, or it is okay not to understand arabic when attending an Antiochene liturgy, as long as the preachings and hopefully the reading are understood. Liturgy is meant to elevate our soul to heaven as a taste of heavenly Kingdom and also to get united in Christ by receiving His Body & Blood, and it is the task of the Mother Church to provide us with this experience so it could elevate our spirit to God in a perfect manner according to each situation.
7. What can we do?
Pray that all priests are obedient to their bishops & ultimately to our pope. This change is about pastoral and liturgical reform, not so much about dogma, so let’s pray that all Catholics can charitably accept his excellency’s recommendation, let’s pray for better Liturgies throughout the universal Church. Announce this good news, and try to live this change if it is formally get changed.