I was very pleased to read George Weigel's column (in the February 8th Providence Visitor) regarding Fr. Uwe Michael Lang's book on liturgical orientation. It is most interesting that at the outset the author points out that those who even dare suggest a return to the traditional "ad orientem" (literally "toward the East") position for the celebration of Mass risk being branded "anti-Vatican II reactionaries." How many Catholics are aware that Vatican II in no way called for the turning-around of altars and priests to face the people, or that the rubrics of the current rite of Mass presume that the priest is in fact facing the altar rather than the congregation?
The idea of a return to the traditional orientation, with the priest and the people facing God together, has long been a matter of concern for our present Holy Father. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he wrote often about its importance, even commenting that the single greatest mistake of the post-Conciliar liturgical changes was to turn the priest around to face the people.
As Mr. Weigel states, this question is indeed worth serious discussion. I believe we will be hearing a great deal about it from Rome in the months ahead as Pope Benedict attempts to restore a more profound "sense of the sacred" to the liturgy.
Allen M. Maynard
North Carver, MA
(This letter originally appeared in The Providence Visitor)