Dear Fr. Z,
The priest that celebrates de EF in Buenos Aires, has decided today to do it versus populum quoting a work of Card. Ratzinger that says that the cross must be the focal point or liturgical east. He also says that the rubrics of JXXIII’s missal doesn’t prescribe to celebrate the mass "ad orientem". Is this all right? What can we say to him?
Please, forgive my poor english and thank you very much!
No, there is nothing that requires the TLM (EF) to be celebrated ad orientem. In Roman Basilicas it was celebrated versus populum because of the way the altar was situated in the sanctuary: on the model of San Pietro, where the celebrant stood at the main altar so as to face the East. In the ancient Basilica of St. Peter, the people would be directed to turn around also to face the East during the action of the Mass. So… celebration of Holy Mass to the liturgical East is important in the Roman way of seeing things.
However, nothing specifically prescribes ad orientem worship… though in my opinion it is superior.
The other thing to consider, and this is important, the sensibilities of the people in the congregation should be considered. If the people would be upset by an versus populum Mass with the EF, then it probably wouldn’t be a good idea. There is no sense in doing that merely as a novelty or for shock value, or even because of the priest’s own preference. The TLM and ad orientem are closely connected.