From a reader…
Dear Father, I been trying to find and answer to a question about Ad Orientem worship facing west. Is it licit? Can churches hampered by modern architecture still worship Ad Orientem? Thanks in advance.
From the earliest days, and in keeping with the prayer practices of the Jews (cf. Ratzinger), our forebears thought Christ would return in glory from the East. Moreover, if I remember correctly, after her apparitions at Fatima, Our Lady disappeared into the East.
Celebrating “towards the East… ad orientem” is symbolic. It doesn’t have to be the literal geographic East. It is ideal to be able to face the literal geographic East, but we can create a liturgical East in any direction. So long as you are all facing the same direction, you are symbolically facing the East. Thus, we turn to the Lord who is coming.
You might try a few reading sources. First, there’s the indispensable The Spirit of the Liturgy, by Pope Benedict XVI, aka Joseph Ratzinger.
In this he has a deep reflection on the meaning of worship ad orientem.
Also useful is “Turning Toward the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer” by my friend the Oratorian Father Uwe Michael Lang.
And one should also read Card. Sarah’s important London speech. He talks about the importance of ad orientem worship. He asked priests – not officially of course – to consider saying Mass ad orientem. HERE
Card. Sarah made the invitation and Lib World threw an authentic spittle-flecked nutty, thus proving the solid-gold value of his vision.