A brief explanation of some aspects of the Mass in its Extraordinary Form
To acquire a ”notable liturgical formation and a deep, personal familiarity with the earlier form of the liturgical celebration” (Motu Proprio, Benedict XVI, July 2007) or an exploration into the theological, historical, devotional, liturgical, ritualistic, architectural, artistic, linguistic, practical, legalistic, mystical… aspects of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Priest turning his back to the People?
It is a common remark heard about the Latin Mass. The distance expressed between the celebrant – getting himself behind a closed communion rail, setting himself up above everyone, not looking at the people; facing the altar – and the people remaining silent is striking. Why this has been the case for some 2000 years…?
Simply because the Mass is not considered as a social moment to which the faithful are invited to party at. It is foremost the renewal of the Single Act of Christ, offering Himself once and for all at the Last Supper, consummating His Sacrifice on the Cross, and continuing the very same Act at each Mass. It is Christ celebrating Mass. Not any individual priest. The faithful are privileged witnesses of it.
The position of the Priest is clearly not random. He and all the congregation are facing East. St John in the Book of Apocalypse promised that Christ will come back like the rising Sun in all His Glory.
At Mass we all face “Oriens” that is East, waiting for our Divine Risen Master to come!
In the Roman style, many churches had “oculi” that were little windows kept opened behind the altar. Our very own St. Margaret Mary sanctuary is an example of this tradition. The purpose for this is to avoid missing the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ if it would happen during the celebration of Mass.