From Mr Antony Dowling SIR – Archbishop Conti (Letters, March 14) clarifies matters admirably when he states that “in our liturgy we take a God-ward stance, neither to the east nor to the west”. In other words, the liturgy is an act of prayer in which we “lift up our hearts to God”. I would suggest, however, that it is most in harmony with this inner essence of the liturgy for priest and people to stand together on the same side of the altar, facing in the same direction.
Turning the priest around, so that he faces the opposite direction to everyone else, singularises him and makes him the focus of attention in an unhelpful way. The Eucharist so often looks and sounds (and is experienced at a spiritual level) as if it is being performed to the people rather than prayed to God. A development which was intended to include the people in the Eucharist and to aid their participation has had the reverse effect. They look towards God and find the priest, as it were, standing in the way.
I would suggest that this centering of attention on the priest, and the consequent loss of correspondence between the liturgy as it appears and its inner God-wardness, might explain why so many Catholics have lost interest in the Mass.
Yours faithfully, ANTONY DOWLING Gosforth, Newcastle Upon Tyne