There’s something spiritual and practical I’ve learned about Mass facing the people: It’s all about the angle. One of the dangers for the priest who celebrates facing the people is that he so focuses on the people that he is forgetful of God. However, one can reason that it also wrong for the priest to pay no mind to the people he so loves and for whom he celebrates the Mass.
In my own parish I am blessed with a rose window in the back of Church that draws my attention (See photo detail at right of the center oculus of the widow). And the angle is perfect, 45 Degrees. I say it’s perfect, because, looking at that angle, I can see both the Lord and the people. At the top of my visual field it the Lord whom I worship and, at the bottom of my field of vision, are the people who are the members of his body and for whom I minister.
And this is a paradigm for life: loving and seeing God and loving and seeing my neighbor. At 90°, my field of vision lacks either God or the people God loves. For example, if I look straight up (90°) I am looking toward God, but not the people God loves. If I look straight forward (90°) I am looking to the people I love but not the God I love. At 45° I can see both.
The Christian life should be lived at 45°.A life directed only to God but mindless of our neighbor is incomplete for it lack the whole second table of the Law (love of neighbor). A life wholly devoted to man and humanitarian endeavors, but forgetful of God is not spiritual at all. It is merely social activism and it neglects the first table of the Law (love of God). It is at 45° that we find the proper balance for life.
Disclaimer –This reflection is not a liturgical reflection per se. I am not attempting to enter the debate about Mass facing the people vs. Mass ad orientem . It is a simple fact that 95% of the Mass I have celebrated over 21 years have been facing the people and have learned a life lesson from this. There are very good arguments to be made for Mass at the high altar facing to liturgical East. And there are also good reasons not to make that change now. This is not what I wish to discuss here. Only the life lesson I have learned, that life is best lived at 45 Degrees.
Here is an interesting video that takes up the theme of 45°