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A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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"Like all other liturgical functions, like offices and ranks in the Church, indeed like everything else in the world, the religious service that we call the Mass existed long before it had a special technical name."
— Rev. Adrian Fortescue (1912)

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Which Way Does Your Priest Face For The Prayer After Communion?
published 27 September 2013 by Jeff Ostrowski

365 Paul VI E HAVE EXAMINED the rubrics of the Ordinary Form here and here, and we saw that the current Missal assumes priest and people will be facing the same direction during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

However, there appears to be a discrepancy in the Rubrics … no great surprise, since the current Missal was put together with haste, and even the Vatican dicastery had to apologize for all the errors and typos contained in those early 1970s directives. The discrepancy has to do with the direction the priest must face to read the Prayer after Communion.

AS BISHOP PETER J. ELLIOTT has pointed out (Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, §350), “The celebrant may choose to say the Prayer after Communion and impart the final blessing at the altar.” The rubrics do indeed allow this, but they seem to imply that the Prayer after Communion be read facing the people:

The 2011 GIRM says:

165. Deinde, stans ad sedem vel ad altare, sacerdos, versus ad populum, dicit, manibus iunctis: Orémus et, extensis manibus, orationem post Communionem recitat, cui præmitti potest breve spatium silentii, nisi iam præcesserit statim post Communionem. In fine orationis populus acclamat: Amen.

166. Expleta oratione post Communionem, fiant, si habendæ sunt, breves annuntiationes ad populum.

167. Deinde sacerdos, extendens manus, salutat populum, dicens: Dóminus vobíscum, cui respondetur a populo: Et cum spíritu tuo. Et sacerdos, manus denuo coniungens, et statim, manum sinistram super pectus ponens et manum dexteram elevans, subdit: Benedícat vos omnípotens Deus et, signum crucis super populum faciens, prosequitur: Pater, et Fílius, + et Spíritus Sanctus. Omnes respondent: Amen.

165. Then, standing at the chair or at the altar, and facing the people with hands joined, the Priest says, Let us pray; then, with hands extended, he recites the Prayer after Communion. A brief period of silence may precede the prayer, unless this has been already observed immediately after Communion. At the end of the prayer the people acclaim, Amen.

166. When the Prayer after Communion is concluded, brief announcements should be made to the people, if there are any.

167. Then the Priest, extending his hands, greets the people, saying, The Lord be with you. They reply, And with your spirit. The Priest, joining his hands again and then immediately placing his left hand on his breast, raises his right hand and adds, May almighty God bless you and, as he makes the Sign of the Cross over the people, he continues, the Father, and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit. All reply, Amen.

Roman Missal, Third Edition says:

139. Deinde, stans ad altare vel ad sedem, sacerdos, versus ad populum, iunctis manibus, dicit: Oremus. Et omnes una cum sacerdote per aliquod temporis spatium in silentio orant, nisi silentium iam praecesserit. Deinde sacerdos, manibus extensis, dicit orationem post Communionem. Populus in fine acclamat: Amen.

140. Sequuntur, si necessariae sint, breves annuntiationes ad populum.

141. Deinde fit dimissio. Sacerdos, versus ad populum, extendens manus, dicit: Dominus vobiscum. Populus respondet: Et cum spiritu tuo. Sacerdos benedicit populum, dicens: Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus, Pater, et Filius, + et Spiritus Sanctus. Populus respondet: Amen.

139. Then, standing at the altar or at the chair and facing the people, with hands joined, the Priest says: Let us pray. All pray in silence with the Priest for a while, unless silence has just been observed. The the Priest, with hands extended, says the Prayer after Communion, at the end of which the people acclaim: Amen.

140. If they are necessary, any brief announcements to the people follow here.

141. Then the dismissal takes place. The Priest, facing the people and extending his hands, says: The Lord be with you. The people respond: And with your spirit. The Priest blesses the people saying: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit. The people reply: Amen.

I FEEL THE RUBRICS HERE are not precise. First of all, why should the rubrics say again to face the people for the blessing if the priest is already facing the people (see above)?

It is true that the 1969 GIRM says:

122. Postea, stans ad sedem vel ad altare, sacerdos versus ad populum, dicit: Orémus et, extensis manibus, orationem post Communionem recitat, cui præmitti potest breve spatium silentii, nisi iam præcesserit statim post Communionem. In fine orationis populus acclamat: Amen.

122. Then, standing at the altar or at the chair and facing the people, the priest says, with hands outstretched: “Let us pray.” There may be a brief period of silence, unless this has been already observed immediately after communion. He recites the prayer after communion, at the end of which the people make the response: “Amen.”

However, if you click here, you’ll see that the 1970 Missale Romanum (“Ordo Missæ cum populo”) omits the injunction to face the people. All it says is:

Deinde, stans ad sedem vel ad altare, sacerdos dicit:

Then, when it’s time for the final blessing, the 1970s rubrics say:

Sacerdos, versus ad populum, extendens manus, dicit:

How can we understand this discrepancy? My guess is, they wanted the priest to face the people when he says “Orémus.” Then, he ought to turn around to read the Prayer after Communion, because it would be strange to have a server hold the Missal on the altar steps. Then, when it’s time for the final blessing, the priest once more turns around. (If you think this is a lot of turning around, you should see a Low Mass according to the 1962 Missal at this point).

Finally, remember that the Missal rubrics don’t always explicitly tell the priest to “turn toward the altar.” For instance, the rubrics omit this when it’s time for the priest to kiss the altar: it’s common sense that he needs to turn around for this.