Msgr. Marini, the papal MC, celebrated Mass ad orientem in Roman Basilica of St. Mary Major this past Sunday, the Solemnity of the Ascension. Yes, Italy transferred the Ascension to Sunday too! At any rate, this is an Ordinary Form Mass celebrated at an altar that only allows for Ad Orientem celebrations. They didn't put a faux altar in front of it so that Msgr. Marini could celebrate facing the people.
There are many who would say celebrating the Mass this way is turning the clock back. Many priests today, including me, were taught that facing the people is the most historic way to celebrate Mass. But the Benedictine, Fr. Nathanael Hauser has the most historic perspective on the politics of facing the people that reformers after Vatican II (not during) were able to pull off.
Fr. Nathanael writes, "For instance, [many progressive liturgists ask today] 'Will the priestly role of mediation be reinforced by praying at the altar with the priest's back to the assembly?' The question itself reveals the implied response and gives no credit to the past fifty years of scholarly attention that has been given to the question of the orientation of the altar. This question is not about scholarship, or of turning back the clock, but of what the progressive prefers. Indeed, that there is no real scholarship behind the turning of the altars was admitted as early as 1959 in an article by John H. Miller, (“Altar facing the People: Fact or Fable” Worship 33. 2. 83-91) in which he says that given the scholarship of the day “… advocates of the altar “versus populum” base their cause on other reasons BESIDES historical ones. We invoke two theological reasons: a deeper consciousness of the reality of sacramental priesthood and a valued appraisal of the Mass as a banquet in format. To this we add a valid psychological motive: the people can see better the actions of the priest and understand them as, at least partially, directed towards themselves.”
So what do you like about ad orientem and what do you like about ad populum?