[UPDATE: It goes without saying that we here at the NLM encourage all priests, with due pastoral sensitivity and preparation of course, to work toward the gradual introduction of ad orientem into their parish liturgical life. As for liturgies that are done versus populum it would seem to be an excellent time to again encourage parish priests to adopt this altar arrangement, seen below, to help in the re-orientation of those liturgies as well. Please note the proportions of the altar cross and candles are such that they are substantial. This is one of the keys of this arrangement, for it is precisely not concerned with "obstructing the view" of the priest at the altar, thereby eliminating any sense of the liturgy as anthropocentric, while also giving the priest a place to fix his gaze during the liturgy of the Eucharist: the altar cross. Shorter candlesticks and, in particular, a shorter altar cross, would not have the same effect. If you determine to move forward with this, do send the NLM pictures that your brother priests may be so encouraged as well.]
As has appeared elsewhere in the blogging world today [See Rorate Caeli and Fr. Zuhlsdorf as well for example], we saw the new Papal MC, Msgr. GUIDO Marini at the Pope's side today, complete with lace rochet, and Pope with lace alb -- a more traditional selection that one hadn't seen under the previous Master of Ceremonies.
Something that was particularly striking in the photos of this Mass was the arrangement of the altar.
It may only be that I had not personally seen this as of yet, but for my part, this was the first that I had seen the altar arranged for a Papal Mass in a way that was consonant with what Ratzinger had proposed whereby even when the celebrant was technically versus populum a prominent and centrally placed altar cross would be upon the centre of the altar.
The idea behind this was to emphasize the proper orientation of the liturgy as ad Deum, even when it happened to be "versus populum".
From today's Mass:
Now, perhaps some who have been watching the papal Masses more closely can say whether they have seen this arrangement at a papal Mass before the new Papal MC took the reins. Has anyone seen this arrangement for a papal Mass before today? (If so, please try to find pictures.)
Typically, Masses that have been celebrated on the main high altar of St. Peter's (and of course this is not that altar, but that situated behind it) had the altar cross and candles angled off on the corners of the altar, but not in the traditional arrangement seen above.
Any which way however, it does raise the intriguing and exciting question of what the future will hold, particularly as Msgr. Guido Marini settles into his new role, and whether we might not begin to see such arrangements more frequently in the Papal Basilicas, or in other venues, even papal Mass offered to the liturgical East on certain occasions.