“Of course, I make eye contact with the people,” I answered. I make eye contact with the people when I am addressing the people. But I do not make eye contact with the people when I am addressing the Lord. He explained that when he was in the seminary they were instructed to make eye contact with the people during the Eucharistic prayer. Yes, I had been formed in the same way, but had come to understand that that particular prayer was not addressed to the people.
This is another reason the Extraordinary Form is important.
In the Extraordinary Form, the priest and the people face the Lord together. In the Extraordinary form, there are five moments when the priest turns toward the people. It amazing to learn that these moments correspond with the five times the Lord appeared to his disciples after the Resurrection. In each of these moments before turning, the priest tenderly kisses the altar. (“Excuse me for a second, Lord. I have to make sure the people are following this.”) Then facing the people, with eyes downturned, the priest says “Dominus Vobiscum.” Yes, even then there is no eye contact. They are not there to have a relationship with this sinner. In this moment they respond to the Lord, “et cum spiritu tuo.”
In removing me for cause from the parish where I served faithfully for eleven years, where I explained ad nauseam all the reasons for any change in the liturgy, the provincial made it clear that I had separated the people from the liturgy and that they had been turned into bystanders, and mere observers. Any instruction on internal participation had fallen on liberal deaf ears.
In the Ordinary Form we often look toward the people, put a grin on our face, and try to look up at them as we are proclaiming the Gospel. What this means is that my relationship with these people is as important as the Words of the Gospel. My brothers, proclaim the Gospel boldly. But do not dare invest it with your own personality. You may make eye contact with the people when you look up at them and say, “The Gospel of the Lord.”
Look at the people when you say “The Lord be with you.” But do not look at them when they respond. Make it clear they are not responding to you but to the Lord, to the Most High, to the Divine Majesty. Look at them when you say, “Pray, Brethren.” But do not look at them, lower your eyes for their response. Let them know they are in the presence of the Most High who has called them to pray.
Maybe do these parts in Latin that are repeated every time. Teach them to make the responses in Latin. Take it very slow. They have been subject to 50 years of horrific formation. I know, your bishop may complain, your provincial may accuse you of the most horrible things and remove you. Be glad and rejoice, for behold your reward is great in heaven.