On the lovely Catholic blog Cor Jesu Sacratissimum, Roger Buck quotes from a letter he received from a friend, “a priest trained decades ago solely in the Novus Ordo“, who recently learned how to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. This has impacted him so greatly that he has now begun to say it regularly.
I will first offer his high-impact words to me, focussed in just three sentences in fact:
“These Masses are special to me, and so great a privilege to be united with Christ as His priest, and offer with Him the sacrifice of Calvary, for the living and the dead. It is through using the Tridentine form that I have come to appreciate something of the great significance of what I am doing each morning. Can there be anything more important that this?”
Yes, these three sentences hit me very, very powerfully indeed. But most of all perhaps, it was the second sentence, which contained for me a stunning implication at least … that after decades of the Novus Ordo, this priest had “come to appreciate something of the great significance” of that which he did each morning.
The implication I stress. For of course I can barely know the full reality behind these three sentences … But the implication at least took my breath away.
My breath was taken away not only by what this good Father was saying of himself, but of the global implications that were possibly present as well.
If this priest were saying what he seemed to be saying, that only after decades of the Novus Ordo, had he become awake to the significance of the Mass?! …
What are the possible implications here for untold tens or hundreds of thousands of priests across the globe, who have only used the Novus Ordo?
Awake. What is it to be awake? All our lives, we know of the certainty of death. But are we really awake to the idea that we are really going to die?
It seems to me that so often, we know it in theory, but often perhaps we only really know it, if we have a brush with our mortality.
In similar fashion, we all know that children across the world are dying of disease and starvation. We all know this in theory.
But do we know it in the same fashion, as we would, if we were to hold an emaciated little girl in our arms, who was shortly about to die?
In similar fashion, many of us know in faith, that Jesus Christ becomes present in the Holy Mass, but do we really know it? Are we really awake to the staggering reality of the Mass?
Yes, as Catholics, we all have some kind of faith in the Sacraments presumably. Though actually, I have heard tell of a US poll, which suggests less than a third of Catholics believe in the Real Presence now …
Yes, how powerfully the words of this anonymous priest served to re-confirm in my soul the long-held feeling that we Catholics are going to sleep to the reality of the Sacraments.
Going to sleep to the Holy Mystery of the Mass. Going to sleep as Protestants did in the Sixteenth Century. Going to sleep as the Catholic Church has “Protestantised” herself with the new liturgy and other post-Conciliar innovations.
Yes, a very serious question must be faced I think: To what extent is the decline in the Church, is the decline in the belief in the Real Presence … directly related to this loss of the Traditional Latin Mass?
“What if this Latin Mass is a thousand times more important than even those of us who love the Traditional Rite already know?”… I wondered about the potential worldwide effects of an untold number of possibly sleeping priests – sleeping as nearly all of us, it seems to me are sleeping – became more awake to the reality: the Mystery of the Mass…
I would like to leave you now some further words from him, very evidently words of the heart and words worth pondering indeed, I feel:
“Unlike the Mass of Vatican II in which a dialogue between celebrant and congregation carries most of the ritual, the prayers and rituals of the Tridentine form demand that the celebrant be continually attentive to the rites he is enacting.
His voice varies from being audible to a quiet whisper; his eyes regularly turn to the crucifix; the movements of his hands are conscious and deliberate. Even when he turns to the congregation the greetings are brief, his glance downward, his gestures precise. The priest is servant of the ritual, and the rubrics foster a mindfulness and self-awareness which not only focus his own attention, but also that of the faithful, as they kneel once more at the foot of the cross of Calvary.
Each time before he turns to the congregation the priest kisses the altar. Priest, altar and sacrifice are at the core of Catholic worship. When he is at the altar offering the sacrifice a priest’s ministry finds its most sublime expression. His kiss of the altar is not only a sign of honour and respect for the source of his identity, but also an expression of his own affective attachment to his vocation.
… The inner offering of Son to Father, although enacted within human history, has an eternal dimension, beyond time and space … re-newed and made present once again …
How can mortal flesh be anything but silent in the presence of so profound a mystery? How can anything but silence draw the men and women of all nations and languages into such a wonder?
After Communion is distributed the prayers are brief, and the priest turns to tell the congregation Ite, missa est. Go, the Mass is ended! First used in the catacombs of ancient Rome, these three simple words have echoed down the corridors of history for over two millennia.
From barren rocks off the coast of Ireland to the great cathedrals of Europe, in hidden rooms in England’s stately homes, behind the lines in battlefields, in bamboo huts in Asia, Catholics have heard the words Ite, missa est concluding this very same ritual.
And as the Mass draws to a close the words of the prologue of St. John’s gospel are brought before us again: Et lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebrae eam non comprehenderunt. “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
Through Latin words and gestures sanctioned by tradition and enshrined in clear and precise rubrics, the hearts of celebrant and congregation have communed with the heart of Christ; the Guardian of the Threshold of the spiritual world has moved aside; they have seen the Sun shine in the midnight of materialism.”