The Traditional Latin Mass: Becoming Awake to Holy Mystery

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.

Carreno-de-miranda_Orden_de_los_Trinitarios By Roger Buck

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.

The Holy Mystery of the Latin Mass, traditionally celebrated.

The Holy Mystery of the Latin Mass, traditionally celebrated.

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?

traditional-catholic-cross-IHS […]

“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.”

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8 Responses to The Traditional Latin Mass: Becoming Awake to Holy Mystery

  1. toadspittle says:

    “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.”
    Nonsense. Even then ( And I’ve had several “brushes with death” – most adult people have ) – we don’t, and can’t “know” death at all.
    The only way to know death is by dying. And even then, that might not do the trick. I personally doubt that it will. But I can’t know until it’s done.

  2. I wonder sometimes if it would be possible to believe that the Novus Ordo Mass represents a kind of divine punishment, because we never really understood or appreciated the Traditional Latin Mass enough.

    If many of us do understand and appreciate it now, we should be grateful for being able to do that, and glad that it is almost certainly not too late.

  3. Mimi says:

    I would like to highly recommend Roger Buck’s recent book, “The Gentle Traditionalist”. It is a wonderful read!

  4. kathleen says:

    Mimi @ 7:53 yesterday

    Yes, Mimi, I’ve been hearing a lot of very positive things about this new book from Roger Buck, and it is now firmly on my “books to read” list! 🙂

    About learning how to appreciate the holy Tridentine Mass – for there are still so many Catholics who have never learnt to do so – on his blog, Father Z pointed to the website of a priest friend of his, a Father Finelli, who has produced some inspiring podcasts for all those interested. Here’s the link:

  5. mmvc says:

    The recently ordained Canon Scott Tanner’s first High Mass celebrated at the ICKSP shrine church of St Peter, Paul and Philomena can now be viewed on youtube:

  6. Emily says:

    The old mass has echoes which give us living memory. It is local, specific, and eternal, eternalising at the same time. Macro/micro cosmic, resonant, dreamlike and profoundly uniting signifier and signified… and no one wants to set the new mass to music do they? If you set it against modern literary philosophies it still endures as truth structure, when Derrida and co are revealing the transience of everything else. Philosophically speaking, it stops you going mad, not just from being sub rational or supra rational, but being ultra specific, ultra universal at the same time…
    The language is self recreating each time (how I wouldn’t know or begin to understand).
    It isn’t ashamed to place man both central and infinitely small in the order of things- and the strong liturgy protects the priest from fear at the beautiful power placed into his hands.

  7. Robert says:

    Physical or Spiritual?
    The Catholic touch with Our Mortality is better understood by the Lord’s Prayer and Temptation! The reading of consciences is precisely to deal with Real Death which is of the soul.
    There is a material worldy perspective that sees physical death BUT ignores spiritual death BUT the Church’s wisdom is on Real Death because Eternity is either Heaven or Hell.

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