Sunday, June 22, 2008
Why I Prefer the Latin Mass
We went to mass in Horse Cave again this morning after two weeks of assisting at the Novus Ordo for reasons of convenience (we needed to go to an early mass, and the TLM in Horse Cave is at noon). It felt good to be back, good to not be the only one wearing a mantilla, good to watch the carefully orchestrated gestures and genuflections.
I was drawn to the Latin Mass long before I ever assisted at a mass, years before I was baptized. God lured me to Himself through externals: art, music, architecture, history, etc. In my teens, when I was still very much a pagan, I nevertheless had a strong love of medieval European history, and growing up in Bavaria I was surrounded by it. The history of Europe is inextricably entwined with the history of the Catholic Church, and the Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture I was/am in love with is most evident in the churches and cathedrals of Europe. I was surrounded by both religious and secular art, and in my late twenties, having left Europe, I became fond of chant and polyphony. And Latin. It was always a wonderful language to me, as my maternal grandfather whom I so admired was fluent in it--and Greek--having been educated by Jesuits in Germany. There was also the connection to the old books I was learning to restore, many of them printed or hand-written in Latin.
When I finally came to realize that I wanted to become a Catholic, it was the Latin mass I thought I would come to know. I was quite unaware of what changes had occurred in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. When I finally assisted at my first mass in Charlotte, NC, I wept for half an hour afterward. It was a very modern parish, and all the emphasis was on the risen Christ and God's love and mercy; good news indeed, but never a word about sin, or Christ's suffering, or the mass as a holy and perfect sacrifice. It was all about the community of faith--the horizontal rather than the vertical aspect of the mass.
I am not one who believes that the Novus Ordo is not a legit mass. That would mean that the Holy Father is a heretic, and I don't buy into that. I trust the Holy Spirit to guide the Church through the Vicar of Christ. Each offers to God our crucified Lord, a perfect sacrifice. But I get more out of the TLM not because of what is offered to God--which is the same in both the new and old masses--but rather because of what I receive, and I am more favorably disposed toward the old rite.
I like the pomp. I like the meticulous motions and gestures of the priest that leave no room for his own creativity (the mass isn't the place for it). I like seeing the tabernacle and not the presider's chair at the center of things. I like looking at the priest's beautifully vested back rather than his face (less distracting, for me and for him). And I like the prayers, the elevated language. It is not a little ironic that the Novus Ordo is now referred to as the Ordinary Rite and the TLM as the Extraordinary Rite. The language of the former is, in all truth, ordinary.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Latin prayers, I would like to offer a reference for comparison. The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales has an online side-by-side comparison of the old and new missals. So take a look and see what you think. With God about to condescend to the altar, body, blood, soul and divinity, how might we address Him?