Comments on the Latin Mass

I love the Tridentine mass more the more I attend it. In part it’s because of its clarity. If someone who had no idea what was going on saw it the only way he could make sense of what was happening would be to assume that everyone there thought there was something enormously important going on that couldn’t be seen and wasn’t simply what the people visibly present were doing. The first time I attended Latin mass that was the aspect that thrilled me. I don’t think that’s so true of the new form, especially as presented today.

I also admire how well it’s put together to work under all possible circumstances. The Church could be in schism, the bishop notoriously corrupt, the priest a child molester, the congregation swinish, your home life sordid and hateful, the world a mess in every way. There might even be a few problems with you yourself. The mass knows about all that and knows how to deal with it. The kneeling, breastbeating, confessions of unworthiness and prayers for purification are not in the least excessive. It’s hard to imagine when they wouldn’t be literally fitting, More to the point, they ensure that the gift is always visibly available to those who need it most, even when those through whom the gift is offered are plainly unworthy. The Latin mass is not about the people putting it on but about God and the soul’s need for God. It’s the least elitist or clericalist of rites.

2 thoughts on “Comments on the Latin Mass”

  1. I have no special theory
    I have no special theory about Latin as opposed to the vernacular. In the case of the Tridentine mass the overall package is very different from what you see in the new mass. How much you attribute to one thing or another isn’t something I’ve analyzed in detail.

    For my own part, I like Latin because the Latin text is very beautiful and you don’t have to worry about someone’s translation. Also, using words that go back so far—in the case of the canon, I’m told there have been next to no changes since Pope Gregory the Great—gives me more of a feeling of participation in a Church that is not time-bound. For that matter it’s nice when you hear a Mozart mass or a Gregorian chant to have it be the same words you hear in church.

    At Vatican II they thought it might be a good idea to use the vernacular in the readings and some of the prayers and chants but weren’t dogmatic on the point. I’m not inclined to be dogmatic either. It does seem to me though that most religions, including most of Christianity, develop a liturgical language. Why think everybody’s always been dumb and people today are so much smarter and know more about what God wants?


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