Why the Traditional Latin Mass?



Why the Traditional Latin Mass?

The Mass is, “the source and summit of Christian life.” (Lumen gentium, no. 11; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324). As Catholics, we long to be in the presence of Christ and desire the abundant graces given to us in the Eucharist. When we enter Church on Sunday, we step out of the mundane work-a-day world and enter the realm of the spiritual. We are never closer to heaven and the Saints then when we are at Mass.

By putting away the vernacular and taking up the use of Latin, our minds are lifted through prayer and song to heaven and we leave behind the things that tie us to this world. By celebrating the same liturgy in the same language, we unite ourselves across time and space to Catholics everywhere regardless of what language we speak or what country we come from. We ensure by the use of a “dead language” that the words of our prayers mean the exact same thing they meant when the Saints of a thousand years ago prayed them. Our faith is nourished by the same liturgy that helped produce the majority of Catholic saints throughout the Church’s history.

Some say that it is better to assist at Mass in the vernacular because it is more easily understood, but missals are easily had and provide a simple means of translating prayers and propers to anyone who can read. In fact, many who begin using a missal find that they are enriched by the learned commentary explaining the meaning of the Mass’ prayers and symbols. Many people who have gone to Mass in the vernacular for years find they understood how to go through the motions, but not why they did, and thus, lacked the inward participation emphasized by the Tridentine Mass.

More than elevating our hearts and minds towards God, the Mass is a prayer that helps form what we believe. It is often said of the Mass: lex orandi, lex credendi, or “how we pray is how we believe.” The Catholic Church teaches that the Mass is an application of the merits of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to us sinners. That we are physically present at Calvary at the moment of consecration. As Catholics, unlike Protestants, we believe Christ is truly present in the Eucharist and that the priest is presiding over a propitiatory sacrifice. The Traditional Mass gradually developed over hundreds of years before being codified by Pope Pius the V, at the Council of Trent to protect it against Protestant heresies. Because we believe Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, we kneel for communion and receive on the tongue to avoid the chance of Our Lord’s Body or Blood falling to the ground or being misappropriated. We maintain reverent silence and postures in the presence of the Holy Sacrament. In every way, the sense of sacredness is preserved.

Catholic doctrine permeates the Tridentine Mass. The priest acting, in persona Christi, faces East, or ad orientem, leading the congregation in prayer towards the altar and the coming of Christ from the East as foretold in scripture. Symbolism abounds. The incense signifying our prayers rising up to God and the presence of the Holy Spirit all around us. The chapel veils worn by traditional women are a visible reminder of the relationship between Christ and his bride, the Church. The richness of the Tridentine Mass in its transcendence, symbolism, sacredness and its ability to transmit all that we believe as Catholics without confusion is a primary reason why it is needed so much today.

So why attend the Latin Mass? Because not to attend it is to deprive yourself of the beauty and Tradition that is your heritage and to miss the opportunity to give God the best we have to offer. Cardinal John Henry Newman said of the Tridentine Mass that he could attend forever, and not be tired of it. Father Faber, priest of the Brompton Oratory in the last century, described the Latin Mass as the "most beautiful thing this side of heaven”. Attend because: "If there is anything divine among man's possessions which might excite the envy of the citizens of heaven (could they ever be swayed by such a passion), this is undoubtedly the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, by means of which men, having before their eyes, and taking into their hands the very Creator of heaven and earth, experience, while still on earth, a certain anticipation of heaven. How keenly, then, must mortals strive to preserve and protect this inestimable privilege with all due worship and reverence, and be ever on their guard lest their negligence offend the angels who vie with them in eager adoration!" (Pope Urban VII in 1634).