Saturday, August 08, 2015

Confusion and clarity - my first ever Latin Mass

I was a child growing up in the 1970s but it wasn't until the early 80's that I attended my first Latin Mass, aged 12. 

It was out of curiosity and due to my love of history that led me to attend this Mass - offered according to what is now known as the older form of the Roman Rite. 

Soon after Mass started, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and timeliness of the music. The choir started chanting the Asperges and I was transfixed. My dad showed me his Missal that had the English alongside the Latin and I could sing along with this and understand the meaning of these words. 

After the Asperges, the priest was soon praying the prayers at the foot of the altar but this confused me. Why isn't he facing me?  Why pray quietly? Isn't it rude to talk to someone with their back to them and so they can't understand. I was confused and didn't understand why. 

A few moments later I was suddenly struck by an epiphany. The prayers of the Mass aren't addressed to me. They're addressed to God. I realised that prayer is about lifting our hearts and minds (and sometimes voices) to the Father and not just chatting with friends. For the first time in my life, I grasped a reality. God is real. Prayer is real.  

I looked at the meaning of the words that the priest and servers were praying and looked again at the altar. The priest was bowing low for the confiteor and this alone struck me that he isn't a celebrity up on a pedestal but someone who himself realises his faults and failings. 

The Kyrie in Greek soon drew me into a sense of my own sinfulness and the Gloria that followed delighted me. It struck me that something is different. Everyone was singing. Unlike most Masses where the choir and a few others would join in and the rest of us looked on in boredom, no one was sitting in silence. 

During the readings, I followed the meanings in a Missal that belonged to my parents and was able to follow these without a problem. 

The singing of the creed transformed something that usually seemed to me a set of words to get through to a powerful experience of celebrating our faith. When everyone fell to their knees at the Incarnatus and later during the last Gospel I was reminded of the centrality of the incarnation with gratitude and wonder. 

The Canon of the Mass prayed in silence was something I wasn't used to. I followed most of it in the Missal but what struck me was the consecration. The moment the priest whispered the words that brings God to the altar, he fell to his knees in adoration - before and after he raised the host and chalice high. 

The experience of receiving Holy Communion on my knees and kneeling alongside other people side by side actually reinforced to me two things: we are receiving Christ - body, bloody, soul and divinity; secondly the communion of the saints - we are part of the Body of Christ - seeing my fellow Catholics either side of me receiving the sacred Host

In all my attendance at my first Latin Mass gave me a deeper insight into who Christ is, the wonder of the incarnation and the majestic beauty and power of the Eucharist and a reminder that Mass isn't something childish but something that it is ancient, majestic and unites us not only to Christ but to the Communion of Saints - those living and those triumphant in heaven. 

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful post. I didn't have that same experience.Because I was brought up knowing only the Mass as it was and had been for hundreds of years. I loved it though and love it still and was similarly enthralled and still am whenever I have the privilege of assisting at the now "Extraordinary Form". It seems to me to embody a fundamentally accurate acknowledgement of our relationship to God and the Priest's role as "Alter Christus" and Leader of the worshipping faithfull. Thanks Damian for sharing you own experience.