Mass for a long time now. When I say proper, I mean the priest has his
back to the congregation 90% of the time.
before Vatican II. I’ve never really thought about that properly – ALL
Masses were said this way up until the mid 1960’s. This is the only
style of Mass my favourite Saints would have known. For myself, being
born 35 years ago today (yes, today, Dec 3rd IS my birthday!) the Novus
Ordo Mass (Priest facing the congregation) has been the only Mass style
I have ever known, and up until very recently I was under the impression
that it was the only Mass that has ever existed.
Tridentine Mass I was fascinated. Why would the priest face away from
the congregation? How bizarre! So I found a church near me that has a
Latin Mass and I went along.
particular church has Adoration and sings Gregorian chant for 30 mins
preceding Mass. And i’m telling you – that chant was beautiful. I have
only experienced silent Adoration – which I LOVE, so this was a
completely new experience for me. But it totally worked. I really felt
like these people were praising Jesus in the Eucharist in front of them.
There was an atmosphere of joy and beauty and reverence. The air was so
thick with incense you could barely see or breathe, and almost all the
women were wearing mantilla’s. The age range was from new born to
90-ish. There was one lady with 4 small children who played happily in
don’t know Latin. But i soon realised how much i did understand, and
the bits i didn’t – well, i know the Mass so well anyway i had no
problem understanding what was going on.
me goes… At first i found it a bit frustrating. I couldn’t see what he
was doing for goodness sake! And then it began to dawn on me that I had
become very accustomed to going to Mass to be ‘entertained’. Then it
struck me that I automatically judge a priest on his ability to
entertain me. How awful! I honestly believed the Mass to be a dialogue
between the priest and the congregation (me no nutting!). Where does
this put God?!
at no one visible is praising, thanking, blessing. He is not a
performer, the newcomers realize, gazing at a crowd above the
footlights. He is not a professor, a lecturer, a nightclub host
gesturing from a stage. He is someone facing the same direction as the
people in the pews. He is humbly talking to the unseen God. A figure as
powerless before the Almighty as anyone else.”
first time and watch as the priest at the altar stands with his back to
them. With that simple turn they realize that the celebrant at this
point in the liturgy is not addressing them. For the first time in their
lives perhaps, they realize he is actually talking to God. He is
host (with his back to me) I realised that the Mass is addressing God.
In fact it would be more accurate to say that the liturgy is our
response to God’s call. The Tridentine Mass made it suddenly clear to me
where the Holy Trinity is during Mass. I do think it is extremely
important for the congregation to see what is happening on the altar and
to hear the Eucharistic prayers as is done in the Norvus Ordo style
Mass, but with that simple turn I learned more about the Mass
in 1 second than I have in 35 years. I wish the priest would come around
the front of the altar with his back to us when he elevates the host in
the Norvus Ordo Mass. Just that brief moment says so much.
Mass does not rest on the style of Mass being said, but on the personal
holiness of the priest saying it. I cant emphasise this enough. It
makes all the difference. Holiness in a priest during Mass is something
that is almost impossible to describe in words, but at the same time is
almost tangible. A priests personal holiness (in my humble opinion) is
the biggest evangelising tool he possesses. Homilies are great, pastoral
kindness is great, but if people can look at him and see/sense God,
THAT is the thing that will touch their souls most deeply.
was rebellion. I thought to myself “If this was me, 70 or 80 years ago,
how would I feel? What would I be doing?” And the honest truth is that I
would be writing little newsletters translating the Latin into English
so that I could educate people as to what was being said at Mass! I
guess that says more about my personality than anything else! But for
the first time ever, I did feel a tiny pang of understanding towards
older people who today, will look at me with such disdain as I wear my
mantilla. Perhaps the good old days were not quite a rosy as I
imagine them to be, although I do feel that at some point, the baby got
thrown out with the bath water.
From Clare's blog: http://faithinourfamilies.com/