Earlier I talked about my longtime goal of attending a Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy, a goal I finally achieved. In fact, that church happens to be so close I’ve been several times since then. I really do love that service, and were I not a Latin,, I’d happily go every Sunday.
Well, yesterday was Ascension Thursday, a Holy Day of obligation…which I nearly forgot. Luckily, about twenty minutes from me is a Shrine to Our Lady that holds Masses at 12:00 (and even more conveniently, BTW, DAILY Confession from 11:30-12:00. Confession offered before Mass should be mandatory, I tell you).
I have been to that Shrine many times. The Chapel there is quite beautiful, in the summer they hold Masses outdoors, and the Priest is young, enthusiastic, and traditional, almost a textbook Fr. YoungTrad. Always, a Novus Ordo was performed, albeit an unusually reverent manner. But today was something different.
Today, to my very great surprise, the Mass was NOT a Novus Ordo, but rather a low latin Mass. For those who don’t know, the low Mass was instituted in the early Middle Ages. It is said in Latin, but differs from the high Mass in that there is no music and no chanting – it is entirely spoken. I had a book to follow along, but I got the sense the Priest wasn’t following it about half the time, and got lost quite easily. I wonder if that was due to it being Ascension Thursday.
It was a much quieter experience than the Divine Liturgy, in more ways than one, and more similar to the Novus Ordo. In a Divine Liturgy, everything – and I mean everything, with the exception of the homily, including the Bible readings – is sung. More than that, the Congregation follows along with at least half of it. Here, the Priest faces ad orientem – away from the people and towards the altar.
This is true in the Divine Liturgy as well, but unlike in the Divine Liturgy there are very few times the parishioners are actually called to respond. The Mass is not so much participated in as reverently observed.
This is most striking after the homily. There is a solid twenty minutes of nearly total silence, only punctuated very occasionally with quiet words of the Priest and a couple of responses. The Priest is constantly praying during this time, but so quietly only the altar servers could hear him. Today I was following along in the book to the best of my ability looking for cues, but I got the sense I was doing it wrong in retrospect. The time is meant to be spent in silent prayer and contemplation; I believe a Rosary is often prayed.
Also, nearly the majority of the Mass is spent kneeling, which is another striking contrast with the Divine Liturgy, in which you stand almost the entire time. Actually, it’s almost comical how they’re so polar opposite in many ways, and yet each so respectful and reverent in a way the Novus Ordo Mass is simply…not.
All in all it was a very interesting experience. I’m not sure of the full effect because I was so focused on following along, but in any case this isn’t the true, “final form”, to speak weeb for a moment, of the Latin Mass. THAT would be the high Mass, the really famous one with all of the Gregorian chanting and singing. And so, that is my next goal.
Review: 8 of 10, not enough chanting, go anyway and preserve the ancient heritage of the Church and western civilization, you heathens, and appreciate the silence of prayer in fellowship.