The Traditional Latin Mass

When the Fraternity goes to Peru it brings to the faithful there many things, but the most important gift it brings is the traditional Latin Mass. In a world that is constantly changing (and not for the better), this Mass gives the people a taste of heaven, a small vision of eternity. Just as God and His truth never change, so does this Mass remain ever the same.

The traditional Latin Mass can be characterized by four features which strike you if you are assisting at it for the first time. They are: 1) the orientation of the priest 2) the Latin language 3) the silence and 4) Holy Communion received kneeling and only on the tongue.

When you first attend the Latin Mass you will immediately notice that the priest “has his back” to you. Really, it is only accidental that the priest has his back to you because the most important thing is that he is facing the east i.e. God (it especially makes sense if the tabernacle is in the center of the altar). That is the primary reason as to why the priest faces the way he does. An analogy might help to understand this concept. Would you ever want the bus driver to face you while riding on a bus? That would be very foolish and lead to many injuries. In addition, consider the general of an army leading his troops into battle. How would the troops feel if the general was marching into battle backwards? How successful would they be with a general who cannot see where he is going? It is in a similar way that the priest, as another Christ and therefore mediator between God and men, faces God during Holy Mass. He is, as it were leading you to your true home, which is heaven. Besides, Holy Mass is about God, first and foremost.

For more than fifteen hundred years the Mass has been offered in Latin. The fact that you cannot readily understand the words of the Mass is sometimes oft-putting. It is understandable, but you must always bare in mind, that you will never fully comprehend the mystery of the Mass. At Mass, the bloody sacrifice of Our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is made present in an unbloody manner upon the altar. Who could ever understand such a marvelous truth? That is why you ought to approach the Mass with a spirit of humility and love. The best example of how to assist at Holy Mass, was given by the Blessed Virgin Mary herself as she stood at the foot of the cross. She said nothing, but her heart was completely united with her Son’s as He offered Himself in order to redeem men from their sins. In fact, the love which united her to Christ was so strong that her heart was pierced due to her sorrow. Those are the sentiments that you must strive to have when you assist at Holy Mass.

The third feature you are bound to notice when attending the traditional Latin Mass is the atmosphere of silence. The world is full of constant noise, so much so, that people are struggling to ever hear the voice of God, which comes in silence. Instead, people are distracted and only focus on this earthly life, very rarely thinking about God and heavenly things. It really is sad to see so many people, whom God loves so much, turn away from the very purpose for which they were created i.e. to know, love, and serve Him in this life and to spend eternity with Him in the next. The silence will help you enter into the Mass and enable you to offer yourself in union with Our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross.

The last feature that will probably strike you when you come to the traditional Latin Mass for the first time is the way in which Holy Communion is distributed. You will notice that people receive kneeling and on the tongue and it might seem odd. Who do you receive in Holy Communion? That is a question that ought to always be at the forefront of your mind when going to Communion. The simple truth is that you receive Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity. Now, Christ is God, therefore one receives God during Holy Communion. What an awesome mystery that should always keep one humble and full of love. Since it is God, Who is received, He ought to be received in the most reverent way possible. To kneel shows humility and should be a reflection of your interior disposition. Furthermore, to have the Sacred Host placed on your tongue shows the childlikeness that everyone is called to. As Our Lord Himself said, “Unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”.

Yes, this is what the Fraternity is privileged to give to not only the faithful of Peru, but also to the missionaries that accompany it on this journey. It truly is “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven” and hopefully you will be able to experience its beauty, truth, and transcendence.