Ite, Missa Est

Well, I’m just back from following my first ever Traditional Latin Mass.

The Mass was given in a church belonging to our own parish, by a priest belonging to our own diocese, so that it was canonically given in full and total regularity.

Now — where to begin…

First, I was not put into some kind of aesthetic sensation of awe by the beauty of the Old Mass, simply because my Latin is too canny to be aware of the language of the Mass otherwise than as just another language that I understand. My meditation this morning, both before and after the Mass, has been centred around the expression Deo Gratias — because having discovered in the street some simple benefit for myself on the way to the Mass, I prayed briefly saying “Thank You, God” — and the most direct translation of the Latin, in the Mass later, is exactly that — or even just “Thanks, God”.

The language in the Mass is there not to set up God as on high and aloof from us, but to bring Him into this sort of close and familiar, familial, feeling of Love, received, shared, and given — in trust, confidence, and honesty.

That the language of the Old Mass is in Latin changes this not in the slightest.

It was maybe surprising that it was only til about halfway through the Mass that dear Père Le Quay started to realise that I was not actually familiar with it (more about this later) — except that my experience of the old liturgy was that it’s “just” the Mass. The only time I’ve EVER been shocked by the Novus Ordo was the ONE time that I attended the Mass given in English (I usually follow the Mass in French) — because I found that the translation itself was quite heavily protestantised, incorporated some quite dubious readings and interpretations NOT found in the Romance language translations, and generally speaking, it felt more like a *progressive* Anglican liturgy than a Catholic Mass. On the other hand, I was surprised by the liturgy of the Old Mass not in the slightest. OK, there were a couple of places where I didn’t know that I was supposed to respond to the priest, including once by virtue of being on the wrong page — but this is both normal and unsurprising.

Fundamentally though, it just seems to me that the Old Mass and the New Mass are essentially the same.

I have NOT been betrayed by incompetent catechists teaching their incompetent 1970s uncatholic understandings.

I do NOT have any difficulty with the Latin — nor do I inappropriately provide the language itself with any undeserved quasi-mystical veneration.

I understand the theology of the Mass where it is explicit in the Old Mass and implicit in the New — but ALSO where it is explicit in the New Mass, but implicit in the Old.

I remain in Full Communion with our Church, and with both of our Bishops, our curate and all the other parish priests, and all the Faithful of our parish whether I attend the New Mass in our parish or the Old Mass in our parish.

It’s just the Mass — and of course, “just the Mass” is a living miracle in our midst.

The only weird things about the Mass this morning are the following :

1) The congregation was constituted of the priest and myself.

It’s rather ironic, given the propensity of my traditionalist friends to claim that Vatican II and the New Mass have destroyed Mass attendance, that the choice that I have on the Sunday seems to be between attending the Traditional Mass as the ONLY lay Catholic in the congregation ; or to attend a perfectly orthodox, non-abusive, Novus Ordo Mass in the company of a congregation numbering in the hundreds, including dozens of children, and the majority of the Faithful being in the working age bracket of 20-year-olds to those in their 60s.

2) My only “surprise” with the Old Mass was, well — What on Earth is all this fuss about ???!!???

… and I’m asking this question of both factions.

Why on Earth do the liberals try and suppress a Rite of the Mass that has absolutely nothing wrong with it ?

Why on Earth do the more radical traditionalists condemn the New Rite which is so substantively equal to the Old ?

I mean, we can ALL complain when the catechism and the theology that people are taught, particularly our children and youth, are just so intensively and blatantly deficient, so that people end up being unable to comprehend the Mass at all, both Old and New — but the answer to this problem is to provide good catechesis ; not to provide either this or that extremist liturgical fetishism !!!

I will continue to accompany dear Père de Quay in his lonely traddy vigil, because the orthodoxy and the Tradition of our Church need defending — but I think when I do so in future, I’ll need to go to Mass twice on those Sundays. Because defending the minority cannot require abandoning the majority.

19 thoughts on “Ite, Missa Est

  1. .

    “Fundamentally though, it just seems to me that the Old Mass and the New Mass are essentially the same.”

    Well, Jabba, it will come as no surprise to you to hear that Toad agrees (though for entirely different reasons, doubtless.)
    One is no better, or worse, than the other.

    And he further suspects that many of the reasons for despising the V2 Mass in the vernacular are not religious, aesthetic, or even dogmatic.

    They are simply snobbish.

    Might be wrong, of course.

    (Nice blog, which will go on Toad’s Fave list. Which one is you? The little yellow guy on the left, enjoying the Complete Works of The Marquis de Sade, is my guess.)

  2. They are simply snobbish.

    I agree — and no, not that atrocious writer, de Sade ; maybe Rabelais, the wonderful Proust, or our common friend Montaigne.

    But I seem to be the big fat ugly frowning one in the middle, alas …

  3. I am so glad you think the same as me. I thought I was the only one mystified by the obsessions of the trads and the rads!

    The Mass is the Mass is the Mass! (this thought occurred to me in Mass this morning).

  4. “Fundamentally though, it just seems to me that the Old Mass and the New Mass are essentially the same.”

    Yes, they are of course. The Church – under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – would never have permitted the Novus Ordo Mass at Vatican II if it were not the same re-presentation of Christ’s Holy Sacrifice on Calvary, a memorial of the Last Supper, and also, a sacred banquet.

    Let me just say that I attend the ‘New Mass’ at my parish every Sunday (and whenever I can during the week) where it is celebrated devoutly. Only once every 2 or 3 months or so do I travel to where I can attend the ‘Old Mass’.

    So if anyone were to ask me for my preferences I would say, without a shadow of doubt, that I prefer the Traditional Latin Mass (otherwise known as the Tradentine rite.)


    Because I see it as:
    1) holier (with all that this word entails: kneeling to receive the Sacred Host, no ghastly hand shaking kerfuffle, etc.);
    2) more concentrated on Adoration of God and less on the community;
    3) quite simply, a far more beautiful and sublime liturgy than that in the vernacular (whether this be English*, Spanish or French; the 3 countries where I have attended Mass.)

    Another reason I prefer it is because it is far harder for abuses to slip in….. I think everyone must have seen how this DOES happen with the N.O. Mass in some places.

    So does that brand me as a ‘trad’ because even though I confirm the ‘New Mass’ is wholly valid, I admit I prefer the ‘Old Mass’? I don’t know, but probably most would say it does, although all I want to be is a faithful Catholic.

    *Yes Jabba, the English translation certainly was the worst, though this has now been improved, Deo Gratias.

  5. I am pleased to hear your good news, Jabba. Your blog banner picture puzzles me. Why have you got the full line-up of the Catholic bishops of England & Wales for a blog banner?

  6. Whilst I have a preferance for the Extraordinary Form, and indeed attend at least one most weeks – Hereford having several Benedictine priests who regularly celebrate, it is a fact of life that this form is not IMHO going to return to the common usage it was pre V2. This will sound almost heresy to some of my very dear friends. Summorum Pontificum established the right of all to this Form as decreed by Trent. This is a huge step.

    The recent liturgical reforms have come some way to restoring the Roman Catholic essence of Holy Mass and I believe there will be a lot more to come and eventually the two will become one. This of course is some years away, Holy Mother Church never being known to rush things! The Holy Father has accomplished much toward this restoration and, I believe, is preparing the way for more. Holy Mass is too sacred to ever become a my way/your way is best, and indeed never should have been diminished as it was over the last 50 years, We shoiuld though never lose sight that the Sacrifice has never changed.
    Of course, much will depend on the successor to Peter – and on that I would decline to speculate. I just pray that the Holy Father will have health enough to proceed as I believe he wishes in these next years.
    I am glad for you Jabba that you where able to experience the spirituality of 1,500 years of tradition and celebration, but as I earlier siad, the Sacrifice of the Mass never changed.

  7. You say that the language (Latin),of the Mass does not change [God’s] close[ness] and familiar[iarity] for you. This suggests that the words of the Mass need not be understood, are not important. If so, do you REALLY mean this?

    It may be that you understand Latin, but you don’t want the congregation to be reduced to one.

  8. Well no, I certainly don’t want to see a congregation reduced to one, but in a sense it can’t be — because even when the priest says the Mass alone, he is giving it in the presence of the Christ.

    And I think that it *is* important to understand the language of the Mass — though in a pinch, one can of course attend Mass in a language entirely unfamiliar ; and in another sense, the liturgy itself is a language.

    One of my points about the language, the Latin that is, is that I think it’s potentially unproductive to view the Latin as providing some kind of special virtues not available in the various vernaculars, because the perception of such virtues may simply be an artefact of a partial misunderstanding of the texts of the Mass from unfamiliarity.

    As a parallel, I’ve been through all of the stages of learning French, from total unfamiliarity, to speaking the language as a native — and there was certainly one point during the learning process where I thought of the language as being “beautiful”, in the same way that one hears people talking about the “beauty” of the Traditional Rite ; but it was just a stage in my learning of French, and it was replaced by a less romantic and more hands-on appreciation of its reality.

    I am still impressed, in the same way, by the “beauty” of Finnish, and Japanese, and Greek — but I’m well aware that properly understanding any of these would dispel these romantic aesthetics.

    I’ve certainly NOT provided anything close to a full comparison of the Old Mass with the New — FAR from it !!! But it is true nonetheless that my familiarity with Latin helped foster a similar sense of familiarity with the Old Mass as I feel with the New.

    As Brother Burrito put it, so succinctly — the Mass is the Mass is the Mass!

  9. Yes it is important to understand the language of the Mass, I agree. Latin has the trace of millenia, but the language of the country is far more important. Some Buddhists assert that words spoken in Pali are more ‘powerful’, but it is only an assertion, “Romantic aesthetics”.

    Accent and language are interwoven and linguists tell us that all opinion (positive and negative) about accent is simply prejudice; likewise for language.

  10. And yet, and yet! You have chosen the name of this blog with some thought, I have no doubt.

    And you chose – Latin. Do you think that ‘Go the Mass has Ended’ is less useful than ‘Ite Missa est’? This is an Anglophone site…..


  11. I always thought that latin in the church had the great benefit of forming a shared world view. Language is a way that binds people into a sharing of the symbols that make communication clearer, allowing more precise detail to be shared. The church is a world wide community and for the priests to share a world view it is better to have one language. That is my thoughts on the matter.

    • Thank you Tom — the issue with Latin versus the vernacular is actually a problem that has existed since the 15th century, at the latest — in those countries where the Romance languages are spoken, that is ; elsewhere it’s existed even longer.

      In Continental Europe, Latin became almost completely incomprehensible to most of the Laity during the course of the 15th Century ; which posed some immediate and sadly still ongoing comprehension issues of the contents and the theology and the liturgy of the Mass.

      Also : Far too many people forget one very straightforward and simple fact — that the Latin Mass itself is a translation into a Vernacular, that is to say into the Vulgate register of the commonly spoken language throughout Latin Europe.

      Having formally studied the Vulgate and the Late Latin, I have to say that I’m under no particular spell of aetheric enchantment when I hear the Mass in Latin, at least no more than when I hear the Mass in say French, or Spanish, or Italian — it’s the Mass, whichever language it’s given in…

      The Latin is, from my point of view, just another liturgical language.

      (which certainly does NOT mean that I could ever denigrate those whose preferred liturgical language it might be, particularly as I find the Mass in English to be greatly inferior, formally that is, to the Mass given in any of the abovementioned languages)

  12. .
    Toad remembers some 60 years ago, asking the priest, “Why is the Mass in Latin, Father?” and being told, “So that, wherever you are in the world, Son, whenever you attend Mass, you can be sure you won’t be able to understand a word of it.”
    Wise words, indeed.
    Nevertheless, Toad prefers the Mass to be in the vernacular , provided it is in a foreign language.

  13. JabbaPappa I tried to click on following you but it did not like maybe there was another form of email they wanted.
    I will read more, I have got rid of the internet and only use the library since the internet a home slows down painting and that is my calling not the internet. I did a very nice twice life size painting to Jesus for the Monastery outside of Prague, but one of the brothers (Father Antonia put it in his cell instead, so that is good I think. If I get a picture of it I will post it, I am starting a class at church to teach painting so we can have trained people to paint religious subjects. I met three guys (high school) at a function at church nice guys they played in a band, and I asked if they went to church here at st thomas and they all said, no, I don’t even know what a bible looks like and they all repeated the same line, I was shocked and I know this is czech and religion was supressed but still not to know the bible as suitable for quotes in writing was shocking to me. I watchtower has become too much a protestant talking shop for me in some ways. I will stick to phillip for I am the ethiopian in the chariot, I am not a protestant, why give up gold for straw.

    • I have (regretfully) decided to stop following Watchtower too, though I have nothing but respect for Jessica and for several of her fellow travellers.

      The Papal Encyclical Mortalium Animos forbids participation in any ecumenical groups — and it seems clear to me that this is exactly what the Watchtower has become. Such participation can only be authorised by a Bishop or by the Vatican, according to the general rules provided in Unitatis Redintegratio (Vatican II), and where no such authorisation is provided, the full force of Mortalium Animos will be applicable.

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