Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tridentine Mass

Yesterday, The Feast of the Assumption, I went to Mass twice. In the morning with B and S at our parish, where our good Monsignor was ten minutes late starting the mass, gave us a good homily about the many misperceptions of Mary, and conducted the whole Mass with his usual gentle and humorous way. The choir sang Ave Maria after Communion and it was lovely.

I can get a lot of praying done at our parish Masses. Of course B made that a bit hard. She kept insisting that she find each hymn in the big hymnal on her own. This meant that she would take almost the whole length of the actual hymn searching for the right number, stubbornly refusing help from me. So she was brimming with frustration because as she'd finally get to the right page the singing would end. Ah, dear. So she was reduced to tears by the end of the whole thing. When she gets mad she forgets to whisper! And we were sitting in the second pew from the altar and no one sat in front of us. I hope Monsignor didn't notice too much. It is hard sometimes with a very willful 7 year old! S on the other hand just droops the minute he gets into Mass. It makes me think of that Jerry Seinfeld bit where he talked about how when you are little and you go shopping with your mom and suddenly your legs won't hold you up anymore and you'd begin to droop? That's S! Suddenly he can only slump. I'm forever telling him to sit up or stand up. I rub his back, tousle his hair, touch his arm, point towards the altar (as in, direct your eyes up front, dear!). When he kneels he has to put his head down on his arms like he's about to go to sleep. His body language yells I'm bored! I used to be on him all the time, giving him little lectures about how when you're visiting God's house it isn't good to act like you need to nap! A bit rude! But I think it is better to get him excited about it in other ways, indirectly instead of nagging him. And surprisingly he'll come out with some profound comment after Mass or even days later that shows he was paying more attention than I gave him credit for.

Anyway, in the evening it turned out that H went and sang at our parish 7:30 p.m. Mass but W and J came with me to check out a Tridentine Mass a couple parishes away for the first time. R got home in time to watch B and S.

I wanted to get there a bit early so we could see if there were missals that would help us follow the Mass, as I really am woefully ignorant about it. But we got there just in time; I took a wrong turn and got us lost briefly. I remembered to borrow H's mantilla, but it turned out only about half the women there were wearing them.

The organ and the choir began and the priests and acolytes processed in. (I noticed that this parish has four priests listed in its bulletin. That amazed me. Our huge parish has our one pastor and our retired Monsignor. How can it be that one parish gets 4 priests and another gets what amounts to 1.5? And just judging by the seating capacity in each church, ours is much larger.) Anyway, it was an all men's choir and the singing was absolutely breath-taking. I couldn't follow the beginning part of the Mass at all. There were no missals, only some laminated sheets of paper with a few Latin prayers on them. We didn't know when to sit or stand but just followed along. Lots of incense! I could pick out some Latin words of course, but not enough to let me know what was going on.

The celebrant prayed in Latin to himself and there was quite a choreographed sequence of altar boys and assisting priests moving this way and that, now taking up the lectionary, now putting it down, now incensing, now kneeling, now standing, now moving in front of the altar, now moving to the side, now bowing. The celebrant kept saying prayers at the altar then sitting down, putting on his biretta, praying, taking off his biretta, getting up again. Everything was perfectly timed and it made me wonder how often they'd had to practice the whole thing.

All the music was in a minor key and very glorious but very solemn too. The pastor of that church had recently been hospitalized for a stroke. I had seen him years ago when he was at another parish. He has aged considerably. His hair is snow white and it looked as if the stroke had really taken a toll on him. He walked with a cane. But he got up and read something in Latin before the celebrant read the Gospel in English and then delivered his homily. I don't know the name of the priest but his homily was superb. It was all about how Mary preceeds us in what God wants for us. Mary was assumed into heaven body and soul because the division of body and soul came from the Fall and she is already with her resurrected body just as we will be on the last day. He talked about how our culture views the body without the dignity something that will one day be in heaven deserves. He said that part of our society worships at the cult of the body beautiful, where people spend more time at the gym than at church, where they make it their utmost goal to hold on to the body of youth resorting to extreme measures. He said that some in our culture loath themselves through their body, as in the teen fad of cutting or people who have eating disorders. And others see the body as merely utilitarian and he cited infant stem cell research, harvesting organs before one is brain dead, in vitro fertilization.

He talked about how the church honors the body, even through mortification such as fasting, because it trains the soul, through the body to resist temptation. He said that being chaste and waiting for the holy union of marriage and then giving one's body to one's spouse is honoring the dignity of the body. And those who are consecrated virgins or celibates also honor the dignity of the body by sacrficing their sexuality for God. He said more too, but I can't recall it all. But it was an excellent homily.

We were able to follow along when we said the Credo and the Pater Noster. The Liturgy of the Eurcharist was beautiful. I kept looking at J and W out of the corner of my eye to see how they were doing. J looked engrossed, W was pretty good but he was doing his little ADHD quirky tics and I had to signal to him a couple times. He does these weird movements with his hands. It's just pent up restlessness, but it looks slightly schizo so I'm trying to get him to be more self-aware about it.

Right before communion J whispered to me "Do we say Amen when we receive?" I said yes but then immediately thought maybe that wasn't right, so I whispered back, "Just watch and see what the people in front of us do!"

We went up and at our turn knelt at the altar. The priest came by (he looked to be a visiting African priest) and said something in Latin while forming a little cross in the air with the Host. You don't say Amen and of course you receive on the tongue.

After Mass was over the organist launched into this incredible piece of music. I almost laughed at first because it sounded the the soundtrack to a really gothic monster movie to me! I guess I am so unsophisticated about real organ music than I can only associate it with how it has been parodied.

W loved the organ music and clapped when it was done which embarrassed me greatly as no one else did! We left the church with red faces. But the first words out of J's mouth were: "That was awesome! Can we go to Mass here again?" That is saying something because the Mass was one and half hours long and it was now 9 o'clock. How many 13 year old boys have that reaction! W also gave the Mass two thumbs up! He loved all the gorgeous music. He announced that now he was pumped to try to learn Latin again.

I was so busy taking in everything and in awe of all the splendor that I didn't really pray the way I usually do in church. I guess my awe and appreciation were a kind of prayer!

I know the Tridentine Mass we attended was a 'high' Mass. I know that particular pastor is very into music and always has a paid choir somehow at his parish (his own money????). I wonder what a low Tridentine Mass is like? Just chanting and spoken perhaps?

It was a lovely experience and I now am in complete sympathy with those who prefer the Tridentine over the Novus Ordo in the venacular!

No comments: