May 09, 2016

A Trad Mass

Timing-wise, on Mother's Day, I needed to go to an earlier Mass and ended up going to a Latin Mass, the first I'd been to in maybe a dozen years, and third time ever.

It was far more entrancing and otherworldly than I remembered from last time. For one thing, the church interior positively glowed - they'd replaced the some of the dark stained glass windows near the altar with clear glass and it allowed tons of natural light in.

The liturgy itself felt different. There was almost continuous Latin chant which contributed to a reverent and calmed mood. And I love the smell of incense in the morning.

There was a feeling that we were going back in time, and it felt a bit like we were Civil War re-enactors. There were fifteen servers, two deacons and one priest, and the priest and deacons had funny black hats that bobbed up and defied gravity and contributed to the re-enactor feel. The hats were just so self-consciously retro.

At the beginning of the Mass there was a May Crowning, with little children walking up with white and red roses followed by one lad holding with great reverence a gold crown.

The kids walked achingly slowly, which was both impressive and alarming. Obviously they'd been coached to walk slowly but an obedient, reverent child is like a dog walking on hind legs or wearing clothes. My grandma at age 90 could've beat them up to the altar, walker or not.

The readings were in Latin and English and I was confused not to find them anywhere in my Mass Readings book - they weren't the Ascension, celebrated today in the diocese, nor Seventh Sunday of Easter nor Sixth. Later I found out they appear to be exclusive to Pre-Vatican II Missal, called “Sunday after Ascension”. So I missed the Ascension this year for first time ever, but it was worth it if only because there was no Sign of Peace (just a joke!).

The gold crown was taken up and placed on a statue of Mary, and I thought about how the gold that is used in churches could be seen as a way to Christianize the secular, like Christmas. Just as Christmas was a feast that perhaps replaced the pagan winter solstice, the gold the world so craves was used here as an instrument for worshiping God.

I had lots of time to think and be grateful since so much of this Mass was in a language incomprehensible, and my thoughts when to gratitude for the things I can't remember. Specifically, on this Mother's Day, I thought about the connection between Baptism and Motherhood, how Mom fed, clothed, cleaned me and put up with my squalling before the age I could remember her doing so. I thought about how I was the recipient of blessings before I was even conscious of them, just like with infant Baptism we are recipients of a great blessing without even being conscious of it.

The old language and rituals felt like some sort of ancient tongue of mine and surely I had heard it in church when I was under 4 years old, before the Latin Mass was widely discontinued. It reminded me of these lines from Moby Dick:
“I have heard,” murmured Starbuck, gazing down the scuttle, “that in violent fevers, men, all ignorance, have talked in ancient tongues; and that when the mystery is probed, it turns out always that in their wholly forgotten childhood those ancient tongues had been really spoken in their hearing by some lofty scholars…Poor Pip brings heavenly vouchers of all our heavenly homes.

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