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The beauty of the traditional Latin Mass according to a young Catholic

James Bundy propounds the benefits of a return to traditional rites

Since I have moved from Glasgow to London, I have been blessed with a wonderful gift: the traditional Latin Mass. I had the opportunity to attend the traditional liturgy when I was in Scotland, but this unfortunately was too infrequent for me to understand and comprehend the symbolism, divinity and power of the Mass.

Going to traditional Latin Mass on a regular basis opens your eyes. It brings about an interior silence, an inner peace. It makes clear the hierarchical distinction between Heaven and Earth. And in all its beauty, it makes the evil of Hell real, as well as the glory of the Kingdom to come.

In writing this, I do not mean to offend priests who do not celebrate the traditional Latin Mass, the reforms of the Church, or lay members who do not attend it. It is to write a piece about how the traditional Latin Mass has had such a profound impact on my Faith, and because of this, why I believe it should be offered more frequently in a larger number of locations.

Sacred

Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”

This I totally agree with. The closer to the tradition that we remain, the closer we remain to the first ever practising Christians. What a beautiful thought that is. One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is what we must be across the world, but also across generations. Maintaining the liturgy so it is as close to the way that those who came before us celebrated the Mass is one way of ensuring this.

Understandably, there are criticisms about the traditional Latin Mass from those who do not attend. On face value, I understand the concerns that they have. At the same time, however, I believe that these criticisms do not justify not attending a traditional Latin Mass.

The first of these criticisms is the language. How are people to understand the liturgy when they do not speak the language it is in? There are many rebuttals I would make so I will try and make some as concisely as possible.

Promoting culture

Pope John XXIII said: “of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every culture among diverse peoples, for it does not give rise to jealousies, it does not favour any one group, but presents itself with equal impartiality, gracious and friendly to all.”

If the Church is to be one, then it cannot be biased to any particular region. If the Church was to make its language English, Italian, French, Spanish, or Mandarin, then it would be indicating—even if not intentionally— that the Church was more suited to a particular culture. This goes against the very fabric of Church teaching.

The second argument that could be made is the complexity of translation. Take the European Union or United Nations, for example. Does a text fully uphold its true meaning when translated into a different language? If it did, why would there be debates—which there are—about the true translation of the Lord’s Prayer?

Maintaining tradition

Why do prayers originally written in Latin mean different things when the literal meaning is read in English, and then in French? Surely to overcome this problem it would be better for the Holy Mother Church to not only maintain Latin as its language, but for the liturgy to be celebrated in Latin as well.

My final point is in regard to the purpose of the liturgy. As Louis Bouyer—a French Lutheran minister who converted to the Catholic Church—said: “The main business of the liturgy is not to teach us this or that lesson easily converted into formulas; it is to place the faithful, without them quite knowing how, into a certain state of mind which it would be perfectly fruitless to try to recreate by explaining it.”

For myself personally, and for many others, the traditional Latin Mass does place me into a state of mind where I feel closer to the Divine. One reason for this, particularly during a High Mass, is the beauty of the Gregorian chant.

During Low Masses, as well as in periods of High Masses, the thing that appeals most about the traditional Latin Mass is the quietness and stillness of it.

God’s presence

Cardinal Robert Sarah, in his book, The Power of Silence, wrote: “Without silence, God disappears in the noise. And this noise becomes all the more obsessive because God is absent. Unless the world rediscovers silence, it is lost. The earth then rushes into nothingness.”

The traditional Latin Mass recognises the importance of silence in order to become closer to God.

During the Eucharistic prayer, and particularly at the consecration, silence fills the church. This allows us to hear the Holy Spirit which lives in our hearts silently, and in my experience, to be in greater awe of the sacrifice which we have just witnessed.

Despite this, people will argue times have moved on and the Church should too. If we are to evangelise, we must present our message in a way the world understands today. I understand the sentiment and that it is important that the Church evangelises.

Culture

However, must we abandon tradition to achieve this? God does not change for cultures for He is the ultimate culture. To evangelise, we must show the joys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the miracles of the Sacraments of His Church.

So rather than abandon tradition, let’s embrace it. If you haven’t been to a traditional Latin Mass before, I recommend you go to at least one. Don’t try to follow the Missal. Just embrace the liturgy, in the hope that it allows you to experience Our Lord Jesus Christ at a deeper level.

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