How our Eastern Catholic Brethren Can Help Us Understand Latin Mass
The Traditional Latin Mass has been making its comeback in recent times as more priests are learning the 1962 missal. Seminaries that focus only on the Latin Mass are filling up. Parishes are including the Extraordinary Form into their Sunday schedule. If you find yourself in a Latin Mass, there is more than one way to approach it to not be lost.
The advice for first timers may be to not try to follow along with a missal, but to watch the altar and pray. There are plenty of 1962 missals to choose from to follow along with the Latin Mass. The common remark after a person attends a Latin Mass is not understanding the language. This is not a persuasive explanation for the use of the Extraordinary Form and its Latin use; rather, it is a different perspective to weave yourself into the Mass by learning from our Eastern Catholic brothers.
Christianity in the Western World is composed of Roman Catholics and Protestants. While the Eastern World has twenty three Catholic Churches in Communion with Rome, each with their own Rite. They have perfectly valid sacraments, apostolic succession, and attending their Divine Liturgy fulfills a RomanCatholic’s Sunday obligation. However, the Eastern Church has a different approach to theology. Theologians in the West were scholars. Theologians in the East were those that had constant communication (prayer) with God.
Living in the Western World, we have an innate desire to put information in a box. The scholastic in us wants to know the why to everything. Westerners want to know the reason for everything that is. It is the atmosphere we grew up in and the methodology we are taught. Whereas the Easterners see things differently. Contemplation and meditation are at the core of the Eastern Christian faith instead of rigorous academics. Its “goal is not the explanation of the Christian faith, but faithful adherence to its mysteries” (Payton, pg. 67).
So how does the Eastern approach to God help with Latin Mass?
Perhaps the best thing to do is be lost in the Mass, in its mysteries, in God’s sacrifice. Do not be quick to ask the reason for every movement of the priest and servers. Do not be a spectator. Wrap yourself in the mysteries of the Mass that you feel one with the Sacrifice of Christ. An elderly lady I met at Divine Liturgy said, “it’s like leaving the city and walking towards the mountains, but as I got deeper in the mountains, I was lost, but in the beauty and peace of the mountains. I couldn’t go back to the city” as she explained why she switched over to Eastern Christianity.
The Latin Mass has plenty of resources to unfold its beauty. However, you do not need a resource to know that God sent his only Son to die for your sins, resurrect from the dead, turn bread and wine into his living Body and Blood, for you to worship and receive Him. God being humble contains His majestic glory in the consecrated host. We can humble ourselves to not know the Mass but to become one with the Mass.
Payton Jr., James R. 2007. Light from the Christian East. An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition. pg. 67.