Last night, I had the opportunity, for the first time, to attend/assist/celebrate a Traditional Latin Mass for the first time in public. (While on retreat after Christmas, I said a daily TLM in private, which is much preferable, to me, than saying the NO in private, but I'll get to that in a later post, hopefully.)
Those following my twitter feed (@fatherschnippel) noticed the following yesterday, late morning: "Message to Cinci folk: TLM at OSM, 7:00 PM, tonight, Epiphany Solemn Mass, urs truly as Deacon"
Yep, first time: Deacon at a Solemn High Mass! A bit of training from a very good MC, and off we went. To say it is different than the NO Mass is, umm, selling it a bit short. I am still trying to get my head around the experience.
First thought: strangely, it is much harder to 'pray' this Mass than the NO as a priest. At least these initial run throughs (with rusty Latin), I am so concerned with the Rubrics, the hand positions, the genuflections, the kissing the altar, hand, etc., I'm trying to get through it rather than 'pray' it. In TLM, it is not about the priest, it is about the ritual, the ceremony, the prayers; entering into a timelessness, almost. The prayers are beautiful in their wording, if sometimes wordy, even in the Latin (which can really get me toungue tied!)
Another thought, from a friend who was attending her first TLM: Afterwards, as we were digesting the experience over sandwiches at Cinci's oldest bar, her comment was: 'It seemed, ummm..., more masculine.' The guys at the table agreed: if NO Masses were celebrated like that, there would be more vocations. (leading a participant to quip this morning in a note: "Father, have you told your boss and your other priest friends that a very orthodox mass (even NO) with a very rigorous/demanding altar server program would help encourage vocations?" Well, we know it, harder to implement.
The chants (and the choir was really great last night!) all reflect that timelessness. Certainly, in TLM, there is not a notion of 'I don't get anything out of Mass,' even the laity have to work to pray along.
Another buddy, also attending his first TLM, tried to follow along at first, but dropped the little red hand missal and just decided to soak it in. I think he was still trying to put it into words, too. (I really hope he was joking with the 'needed more "active participation"!' line!)
Anyway, there is another chance to see me ply the trade of the deacon tonight, for the monthly 'First Friday' Mass at Old St. Mary's in Cincinnati's Over the Rhine. Hopefully, I won't be quite as lost, be able to enter the prayer a bit more and ultimately, soon, be able to step up to the top step of the altar and bat leadoff for the Solemn High Mass.
As a contrast, since I hadn't had my own Mass yet, I then celebrated a Low Mass at the same alter, with just two servers and maybe a few others at first in the Church. At least there, I was mostly getting the hang of things.
Finally, my friend (who commented above on the masculinity of TLM) was finally able to give me my birthday present, only a month late, but still appreciated: a center Altar Card she had picked up at a thrift store. Not to decorative, just pretty simple words hadn written on a paper, mounted in a frame. Awesome! And it will be very helpful at the home chapel, where we didn't have the cards yet. Mass intention for her today!
UPDATE: Fr. Z picked this up here. He highlights the beauty and the difficulty of this Mass: It wieghs upon the priest, it makes demands of both the priest and the people, it takes a while for things to get comfortable, routine. Isn't our prayer life much the same?
To be fair: the 'active participation' comment was firmly toungue in cheek