Thursday, June 28, 2018

How to Assist at the Traditional Mass, Part 2: The Mass itself

Just a friendly reminder that there is no obligation of penance or abstinence from meat tomorrow, June 29, because it is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. This is also a holy day of obligation in some countries, including England, Scotland, and Wales. It is not a holy day of obligation in the United States.

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Click here for Part 1: Preparations before Mass.

At a Low Mass, the priest is assisted by only one or two servers, and there is no music or incense. Only two candles are lit on the altar. Although it does not have some of the beautiful ceremonies of a Solemn Mass, it is the simplest form of the Mass to understand and participate in. Thus, in this article, I will walk you through a typical Low Mass. Afterwards, I will explain the parts that are different in a Sung or Solemn Mass.

The congregation stands, sits, and kneels for certain parts of the Mass. The postures and actions of the congregation are not regulated by the rubrics, only by custom. Thus, they sometimes vary from place to place or even from person to person. As a general rule, follow what other people are doing.

All rise when the server rings the bell. The priest and server go in procession to the altar. The priest approaches the altar to unfold the corporal and place the chalice. He then returns to the bottom of the altar steps to begin Mass. Kneel when the server does.

The priest and server say the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar aloud together. You can follow along in the missal and silently say the prayers with the priest. The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar are found in the Ordinary of the Mass in the missal. We open with Psalm 42 and then pray the Confiteor, which the server says on our behalf, asking God for mercy and grace to prepare ourselves to offer the Holy Sacrifice. Make the Sign of the Cross at the verse “Adiutorium nostrum in nomine Domini,” before the Confiteor. When the server says the Confiteor, we strike our breasts three times at the words, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”

At the end of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the priest goes up to the altar, kisses it, and then reads the Introit. The Introit is found in the missal in the propers of the day. Unless it is a Mass for the Dead (also known as a Requiem Mass), all make the Sign of the Cross when the priest begins the Introit. The priest then says the Kyrie alternately with the server. If the day is of a joyful nature, the priest says the Gloria at the middle of the altar. The Kyrie and Gloria are both found in the Ordinary of the Mass. The congregation remains kneeling. At the words, “Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris,” at the end of the Gloria, make the Sign of the Cross.

The priest then kisses the altar and turns to greet the people, saying, “Dominus vobiscum.” The server responds, “Et cum spiritu tuo.” In some parishes, it is customary for the people to say this and other responses with the server. Everything the server says and does is on the people's behalf. The priest prays the collects at the epistle side of the altar, which are found in the propers for the day and for whatever occasions may be commemorated. They always conclude, “Per omnia saecula saeculorum,” to which the server responds, “Amen.”

Next is the Epistle, which the priest reads while the congregation remains kneeling. It is found in the propers of the day. At the end, the server says, “Deo gratias.” The priest then reads aloud the Gradual, Alleluia verse, Tract, or whatever is appointed to be read between the Epistle and Gospel. After he has said these, the server moves the missal from the epistle side to the gospel side of the altar (right side to the left side when facing it). Meanwhile, the priest bows down in the middle of the altar and silently says the prayer Munda cor meum.

All rise for the Gospel. The priest begins with the greeting, “Dominus vobiscum.” When he says, “Sequentia (or Initium) sancti Evangelii...” make a small Sign of the Cross with your thumb on your forehead, lips, and breast, as a nonverbal way of praying that the Gospel may be on our minds, our lips, and our hearts. Remain standing while the priest reads the Gospel. At the end, the server responds, “Laus tibi, Christe,” and the priest kisses the missal at the place where the Gospel is printed, silently praying, “Per Evangelica dicta deleantur nostra delicta.”

If it is a Sunday, major holy day, or sometimes an ordinary weekday, the priest may preach a sermon. Sit down as he approaches the pulpit. First, he might read the Epistle and Gospel again in English. If he does, sit for the Epistle, stand for the Gospel, and then sit again. There are no responses by the server or congregation when the Epistle and Gospel are read in English. You do not have to make the small Signs of the Cross again when the Gospel is read, though you can if you want to. The priest may also read some announcements. The sermon, always in English, is customarily begun and concluded with the Sign of the Cross. After the sermon, the priest returns to the altar.

If it is a Sunday or major holy day, the priest will then read aloud the Credo, also called the Nicene Creed. It is found in the Ordinary of the Mass. The people stand. At the words, “Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est,” genuflect on your right knee in adoration of our Lord's Incarnation. At the words, “Et vitam venturi saeculi,” at the end of the Credo, make the Sign of the Cross.

The priest will then greet the people with Dominus vobiscum and read aloud the Offertory verse, which is found in the propers. The congregation then sits. If there is a sermon but no Credo, you can remain sitting after the sermon. This is the beginning of the Mass of the Faithful. The priest now prepares the bread and wine and offers them to God. They will soon become the Body and Blood of Christ. In some parishes, the bell is rung when the priest unveils the chalice. The Offertory prayers are found in the Ordinary of the Mass and are said silently by the priest.

During the Offertory, especially on Sundays, the ushers may collect the people's monetary offerings for the support of the parish. They proceed from the front of the church to the back with the collection basket. If you are offering something, have it out and ready when the usher comes by. Visitors are not expected to contribute money, though generosity is always appreciated. Catholic parishes rely on free will offerings. Catholics are obligated to make some sort of material contribution to the support of their parish.

Toward the end of the Offertory, the priest turns toward the people and says in a soft but audible voice the two words, “Orate fratres.” As he turns back to the altar, he continues silently, “ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem.” Here, the priest is inviting us to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by asking us to pray that his sacrifice and ours may be acceptable to God. The server responds by praying for this intention. The priest then silently prays the secrets, which are found in the propers of the day and of the occasions being commemorated.

The priest concludes the secrets aloud and proceeds with the Sursum corda dialogue, printed in the Ordinary of the Mass, followed by the Preface. After the Preface, the priest says the Sanctus in a soft but audible voice. At the beginning of the Sanctus, the server rings the bell, and all kneel. This is the hymn of adoration of the holy angels, so we join the angels in kneeling before God's throne. The priest bows down while saying the first part of the Sanctus, and we may bow our heads as well. At the words, “Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini,” we make the Sign of the Cross.

The priest then reads the Canon of the Mass silently, with the people kneeling. It is printed in the Ordinary of the Mass. During this most important and sacred part of the Mass, there is silence in the church. The server rings the bell once at the prayer “Hanc igitur,” warning us that the bread and wine are about to become the Body and Blood of Christ.

After the priest pronounces the words of consecration of the Host, he genuflects in adoration, and the bell is rung once. He then elevates the Host, and the bell is rung three more times. Look at the Sacred Host, knowing that it is God himself under the humble appearance of bread, and say silently the words of St. Thomas the Apostle when he believed that our Lord was risen: “My Lord and my God!” You can also add one of the prayers given by Our Lady of Fatima: “Most Holy Trinity, I adore thee! My God, my God, I love thee in the Most Blessed Sacrament!” The priest genuflects again, and the bell is rung once more. This same ritual follows the consecration of the Chalice. Look up at the Chalice of our Lord's Precious Blood and say silently again, “My Lord and my God!”

Later in the Canon, the priest says the words, “Nobis quoque peccatoribus,” in a soft but audible voice and then continues silently. He strikes his breast when he says these words, but the server does not. At the end of the Canon, he says aloud, “Per omnia saecula saeculorum,” to which the server responds, “Amen.”

We remain kneeling while the priest says the Pater noster aloud. The server says the final line. The priest says the next prayer silently while he breaks the Host. He again concludes aloud, “Per omnia saecula saeculorum.” He then says aloud, “Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum,” and the server responds, “Et cum spiritu tuo.” After a silent prayer, the priest says the Agnus Dei aloud. At the words, “Miserere nobis,” in each of the first two lines, and the words, “Dona nobis pacem,” in the third line, we strike our breasts. If it is a Mass for the Dead, instead of “Miserere nobis,” the priest says, “Dona eis requiem,” and instead of “Dona nobis pacem,” he says, “Dona eis requiem sempiternam.” We do not strike our breasts at Masses for the Dead.

Next, the priest bows down and silently the three prayers in preparation for Communion. After these, he takes the paten and Host and says three times in a soft but audible voice, “Domine, non sum dignus,” before continuing silently. The server rings the bell each of the three times. The priest eats the Sacred Host and drinks the Precious Blood.

Depending on local custom, the server may say the Confiteor again on behalf of the people before we receive Communion. Like before, we strike our breasts three times at the words, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.” The priest says the prayers “Misereatur...” and “Indulgentiam...” He then takes the ciborium, turns to the people, holds up a small Host, and invites us to Communion with the words, “Ecce Agnus Dei...” He then adds, “Domine, non sum dignus...” three times on our behalf. In some parishes, the people say these words with the priest.

In order to receive Communion, you must be a practicing Catholic in a state of grace and fasting for at least one hour. “State of grace” means you are not conscious of any mortal sins that have not yet been absolved through the sacrament of Penance. Children usually receive their first Holy Communion around age seven, after a period of preparation. Finally, you may not receive Communion more than twice in one day, and the second time must be at Mass. This restriction does not apply to Viaticum, or Communion given to someone in danger of death.

If you are not receiving Communion, sit down and raise the kneeler to allow others to get by. If you want, you may make an act of spiritual Communion. No one will judge you or think anything of the fact that you are not receiving Communion. If you are receiving Communion, stand up and get in line after the people in front of you have done so. You do not need to jump up as soon as the priest starts distributing Communion. Do not genuflect when you leave your pew. Since receiving Communion is a very personal experience, it is best to keep your eyes directly in front of you and avoid staring or watching people's faces during Communion. Kneel at the altar rail as close as comfortably possible to the person next to you. If you cannot kneel, you can stand. If there is a communion cloth, put your hands under it. When the priest comes to you, close your eyes, open your mouth, and stick out your tongue, and the priest will place the Host on your tongue. The server will hold a paten under your chin to catch the Host in case it falls. After you have received the Host, make the Sign of the Cross and then go back to your pew. Try not to chew the Host if you can avoid it, so that it does not get stuck in your teeth.

After receiving Communion, kneel in your pew and adore and thank God for what you have just received. Some people cover their faces with their hands while praying after Communion because of how intense and personal the experience is. For at least a little while, your body is a temple of the Blessed Sacrament. This is the closest we can possibly be to God while on earth. Meditate for a moment on Jesus's presence in your body. A popular prayer for after Communion is the Anima Christi, which is found in most missals.

After everyone has received Communion, the priest will perform the ablutions and then read the Communion verse aloud. He then greets the people and says the postcommunions, which are found in the propers. The congregation remains kneeling. The rest of the Mass is in the Ordinary of the Mass. After the priest gives the blessing, stand for the Last Gospel. All genuflect at the words, “Et verbum caro factum est,” in adoration of our Lord's Incarnation.

In many parishes, at the end of Low Mass, the priest and server kneel at the foot of the altar and say the Leonine Prayers in English. The congregation says them with the priest while kneeling. Some parishes add additional prayers after the Leonine Prayers by local custom. After these, the priest and server exit. The congregation stands as the priest and server leave the church. After Mass, make a private act of thanksgiving to God for the grace that he has given to us in the Mass. Remember the holy souls in purgatory, who always need our prayers.

When you are finished adoring and thanking God, genuflect as you leave the pew and exit the church. If the Blessed Sacrament is exposed on the altar, exit using a side aisle to avoid turning your back to the Blessed Sacrament. In this case, kneel on both knees and make a profound bow. If you want, you can bless yourself with holy water again as you exit. Keep silence until you are in the vestibule.

Assisting at Sung Mass or Solemn Mass

At a Solemn Mass, the priest is assisted by deacon and subdeacon, everything is sung, and incense is used. A Sung Mass is similar to a Solemn Mass, except that there is no deacon or subdeacon. Incense is usually used at a Sung Mass, but it is not required. Six candles are usually lit on the altar for both Sung and Solemn Mass, but four may be used for Sung Mass. They are both commonly referred to as “High Mass.” The manner of assisting at Sung or Solemn Mass is a little different from a Low Mass, so I will explain the differences here. Everything else is done as in a Low Mass.

The procession to the altar is commonly led by a large crucifix. Some people choose to bow or make the Sign of Cross when the crucifix passes them. Some people also choose to bow when the priest passes them in procession. If it is a Sunday, the Asperges will take place before Mass. Remain standing while the priest walks up and down the church, sprinkling everyone with holy water. When you are sprinkled with holy water, make the Sign of the Cross. Meanwhile, the choir will sing the antiphon Asperges me or, in Eastertide, the antiphon Vidi aquam. You can sing with the choir if you feel comfortable doing so. At the end, the priest and ministers will kneel in front of the altar to sing a prayer. The congregation remains standing.

Sit for a moment while the priest changes from cope to chasuble. The choir will begin singing the Introit. Kneel as the priest and ministers approach the altar. While the choir is singing, the priest and ministers say the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. Afterwards, the priest incenses the altar. When the choir finishes the Introit, they begin singing the Kyrie. You can always sing with the choir on any part of the Mass that you feel comfortable singing.

The priest sings the first few words of the Gloria, and the choir continues. Stand when the priest begins the Gloria. When the priest finishes reading the Gloria to himself, he and the ministers go to sit down. The congregation sits down after the priest sits down and then stands when the priest does after the Gloria. Make the Sign of the Cross when the choir sings, “Cum Sancto Spiritu,” at the end of the Gloria. If there is no Gloria, stand when the priest sings, “Dominus vobiscum,” before the collects.

Next, the priest at a Sung Mass or the subdeacon at a Solemn Mass sings the Epistle. The congregation sits. After the Epistle, the choir sings the Gradual, Alleluia verse, Tract, or whatever is appointed. Stand when the priest or deacon sings the Gospel. Sit for the sermon if there is one.

Like the Gloria, the priest sings the first few words of the Credo, and the choir continues, with the congregation standing. Kneel while the choir sings, “Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est,” and then stand again. At a Sung Mass, sit after the priest sits down. At a Solemn Mass, remain standing while the deacon unfolds the corporal on the altar, and then sit when the deacon and subdeacon sit. Stand when the priest stands at the end of the Credo. Make the Sign of the Cross when the choir sings, “Et vitam venturi saeculi.” The priest then goes to the altar to begin the Offertory.

During the Offertory, the choir sings the Offertory verse. They may also sing other pieces, or the organ may be played. The congregation stands when they are incensed and then remains standing. The priest sings the Preface, and then the choir sings the Sanctus while the priest begins saying the Canon silently. If the choir is singing a polyphonic setting of the Sanctus, they pause after the first “Hosanna in excelsis” and then resume after the consecration of the Host and Chalice. The priest ends the Canon singing aloud, “Per omnia saecula saeculorum.” Stand while the priest sings the Our Father. After the priest sings, “Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum,” and the choir responds, the congregation kneels. At a Sung Mass, the servers may say the Confiteor before Communion. At a Solemn Mass, the deacon sings the Confiteor. The choir sings the Communion verse during Communion, and they may also sing other pieces, like at the Offertory.

After Communion, stand when the priest sings, “Dominus vobiscum.” The priest then sings the postcommunions. Kneel for the blessing, and then stand again for the Last Gospel. The Leonine Prayers are not said after Sung or Solemn Mass. A hymn may be sung as the priest and ministers exit.

As a final note, I acknowledge again that the traditional Latin Mass can be confusing and intimidating if you are unfamiliar with it. Don't worry about doing everything right or following all of the rules. This article is intended to be a general guide rather than a strict set of rules. The most important thing is to go to Mass, worship God, and receive his grace.

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