Thursday, June 21, 2018

Liturgy of the Traditional Mass, Part 12: Final thoughts

This is the final installment of the series on the traditional Latin Mass.

Previous parts in this series:
Part 6: The Offertory
Part 7: The Preface, Sanctus, and beginning of the Canon
Part 8: The rest of the Canon
Part 9: The Our Father, the breaking of the Host, and the Agnus Dei
Part 10: Communion
Part 11: The postcommunions and the end of the Mass

According to the missal, the priest should begin reciting the Canticle of the Three Children (Daniel 3:57-88) as a private devotion while he leaves the altar. This is the hymn of praise of the three children whom God delivered from the furnace. In the Divine Office, it is said or sung at Lauds, or morning prayer, on Sundays and major feasts. In any case, it is crucial for all of us who have assisted in and received the graces of the Mass to make a private act of thanksgiving to God and to make a resolution to unite ourselves with God's will. When we go out into the world, we should continue to live out the grace and good works that have been cultivated in the Mass. The Byzantine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom instructs, “Having adored and thanked God for everything, he goes away.”

As I mentioned in the first part of this series, the ceremonies I described are those of a Solemn Mass, which is the full and ideal form of the Mass. Unfortunately, outside of Rome, there are usually not enough clergy to offer a Solemn Mass on a regular basis. Thus, while the Solemn Mass is the ideal, in practice it has become the exception rather than the rule. Most daily Masses, or even Sunday Masses in smaller parishes, are Low Masses, in which the priest is assisted only by one or two servers, there is no incense, and nothing is sung. The ceremonies of a Low Mass try as much as possible to imitate a Solemn Mass, but they are much simpler.

At many parishes, the Mass on Sundays and major holy days is a Sung Mass, or missa cantata, in which everything is sung like in a Solemn Mass, but there is no deacon or subdeacon. Incense is frequently used at a Sung Mass, but it is not required. Like a Low Mass, the ceremonies of a Sung Mass imitate a Solemn Mass as much as possible. The Sung Mass is frequently referred to as “High Mass,” even though the term “High Mass” properly refers to a Solemn Mass. If you see “High Mass” on a parish's Mass schedule, it probably means Sung Mass.

At a Low Mass, after the Last Gospel, the priest and server kneel before the altar and say a few more prayers in the vernacular, known as the “Leonine Prayers.” These prayers have no antiquity and, like the Asperges, are not part of the Mass. They begin with three Hail Marys.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. (three times)

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee to we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray.
O God, our refuge and our strength, look down with mercy upon the people who cry to thee; and by the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of Saint Joseph her spouse, of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the saints, mercifully and graciously hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners and for the liberty and exaltation of our Holy Mother the Church. Through the same Christ Our Lord.

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Have mercy on us.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Have mercy on us.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Have mercy on us.

Pope Leo XIII ordered in 1884, while he was a prisoner in the Vatican due to the invasion by the Kingdom of Italy, that these prayers be said after Low Masses throughout the world to pray for defense of the pope's sovereignty over the Papal States. People had prayed them after Low Masses in the Papal States since 1859. After the Lateran Treaty granted the pope sovereignty over Vatican City in 1929, the Leonine Prayers continued to be said for the restoration of religious freedom in Russia. Thus, these prayers said after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are very powerful and have brought about great miracles in the world. They were suppressed in 1965, but they are still often said after traditional Latin Masses today. After the Leonine Prayers, the priest and servers exit, and the priest makes his thanksgiving.

Thus are the ceremonies of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the cornerstone of the Catholic religion, the perfect sacrifice of atonement for our sins, our true participation in our Lord Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, the most perfect act of worship that we offer to God, and the occasion of the greatest, most indescribable grace that God gives to us. The ceremonies of the Mass direct all five of our senses to God. We see the beautiful church, the vestments, the altar, the crucifix, and ultimately our Lord himself under the appearance of bread and wine. We hear the sacred music and Gregorian chant. We smell the aroma of incense. We feel the discomfort from standing and kneeling for an extended period of time, which occupies our bodies so that our minds can focus on God and gives us a glimpse, however miniscule, of our Lord's suffering on the Cross. Finally, if we are well prepared, we can taste God himself. God knows our human weakness and needs, so, through Divine Providence and Sacred Tradition, he has given us this perfect and beautiful ceremony with which to worship him, offer sacrifice, and receive his indescribable grace.

Some have wondered if such formal liturgy and ceremonies are pleasing to God, or if they are at odds with our spiritual experience of him. Not only is the liturgy not opposed to the Word of God or our spiritual experience, but it is even commanded by God and necessary to unite ourselves to him in his Church. In this series, I have made it clear that the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, celebrated and offered up as the Church has done for nearly two thousand years, is the proper act of worship and sacrifice of the New Covenant. By nature, true religion must have sacrifice as a public, external act for men to demonstrate their worship to God. In addition, it is clear from Sacred Scripture that God commands us to partake of his actual Body and Blood. This public sacrifice and partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ could not be anything less than this great and noble rite of the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Throughout this series, I have provided justification from both Scripture and writings of Church Fathers. The two sources of the Church's doctrine and the two pillars of the Word of God, Scripture and Tradition, both unequivocally uphold the Mass as the most perfect act of worship to God. Those who supposed that the Mass is in opposition to the Word of God were likely taken aback by the direct scriptural support of everything in the Mass, with some texts even coming straight out of the Bible, e.g. the Psalms. A quick scan of the Bible clearly shows that God is very concerned with the fine details of ceremonies carried out in his honor, as seen by the great detail he gives in prescribing them (Exodus 12 onward, entire book of Leviticus). As far as the "spiritual experience" and "things unseen," there can be no doubt that the Mass, being the same Sacrifice as offered at Calvary, fulfills both of those very well. In fact, it fulfills them far more than any Protestant service because, in the Mass, God is truly present.

Thus, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most pleasing act of worship to God, and the traditional Latin Mass is certainly a great and beautiful liturgy worthy of fulfilling such a role.

New terms
  • Sung Mass – A Mass with music but without deacon or subdeacon. Incense may or may not be used.
  • Leonine Prayers – Prayers said in the vernacular after Low Mass, ordered by Pope Leo XIII in 1884.

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