It is the first Saturday in February. I sit with the others who have come to this old Mass, this usus antiquior. This is my second time at a traditional Latin Mass, my second time at this church on a first Saturday. Outside, in the half-light of a Pacific Northwest winter morning a light rain falls, but inside there is a feeling of warmth. Candles glow near the altar. The priest and altar servers (there are now several servers this week rather than only one) have entered to the sounds of beautiful chant.
While we stand I can tell that we, meaning the servers, cantors (there are now two) and organist are doing a better job than last month. Slowly we are all learning how to celebrate in a manner once common to all Catholics. In a sense, this is an act of recovery.
We have come from all walks of life. We are a mixed lot, and most of us do not know each other. A few have given knowing nods to others, but the rest are alone or with their small groups. The priest walks to the foot of the altar and Mass has fully begun.
What is it that draws us to a Latin Mass on a cold saturday morning at 8am? Most of the city is still in bed. Some are just getting up and making coffee. But we are here standing, kneeling, genuflecting, crossing ourselves, reciting and singing Latin prayers, and all of us are focused on the solemn actions of the priest and servers. Why are we here? Many would say we are foolish. Why not sleep in? Why waste this precious hour? But they do not know what we know.
I try to follow the Mass with my brand new Roman Missal. I am both excited and a little self conscious to have with me this thick, bible-like book with its colored ribbons. The missal is based on the 1962 Latin Mass. I feel like I am holding a precious jewel in my hands. What is does this represent? What does it mean? I almost feel silly. But I know that here, in this church, I kneel before the Real Presence, my Lord, my King, my Savior. This old Mass seems a truer form of worship than in the new. This newly printed but old missal represents a desire for true worship, true reverence, for a connection with the saints, with the church on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven — and throughout history.
We are all worshiping Christ together. I sense am connected more fully to the Church throughout all time. I am worshiping in the manner given to us by God, not created by man.
Reality sinks in. I have trouble following the Mass exactly in the missal. It’s complicated. I don’t really yet know what I’m doing, so I set down the missal on the pew next to me. I focus instead on the Mass. I have decide that, at this moment, reverence from my heart is more important than perfect knowledge of the Mass. I will learn this Mass of the ages gradually, in time, as a laborer learns his trade or an artist her craft.
Introíbo ad altáre Dei.
Ad Deum qui lœtíficat juventútem meam.
I will go in to the altar of God.
To God, who giveth joy to my youth.