AS a seminarian receiving formation in both the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form of the Mass, I hear many whoppers about the Latin Mass.
One such myth is that in the Latin Mass the priest “turns his back on the people”.
At Mass, the priest asks the congregation to pray “that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father”.
In facing the same direction, both priest and laity look towards God and offer the sacrifice of the Mass to Him together.
There is also a beautiful symbolism in celebrating “ad orientem” or towards liturgical East.
As Pope Benedict taught in The Spirit of the Liturgy, the whole Church turning toward the East where the Sun rises is an anticipation of the true Sun, Christ the Saviour, who is to come again in glory on the Last Day.
Interestingly, a number of the rubrics in the Missal for the Ordinary Form of Mass, which most people attend, presume that the celebrant is facing the same direction as the congregation, at least during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Another myth is that the Second Vatican Council did away with Latin and “traditional music” or Gregorian chant.
One need only read the Second Vatican Council document Sacrosanctum Concilium concerning the liturgy to see how modest the liturgical reforms were intended to be.
Regarding Latin, the document tells us: “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites,” before recommending a moderate and consultative process of introducing the vernacular language into the Mass.
Regarding Gregorian chant: “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”
But perhaps the greatest argument in favour of the more traditional form of Mass is to attend one yourself.
If it is your first time, be prepared to be struck by the mystery of the ritual, the uplifting effect of the music and the overpowering sense of solemnity and sacredness.
You might even ask someone from the vibrant crowds of families and young men and women that attend the Latin Mass whether he or she feels “excluded” or upset that Father isn’t facing the congregation during Mass.
The fact is that scores of people everywhere of all ages are discovering with great joy one of the Church’s most precious treasures, and its popularity, especially among young people, continues to grow.
Br Shawn Murphy