Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What study would you suggest in preparation for attending a Tridentine/1962/"Extraordinary" Mass?
Here are a few observations and suggestions. May everyone please feel free to add to this in the comments!


First, you must understand what the Mass is. That is far too sublime of a topic for me!

I assume that you are familiar with the new Mass and have no problem understanding its structure and that you are able to follow along in the missalette. The structure of the new Mass is based on the old, and generally speaking, the new Mass mainly deletes prayers from the old, often aggressively. If you compare the texts of the Masses side-by-side, try to find where they are more-or-less the same to get your bearings. I would suggest getting hold of a missal for study, especially the version put out by Baronius Press.

The new Mass has several optional variations not present in the old, although one of the variants will be a cut-down version of the old.

Some things added to the new Mass include the Old Testament reading, the responsorial Psalm, and handshaking. During the Extraordinary Mass you will not find lay lectors, Communion in the hand, Communion under the species of the Precious Blood, "Eucharistic ministers", altar girls, folk or rock music, or liturgical dancers.

The Multi-Headed-Beast, otherwise known as Wikipedia, has a fairly good, comprehensive article on the Extraordinary Mass, but beware that this is only true as of this instant, and there are plenty of people with ideological axes to grind who edit the article. Reading Wikipedia can be an occasion of sin, so be careful!

The best Mass to attend, if you intend to follow along in the missal, would be a Solemn High Mass on a Sunday, since it moves along slowly enough to find your place in the missal, as well as requiring less page-turning. Low Masses, those which are said quickly instead of being chanted slowly, may be much more difficult to follow. Especially difficult to follow may be weekday low Masses, since these typically are Saint's feasts: these require two or three extra page-markers in the missal to determine the correct Mass text for the day, and so there is much more page-turning.

The major things to know are the Propers and Ordinary of the Mass.

The Ordinary is what rarely changes from Sunday to Sunday, although some feast days, and weddings, funerals, ordinations, and such forth, will complicate matters. Much of the Ordinary will be inaudible, so it would help if you have a Trad friend to point out where you are in the text. Take note of the rubrics: sometimes you can synchronize your reading of the missal with the priest due to certain sensory actions, like incense, bells, and priestly posture. Good missals will have an overview of the Mass with illustrations to help you along. For example, if a priest or deacon is on the right side of the altar, chanting an extensive text, then he is reading the Epistle; if on the left side, then that is the Gospel. If a bell rings, then pay attention and be very reverent!

The Proper of the Mass is that part of the text which changes from day to day, and these are often in Gregorian Chat. If the choir or priest is chanting extensively, then typically this will be a Proper. You should be able to distinguish hymns from Propers: hymns will be at the very beginning, end, and during Communion, while the Propers will fall in between. You will need to determine what are the Propers for the day, and unfortunately, the calendar for the new and old Masses are quite different.

A regular Sunday Mass, outside of important feast days, has a precise, regular structure that you can easily learn. Sometimes, though, you ought to get your nose out of the missal and just participate in the Liturgy by carefully watching and listening, using all of your senses. It has been long understood that private prayer during the Mass has many graces, even if you don't follow along with the text. The old Mass has a compelling beauty of its own, even if you are not intellectually aware of everything that is going on.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post topic and discussion. I was a novus ordo "refugee" so I can relate to the experience of experiencing the traditional Mass after a lifetime of the n.o. Some general observations based on what I experienced:

    1. Don't be surprised if it doesn't "take" right away. I have had friends who had an immediate epiphany, but it took me several times to "get" the flow and the theology. It may seem foreign to one who has never attended. I attened about 2 High and 3 Low Masses before I had a true Damascus road experience. People who have suffered through the novus ordo typically celebrated at their parishes EXPECT the TLM to hit them like a ton of bricks. So, the expectations are high, and sometimes they are let down. Don't be-- the treasure is there, and you have lots of time to explore its depths.

    2. In the high Mass, sometimes if feels like the priest is going slowly, but other times he is seemingly speeding along. This rhythm is easily identified within 5 or so Masses. As an absolute beginner, I think the biggest thing is to know that when the choir begins the Sanctus, don't worry about singing along, but rather do as the priest does-- read the Sanctus and begin immediately praying the Canon. This way the consecration won't take you by surprise, as it does many newbies.

    3. There are many excellent resources explaining the Mass and its rubrics. Maria Montessori has a fine book "The Mass Explained to Children", which is great for modern adults. Dom Prosper Gueranger's "The Holy Mass" is also great. And on the internet, has great articles on the Mass-- check around.

    4. And finally, check online and get a side-by-side comparison of the English translations of the traditional and new Masses. You'll see why it is worth taking the time to understand the TLM.