Probably the most obvious difference between the traditional Latin mass and the Novus Ordo mass is that the TLM is in Latin. Why Latin?
Well, why not Latin?
That one’s easy: “I don’t speak Latin. The mass should be in a language that I understand!” That is not an uncommon cry, is it?
Here’s the response to that: buy a good bilingual missal takes care of that problem.
So, why Latin? Here are some reasons that I have picked up from various sources:
Latin is the official language of the church. Doesn’t it make sense that her worship should be in that language?
A common language means that anyone can go to mass anywhere in the world and follow along – i.e. a universal church should have a universal language.
Because Latin is no longer evolving as a language, the precise words can be chosen and used and they will continue to be the right words. Languages that are spoken daily change over time, so the meaning of words and phrases will change. We don’t have that problem with the texts of the mass if they are in Latin.
The use of Latin makes the experience of the mass stand out from everything else that we do in our daily lives.
Now, having written all of that, let me add that I’m not sure Latin is necessary. I get all the reasons that I’ve listed above, but I still don’t know how important it is. However, given the use of a missal, it certainly doesn’t have to be an issue.
Also, since this is a new post, I want to reiterate that I do attend the Novus Ordo mass. Every week, in fact. This explanation of the TLM should not be taken to mean that I think that the NO mass is invalid.
On those few occasions when I have been able to attend the TLM, I have been moved beyond words by the experience, but talking with the members of the men’s group at my church, I have come to realize that a lot of people don’t really know much about the TLM or have a lot of questions about it, so I am answering some of the questions that I have gotten when I talk about the TLM.
And, a note on terminology: if you prefer to just call if the mass, the Latin mass, the Traditional Latin mass, the mass in the extraordinary form, the Tridentine mass…I’m not going to quibble about it. I’m using TLM here for the sake of convenience. It’s easy to type!