TLM – Part 4 – Participation

Aside from the fact that it is ad orientem and in Latin, one of the things that tends to stand out about the mass in the Extraordinary Form is how quiet it is.  When I was into the church, it is almost totally silent.  (This is a big change form the the parish where I normally attend a Novus Ordo mass!)

During the mass itself, the priest does the readings, the priest alone gives communion, and, during much of the mass, you can’t even hear what the priest is saying.  It’s quiet.

Some people view this as a negative.

We are called to full, conscious, active participation, right?  And that means that I have to be doing something, right?  I need to be making verbal responses, be serving as a lector, be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, be exchanging the sign of peace with my fellow worshipers, and on, and on, and on…

And, no the people don’t have a lot of responses to make.  The server does, but not he people.  (I heard of a parish where they have the TLM and the priest wears a microphone so that everyone can hear every word and the congregation makes all the responses along with the server.  They are happy because they are participating.)

I love the silence of the mass.

Yes, some parts of the mass are not meant to be heard by the congregation.  The priest is instructed to say them in a low voice.

I certainly understand why some people object to this.  I will mention that, if you have a good hand missal, you can follow all the prayers that way.

But I love the silence of the mass.  (I know that I said that before, but it bears repeating.)

First of all, you can participate.  It’s just that your participation is interior.  You can unite yourself with the sacrifice of the mass and be open to receive the graces that God is giving you through the mass.  You can worship the Lord.  Trust me, this may take more effort than saying this response or singing that hymn.

And what do you do with all that silence?  You be still and know that the Lord is God.  You pray.

We aren’t used to silence, anymore, are we?  There’s always a computer, a tablet, a cell phone handy.  We get buzzed and binged, texted, instagrammed, tweeted at, snapchatted…silence makes many people uncomfortable.  If we aren’t in contact with some else, we get a little twitchy.

I can’t even try to explain the experience that I have in the silence of the mass.  I can only say that it is wonderful.

Leave the phone in the car, go to mass, rest in God’s arms in the majestic silence of the mass and listen to Him speak to you.  His voice gets drowned out by all the voices clamoring for our constant attention, and that is a deep loss.

I will say that, if you go, be prepared to go a few times in order to really find out how you feel about it.  Some people know instantly, but, for others, the mass has to grow on them.  They have to learn to sort of find their way around in it.  Just put the missal down and be present.

Also, of course, you can watch the mass online.  Try Livemass for that.  You can find training videos online.  They are intended to teach priests how to celebrate the mass, but a layperson can learn a tremendous amount about what is going on by watching them.

The Latin mass isn’t a dusty old relic of a bygone age.

Go and see.


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