I went to my second ever Latin Mass.
And I’m pleased to report that it was slightly less disorientating than the first time. (See My First Latin Mass for all the disorientating weirdness.) But it was still ten different types of weird, and I still didn’t know what was going on. Apparently, this is a very normal response.
But oh my, it was beautiful. The music was to die for, the vestments were gorgeous, and the only glow was a golden one from flickering candles, and not a blue one from a malfunctioning power-point. (Not that I speak from personal experience…) It was just objectively, certifiably, stick-it-in-a-museum-and-charge-an-entrance-fee beautiful.
I also loved how full it was. I don’t mean there were lots of people, though there were and a surprising number (surprising to me at least) were young adults. I mean that it seemed to be full of meaning, and memories, and layers. Like the very history of our Church was woven through every hushed syllable, or humble genuflection, and that in that stillness, you might just pull a thread and watch Salvation History pour out before you. It seemed deep, and old, and rather Entish in a way.
And weird as it sounds, I also loved how manly it was. I mean, it was also had a very feminine vibe, but I’m used to that. This was a bit different. I think it seemed masculine because it seemed like hard work. Every action was deliberate and precise, and some even required actual physical strength. I mean, those giant candlesticks the altar boys were carrying looked seriously heavy. And then the incense dude (what’s it called?) started swinging that thurible like it was a freaking sword, and I was all, woah.
That doesn’t seem very safe… It was fantastic.
In fact, I’ve decided that Latin Mass is definitely not safe.
If masses were men, Latin Mass would be a tall, dark, handsome stranger. Enticing but with a dangerous edge. Endless fascinating but also just really, really strange…
And I’m just not sure I should be going home with that kind of man.
Because I also kept wondering, how much of this beauty – this allure – is only in this mass? Why can’t all our parishes, with our run-of-the-mill vernacular masses, recover that sense of beauty? Is it something of the old-fashioned Latinness that makes it so awesome, or is should all our masses be like that?
I love hearing the Mass in English. Even more, I believe it should be in English. (And by English, I mean the vernacular of course.) Not that there is anything wrong with having it in Latin, but why have it in Latin? I don’t think I have good enough reasons yet. And there are so many things I love about the “new” mass, like all the readings from the Old and New Testaments, the prayers of the faithful, the different canons, the sign of peace, and yes, the fact that I can hear what’s going on in my own language. That helps me enter into the Sacred Mysteries more than anything else.
If masses were actually men, we’d all agree that tall, dark, handsome strangers are positively delicious, but communication is still the key to any good relationship. And our masses might be a bit bland or dorky at times, but at least you know what’s going on. It gives you security, and he (I mean it) has a good heart… he just need some help with his dress sense.
How much of the beauty and allure of the Latin Mass is because it is a Mass properly and reverently done, and how much because it’s this particular Latin Mass? Why couldn’t our normal masses be just as beautiful? Just as reverent? But if there is actually some reason – some inherent, structural – reason that the Latin Mass is beautiful in a way that the new masses just can’t be, then that’s a serious problem.
Ok maybe I’m the only one who feels distinctly uncomfortable about the Latin Mass. And I’m not even sure whether it’s a good or bad discomfort, but it’s there.
Maybe it’s because if trashy romance novels have taught me anything (and they haven’t), it’s that the dark, handsome strangers never turn out to be particularly communicative, well-balanced or even sane. You just know that the stranger is going to turn out to be a murderer or Heathcliff reincarnated, and he will probably have more mummy issues than poor Oedipus…
I just don’t know about this whole Latin Mass thing. It honestly scares me a little.
But I know I have to keep thinking about it because it’s important. Our masses should be both beautiful and comprehensible, both ancient and ever-new. They should be shallow enough for lambs to wade, and deep enough for elephants to swim.
So if you find a mass like that, I want his number. I mean, the number of the parish… Awkward.