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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sanctus Domuinus Deus Sabaoth

This morning I drove through terribly slippery roads, risking my life to get to St. Agnes for the 10:00 am Mass. (Quite literally it was dangerous...I watched a car nearly spin out, and another slid through a stop sign as I approached the intersection. A VERY close call!)

The reason for braving this danger? To attend a first ever Extraordinary Form Mass, the first there in 40 years. They regularly have a Latin Novus Ordo, which I have attended - and love. But I've never been to what is often called a TLM (Traditional Latin Mass), so it was with great joy that I mounted the steps into this beautiful church.

I happen to have a borrowed St. Andrew missal, which was marked for the first Sunday in Advent, but set it aside in favor of the materials provided by St. Agnes, which had the Mass laid out in a booklet and an additional leaflet containing the specific readings for today.

It was a beautiful Mass, although I can't say I had any idea what was going on at any given time. Except here and there...I recognized the Kyrie, a few other things, the consecration was somewhat obvious, etc, although done a little differently, and, of course, in Latin.

There were a few kinks; for example, where the booklet directed us to stand, people sat...some stood, though. And where maybe we were supposed to sit, we were standing. It was VERY confusing. On one occasion, although the book said to stand, the deacon signaled for us to be seated. Of course, I have no idea of there were any mistakes made at the altar...I was a bit too focused on my own incompetence to worry about anyone else's!

And perhaps that's the best lesson to be learned on the First Sunday of Advent.

Because I was so lost, and so without understanding, and yet, still KNOWING that God was present, that it was Christ on that altar...I can't think of a better way to begin this season. The reverence given to Christ during the preparation before Mass began, the incense at different points, and all the activity directed to Our Lord was striking.

I found myself apologizing to Our Lord for my distraction, for not knowing what was going on, realizing my "apologies" were fully unnecessary, so I settled back and surrendered to trying to just be present. For, as long as I was at Mass, I could not be truly lost. It's the closest to Home any of us can get while still walking this earth.

It was perhaps somewhere around that point that I "got it". It's not the first Mass I've attended that was celebrated ad orientum, and I've long said that the worst "reform" that came after Vatican II was turning the altar around. Today, that came home to me even more directly as I witnessed the consecration from a completely different attitude.

It's hard to put into words, maybe impossible.

Mass was humbling today. I felt like a child. I could not "participate" in any real way, not even able to truly enter into any of the prayers. Following the guide, following the actions, recognizing only a few things; it was as though I was an infant. We who have grown up since the 60's have been fed a very improper idea of what the term "participation" means, and even though I am aware of its true meaning, I find that I STILL had to divest myself of my own images in order to surrender to what God wanted me to understand. And that's truly what is beyond words, and what is really so...humbling.

In looking at the Priest on the high altar, knowing that he was offering prayers for us, and, in reading some of those prayers he silently offers, I saw them in a new light. There he was, speaking for us...because we cannot. Praying for us...because we cannot pray for ourselves. Offering the Sacrifice for us, on our behalf, pleading with God...for us.

Knowing that even if I was the only one there, his prayers would be the same, his posture the same, his pleading...the same.

It was fitting that I feel like a child, that I see my insignificance in the presence of the great Majesty of God, and my unworthiness in the face of the Divine Victim offered...for me.

It was fitting to see the Priest praying on my behalf, facing God, facing the same direction as the rest of us; our representative before God. None of us knows how we should pray, or even how to approach God. And although we do all often pray for each other and ourselves, perhaps sometimes we need to learn to stop, rest in silence, and allow thousands of years of wisdom intercede for us, wash over us, and invite us into mysteries we can't fathom without God's grace.

I think my compass has been reset, and so it is with a different attitude that I enter this Advent season. To know I am still a child, I haven't even the abilities to come close to understanding the depths of what's happening at Mass, much less understanding God!

And the only way to approach Our Lord is from a foundation of humility. Knowing what we are the face of Who God Is.

Throughout the next few weeks, I'm going to remember my insignificance in the face of God's Majesty, and my dependence upon Him for all things.

And I hope to remember this lesson forever.


Cookie said...

Humility is one of the greatest lessons to be learned at a TLM. Even when you've become proficient with a missal (I love the 2007 Baronius), you are still reminded that there is so much that you will not know. And for someone like me, who can too easily fixate on the mistakes or abuses that a priest saying a Novus Ordo Mass sometimes makes (I have to dig my fingernails into my arms to concentrate) ... it's nice to be able to give up and know that I'm in good hands when it's all in Latin :)

Mark said...

Thanks for a very moving post.

You write: "I haven't even the abilities to come close to understanding the depths of what's happening at Mass, much less understanding God!"

I definitely feel that this sense of sheer nothingness before the infinite majesty and mystery of God is (for me, at least) more profound and more acute at an Extraordinary Form Mass. Of course, it can be experienced at any kind of Mass, but at an EF Mass it's almost inescapable.

Anonymous said...

Here's what you need to prepare yourself for your next EF:

This is about your speed

Seriously, it's good. The title is humbling, but that's in keeping with your revelation today.

God Bless!

Cathy_of_Alex said...


Give your Angel a cookie.He was truly on the job today.

Thanks for joining me and my Dad.We'll have to do it again sometime!

Adoro said...

Cookie ~ I'm blessed to belong to a parish that has a very reverent Mass...not good music, but if we could turn off their mikes, there would be nothing to distract from the wonderful things happening at the altar! So no problem with fixating on abuses when there aren't any (except the music). But it was nice to have great music and not worry about anything being wrong. Although sadly, no doubt there will be people that will criticize the smallest error that might have been made today up at the altar. I hope not, but my goodness, it was his first time with this form!

I certaily wouldn't know! lol

Mark ~ It IS profound. Amazing.

John & Dawna ~ Um...well, as I'm sure you will need to study it and take notes first, I'll be happy to look it over and make corrections to your work. :-) Don't we ALL need a little humility..hmmm?

Cathy ~ It was awesome to meet your Dad, finally! I going to have to adopt him like you suggested?

owenswain said...

I am so fortunate to have found your blog again.

Our NO Mass was valid. M-m-m-m, doesn't sound to exciting. Well the homily was quite good. The choir was, oh better not go there; the lector was, oh please, please dear God take her home to be with you; the confudled lay ministers were extra ordinary in only the way they can be and I was one; and the music was not from the pit but it was the pits.

I was going to try to make it to the TLM here in the city. I have been once. It was out of this world and I mean that in every sense of the phrase. It was also confusing but so was speaking English for the first time as I recall. Actually, I don't, recall, but you get the idea.

I love it when you say, "There he was, speaking for us...because we cannot. Praying for us...because we cannot pray for ourselves. Offering the Sacrifice for us, on our behalf, pleading with God...for us."

Yeah, that's it.

Question: How long was that TLM. The one here is two, make that 2 hours.

Adoro said...

Owen ~ I missed you...the fortune is mine. :-)

The parish I belong to is much like yours. Our priests are very holy, and we have perpetual adoration, lots of great things going on. But our music is almost exclusively a Haugen-Haas concert with a Music Director whose theology is lateral (because that's how she's been indoctrinated by the local music program which sold its soul to Haugen-Haas-Joncas), and we have phalanxes of extraordinary ministers.

The Mass today was what I expected it to be, and I was maybe as lost as I had anticipated. But it's also so saddening, as this is so much of our history as Catholics...and yet we can't navigate it even with guides!

But things are being rectified, and I look forward to being able to reclaim this piece of our history, and realizing its validity and relevance in the present. I didn't experience "nostalgia" or any of those things, but rather, recognized Truth in our worship.

It didn't matter that I didn't understand; because the most important thing to understand about Mass is that it is directed towards God, on our behalf. That is sufficient.

Oops, went off on a tangent as usual and didn't answer your question.

The Mass was about an hour and a half. Based on the article I found from their bulletin a couple weeks ago, they're using a simpler form of the Mass to start out, and apparently will be adding the more complicated version at a later date. They are being very properly pastoral in their approach. :-)

So now, there's the answer but check back in a few months...maybe it will be longer. :-) ( Gloria in Advent...)

Chris said...

Great to meet you today (in "real life"!) I enjoyed this beautiful post of yours very much. I was so busy flipping back and forth in my missal today- I probably should've just closed it and gone with the flow. But I'm like that.
I have some photos from the Mass on my blog. :)

Adoro said...

Chris ~ It was great to meet you, too, and hope to do so again soon! Seems you got home safely in spite of the roads. (Mine were better going than they were coming in!)

Was this also your first EF? I know you regularly attend Mass there so know the Novus Ordo, but I was under the impression for some reason that you also knew the EF.

Can't wait to see your photos!

Mark said...

Adoro - you write "I didn't experience 'nostalgia' or any of those things, but rather, recognized Truth in our worship."

I know what you mean. The only sense in which the TLM is "looking back" is in the sense that it makes powerfully present what Aquinas calls the "virtus" of Christ's Passion. Of course the New Mass does the same, but somehow with the TLM it's more tangible...

Also, with the TLM I find I get more of a sense of participating in the heavenly liturgy, which is an aspect of the Eucharist that comes over strongly both in the TLM and in the Byzantine rite, but which I sometimes feel isn't as obvious as it perhaps might be in some modern Catholic litugies where the focus seems to be more on "community".

Banshee said...

There's a really good book online called The Sacrifice of the Mass by M. Gavin. (You can find it over at It was written as a textbook for adult catechesis in the UK back in the day. (Pretty much covers everything I'm interested to know, which is why I'm reading it as an audiobook on my podcast.) The only thing is that there's a couple small differences between Mass in 1909 and the 1962 missal.

Of course, you may not want to read any more textbooks for a while. :)

Anonymous said...

Mark ~ That's exctly it. I may write more about this very thing, but the way most Catholic churches are "set up" takes the focus from God and places it on human acheivement...even though people aren't seeking to do that. (Some are...the lateral theology crowd). What damage they do!

Maureen ~ Yeah...I'm not even through finals, and got 3 semesters left. I'll not be reading any non-required textbooks for a very long time! lol

Unknown said...


Sorry I missed seeing you. I was so obsessed with finding a pew with no heaters behind me. The heaters don't give me space for my feet.

Generally there are several pews in the front right that work for me. But there were a lot of early arrivals and so those pews were taken.

Cathy said that I looked like I lost some money or something as I traversed the aisle, head down, looking for an acceptable pew. I didn't find one, so I ended up kneeling crossways at those moments.

I was as confused as everybody else as to what I should be doing. Those red handbooks they distributed looked pretty complete.


owenswain said...

Maureen, thanks, I am looking up that online book.

Mark, that is put so well. I am copying your thoughts into my journal. Thanks.

owenswain said...

Adoro, you can't read another book but can you listen? :) It turns out the book is an audio book.

Adoro said...

My brain is already too full...I can't take in any more! Not written or verbal!

Anonymous said...

It is so awesome that you got to attend the EF Mass. It is so heavenly (literally) even when we're "lost". In our diocese we have a church that offers the EF mass every Sunday and Holy day of obligation. My husband and I love it but rarely attend as we have a toddler. My daughter and I are sick right now probably with salmonella poisoning so we were unfortunately unable to attend even the NO Mass yesterday. I have really been looking forward to advent but it isn't starting the way I envisioned it. All for the greater Glory of God.


Adrienne said...

I grew up Pre-VatII and after almost 10 years of the NO Mass my conclusion is that it(NO) sucks the life out of you.

I almost dread going to Mass. Sad!

You are lucky - take advantage of St. Agnes!

Adoro said...

Samantha ~ I'm so sorry to hear you're fun! But you know, that sickness could be a hidden blessing...see what God might have in store for you this Advent!

We've long had an EF Mass available in our diocese, a couple of them, but it's so far away and so late in the day that I just don't have the time to go. Sundays are big study days for me, so as long as I'm in school, I can't make the trek...never mind the gas prices when they shoot back up! And you're right, it IS very heavenly!

Adrienne ~ I do like the NO Mass, and it CAN be done well, but I truly thing a lot has been lost that was never intended to be lost. I've been to St. Agnes a few times, with their Latin Novus Ordo, but again, that's also quite a drive, and is a later Mass than the one I normally attend. So I won't be going often, as much as I'd like to.

I don't think the NO sucks the life out of you...I think the music does!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Sorry, I finally strolled back...yes, you should adopt my Dad.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post - thanks!

By the way, as a friend of mine is very fond of saying, "There are no rubrics for the laity."

Don't stress about your posture. It will come, and if some are standing and some are kneeling, well, that's to be expected. Not all the kids could figure out how to line up by height on the first day of kindergarten, either.
It's just --- new.

In the meantime, Deo gratias!
Go, St. Agnes!