Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Be still and know that I am God"

This weekend I took my wife to a Mass celebrated in the extraordinary form for the first time. We live about 60 miles from the nearest TLM, and this was the first time we had our stuff together enough to make it down to Detroit to hear the high Mass at St. Josaphat. My wife, who is always more to the point than I am and makes her mind up more readily, upon attending the extraordinary form for the first time immediately said, "I like it better than the new Mass." It only took her one hour to deduce what I had to be convinced of over several years!

At any rate, this weekend was a first for me as well, for this was the first TLM I had been to where I didn't in the least way attempt to follow along in the booklets. I know Latin okay, I understand the order of the Mass and I can follow along if I want to, but I accidentally grabbed only one missal and decided to let my wife use it, leaving me to just watch and Mass, pray and absorb what was going on.

I immediately realized how liberating this was. After being exposed only to the NO for so long at a time (even an NO done reverently), it was nice to not to have to do anything physically. Being able to just kneel, pray and unite my heart with the sacrifice of Jesus in silence brought to mind the words of the Lord in Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." At previous TLM's I had been flipping along in the red booklet, trying to find where the priest was, attempting to pray along with him, sing the responses, etc. This time I just let all that go and prayed, only singing along with the Credo I think.

In doing so, I realized how demanding the NO is. It doesn't just encourage physical participation, it mandates it and precludes any real spirit of silent contemplation. It is a bit odd - our traditions of spirituality all unanimously agree on the need for silent contemplation as a fundamental method for attaining holiness, and yet the most important element of our worship, the Mass (as it is currently celebrated), is very wordy, emphasizing talk, singing and lots of physical gestures by the congregation.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not in any way advocating some kind of Calvinist-Quaker minimialism, but I am drawing a contrast between two types of participation. The TLM allows much more leeway for the congregation to engage in private devotion or silent adoration during the Mass, while the NO is kind of like a liturgical work-out where everybody gathers together, does a lot more physically, mimics the priest and gets precious little time for silent prayer, especially if there is a post-Communion hymn where the congregation is expected to sing immediately after receiving our Lord. I am thankful that at my parish our music director often chooses to simply sing an appropriate piece that doesn't require the congregation to sing along but allows us to pray and listen to the beautiful melodies praising our Lord.

I hope that this spirit of devotion and attunement to the value of silence bleeds into the NO in the coming years as the TLM becomes more widespread. If all of the saints agree that holy silence is a necessary disposition to fruitful contemplation, why would we want a Mass that excludes any opportunity for it?


Jack said...

I know exactly once you mean Boniface, although I'm not a regular at the local SSPX parish (I go on Holy days of obligation that the Bishops conference has moved)I appreciate the leeway the TLM grants the laymen. Even though I don't understand the Latin I get that God is being worshiped and all due reverence is being shown, I don't get that at my regular N.O Parish even though my priest celebrates it reverently.

Alexander said...

What I can't understand is why recent Popes can't see this, can't see that the NO has watered down prayers, and can't see the reduction of symbolism are all bad things. It boggles my mind. I can't stand it.

Friend of the Cross said...


I found the same to be true.

Trying praying the NO like you would pray the TLM that is on your knees during the from the Sign of the Cross to the Epistle and from the Sanctus to Communion, you will be able to get the same freedom you found in the TLM when you aren't able to make it to the TLM.


Enbrethiliel said...


Friend of the Cross:

That would be an interesting thing to do the next time I go to Mass; but my parish still has those pesky "commentators" who tell us when to sit, when to stand, and when to kneel, and I might end up kneeling "just to show them" rather than to pray.

Anonymous said...

Dear Boniface,
Why don't we have the TLM at our parish? Whatever happened with that petition?
Thanks and God bless.

Boniface said...

Dear Anonymous-

Fr G has all the things he needs ot do the TLM, and he actually practices it several times a week. He feels he is not "good" enough at it yet, I think. The most important thing, if you wantr to see the TLM, would be to call Fr G and personally tell him you'd like it. He just needs more parishioner support and I think he'd institute it sooner.