THE TRADITIONAL LATIN MASS
etter to a
This article is available as a leaflet, for your free copy please submit the form at the bottom of this page.
"If you had been the only person who had ever lived, God loves you so much that He would still have become man and suffered and died on the Cross to save you" (St Teresa of Lisieux) The Mass is the unbloody representation of that amazing sacrifice of divine love.
Many mistakenly believe that the Mass is merely a representation of the Last Supper. This is a serious error. Our Lord did indeed inaugurate the Mass at the last supper, but the institution of the Mass was not complete until He breathed His last words on the Cross, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit," and rendered up His spirit.
Yet another grave mistake is the belief that the Mass is merely a communal meal. The Mass is an efficacious sacrifice. But what or who is sacrificed?
ONE CANNOT UNDERSTAND THE MASS WITHOUT FIRST UNDERSTANDING THE REAL PRESENCE
Early in his ministry, Our Lord gave His first promise of His Real Presence. He made a speech and here are a few quotes from it:
"I am the Bread of Life";
"I am the Living Bread, which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give, is my flesh for the life of the world";
"He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me, and I in him"; "He that eats me shall live by me." (John 6:22-59)
It was not a coincidence that the day before He made this speech, Christ performed one of His most famous miracles, the feeding of the five thousand. He clearly wanted to prepare the Apostles for what He was about to say by demonstrating His absolute power over material things, changing and multiplying matter at will.
Even so, many of His disciples were so horrified by what He was saying that for many it was the end of the line; they simply walked away, clearly believing that for a man to talk of giving them his flesh to eat was utterly absurd.
It should be noted that Christ did not go after them, or call them back, or try to provide an explanation. No, on the contrary, Christ merely turned to the remaining Apostles and asked them if they wanted to leave Him also. Peter movingly responded: "Lord, to whom shall we go?"
Our Lord returned to the promise of His Real Presence again at the Last Supper. Here is St. Matthew's account: "Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said, Take ye and eat: This is my body. And taking the chalice he gave 15 thanks: and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins."
There are many, even today (Pentecostals, Evangelicals, non-denominational Christians and other Protestant sects), who refuse to accept what Christ said, they argue that what Christ really meant was "This represents my body." If He had said, "Here is my body," He might have meant that in some symbolic way his body was there. But he didn't say, "Here is my body," He said "This is my body" - this which I am holding, this which looks like bread but is not, this which was bread before I blessed it, this is now my body. Similarly this, which was wine, which still looks like wine, is now my blood.
St. Paul's wrote: "Whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord."
Protestants often try to argue that while Catholics have a formal religion, they have something much better, a personal relationship with Jesus, but Catholics receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ into their own bodies every Sunday at Holy Communion - how much more of an intimate relationship with Christ could one wish for?
St Thomas Aquinas wrote these moving words:
"O Bread of Heaven, beneath this veil
Thou dost my very God conceal:
My Jesus, dearest treasure, hail!
I love Thee and, adoring, kneel;
Each loving soul by Thee is fed
With Thine own Self
in form of Bread.”
NEXT, YOU CANNOT UNDERSTAND
THE MASS WITHOUT FIRST UNDERSTANDING THE AWESOME SACRIFICE OF DIVINE LOVE THAT GOD MADE FOR YOU ON CALVARY
When we contemplate our Lord's sacrifice on Calvary, our finite minds tend to turn off because we are simply not able to comprehend divine love of that astonishing magnitude - we become like earthworms struggling to understand algebra.
Imagine for a moment that you are a soldier sent to help your comrades responsible for the crucifixion of Our Blessed Lord and the two criminals executed with Him. You are not quite sure why, but you hold your coarse tongue as you approach the summit of the short flat Hill of the Skull. This is a place to keep your mouth shut and, if possible, your nose covered. Golgotha is a place of dripping, foul fluids; a sickening threshold of death. You are engulfed by awful smells, groans, and insects drawn to drying, thickening blood and other unsightly substances evacuated by tortured, dying men. You see Christ’s mother standing there by His cross, and you almost feel pity for her. Almost - but not quite - for a brutal soldier like you has learned long ago to pity no one.
You are here for disciplinary reasons. A crucifixion detail is punitive and inglorious. No warrior from Rome would want to soil himself with the stink of the dripping dead bodies of condemned criminals.
As you arrive, one solder with a hammer ascends a ladder that leans against the back of the cross beam. He then uses iron pincers to straighten the hammer-bent tips of the iron spikes that protruded through Our Blessed Lord's hands, feet and both the vertical and horizontal beams. With his hammer he drives the spikes back through the wood, and through the flesh, where they are coaxed free by rocking them back and forth. The ropes temporarily fastening both elbows to the cross beam are released and the lifeless body is lowered slowly into the reaching arms of the few friends still present to assist in the preparation for burial. With one hammer blow the soldier knocks Pilate's wooden sign in three languages to the bloody mud.
Once back on the ground, the soldier drops the hammer and pincers into a red pool of dirty, coagulated sludge at the feet of the dead Man's Mother. She looks down at the tools and around at the surly mechanics of death. You refuse to acknowledge her presence, much less her pain. However, when those beautiful eyes briefly engage yours, you can discern no hatred - disconcertingly, it seems almost like compassion.
Seeing the tools and her son's torn hands, Mary no doubt recalled how her Lord, and her beloved Joseph, had used the same kind of tools together in their trade at home during the happiest days of her life. Such tools, with which her men provided her with a secure home, both fastened her Son to the cross and had now freed Him from it.
With the body removed, there is only one task remaining, to take down the cross carried there by the condemned Man. For ease of disposal, the two beams are to be placed in His tomb along with Pilot's wooden sign, the three nail spikes, the mocking crown of thorns, and the lance belonging to Longinus, used to pierce Christ’s chest. Longinus had left it behind in the bloody dirt. For reasons that he could never explain, he did not want to ever touch it again.
Now abandon your alter ego as a Roman soldier and contemplate the horrific scene you have just witnessed through the eyes of faith: the God who threw the stars into their orbits and knit you and me together in our mothers' wombs, loved His creature, Man, so much that He chose to become a man and embrace a slow, agonising, disgusting death in that ghastly place to redeem you from sin, save you from Hell and eternal damnation, to open the gates of Heaven for you, and to win you back to your Heavenly Father.
"It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than without the Holy Mass"
ST PADRE PIO
The Mass is the most wonderful thing to happen in the whole history of planet earth; for it is the point where the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and the Sacrifice of Calvary converge.
The priest acting in the place of Christ offers to God the Father, the body, blood, soul and divinity of His Son, Christ, under the appearance of bread and wine. We, in effect, stand beside Christ's Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross while Our Lord's sacrifice on Calvary is made present in time and space in an unbloody manner.
The Mass is also a propitious sacrifice. That means it produces a beneficial effect: venial sins are forgiven (1 John 5:16-17), our souls are fortified with the body of Christ and we are strengthened against the Devil and temptation. Even if the priest offers Mass alone it still rains grace and mercy down upon the world. "It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do so without the Holy Mass." - St Padre Pio
The modern Rite of Mass - the novus ordo
The modern rite of Mass was imposed on the Church in 1969 by Pope Paul VI. Many, especially the young, find regular attendance at this new rite burdensome. If you are one such, don't beat yourself up over it, take comfort from the fact that you are very far from alone: the tragic truth is that nearly half the priests in the world abandoned their ministry within seven years of its imposition, and over three quarters of the laity stopped going to Mass.
If you are among the many souls who have lapsed from the practice of your faith because you couldn't find the spiritual nourishment you have a right to in the new Mass, try the Latin Mass Society, and see if you can find a Traditional Mass (a Mass that is in the rite of your forefathers, saints and martyrs,) near you. Their website can be found here.
If this fails, try the SSPX; you may be fortunate and find that they have a chapel near you. The SSPX's canonical status is irregular, but they are nonetheless orthodox Catholics and Rome has stated that one may attend Mass in their chapels for reasons of liturgical preference. You will find their chapel addresses and Mass times here.
On the other hand, if you are comfortable with the new Mass, or cannot find a traditional Mass within a reasonably commuting distance, it is always important to concentrate on what is actually taking place on the altar: i.e. the Real Presence and the Sacrifice of Calvary, and do your best to shut out some of the worldly nonsense that accompanies the modern Mass. This is not always easy, but just do your best.
The Third Commandment, "Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day," was never intended by God to be merely an optional extra for some Catholics. Catholics have an obligation to attend Mass under pain of grave sin. “Grave sin” is sin that if committed deliberately with full knowledge of what we are doing is mortal and will put our eternal soul in grave jeopardy of eternal damnation, unless we repent.
Please respond to this amazing divine love for you by returning to the practice of your faith with integrity.