Sixty years have passed since the beginning of Vatican II in the Catholic Church, and there are several generations who have not been exposed to the reverence, beauty, and tradition of the “Mass of the Ages”. But there is a resurgence in Latin Mass attendance recently among families and young people. If you are curious about or considering attending the Latin Mass, here are five things you may not know:
Priests in the Catholic Church Wear Vestments with Symbolic Meaning at the Latin Mass
There is rich symbolism in the vestments of the priest as he robes himself in the sacristy for Mass. The sacristy represents the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and priests and sacred ministers put on their robes like Jesus Christ put on the robes of humanity.
Before beginning, the priest washes his hands to cleanse away every stain to serve God with a clean mind and body. Next he layers his vestments in a deliberate order:
- He first vests himself with the amice, the cloth around the neck, representing the blindfold put on Our Lord when soldiers struck Him.
- Second is the alb, a white linen garment symbolizing chastity.
- The cincture, or cord at the waist, recalls the cords tied around Our Lord.
- Next the maniple is put on. This ornamental band on the left arm is a reminder of both the chains put on Christ, and that a priest must not come before the Lord empty-handed.
- Fifth is the stole, a long band worn around the shoulders and neck and crossed at the breast. It calls to mind the yoke of the Lord.
- The chasuble, the last and most richly adorned of all the vestments, is a reminder of the garment Christ wore before Pilate. On the back is embroidered a large cross, recalling the cross Christ carried to Calvary.
These six garments summarize the six powers of the priesthood: to say Mass, bless, command, preach, baptize, and forgive sins.
Special Prayers are Recited when Dressing for the Latin Mass in the Catholic Church
As the priest dresses in the vestments, he also prayers particular prayers. This is the priest’s spiritual preparation for offering the Mass on behalf of the faithful gathered:
- Amice: a prayer for the helmet of salvation to resist the enemy.
- Alb: a petition to be purified, cleansed, and washed in the blood of the Lamb.
- Cincture: a prayer to be girded with purity that he may have the virtues of celibacy and chastity.
- Maniple: the priest prays to bear that band of weeping and sorrow so that he may receive the reward of his labor.
- Stole: a prayer for restoration of the stole of immortality lost by our first parents.
- Chasuble: the priest prays, “O Lord, Who has said ‘My yoke is sweet and My burden light,’ grant that I may so carry it as to merit Thy grace.”
In the Catholic Church the Latin Mass is Low or High
A Latin Mass is called “Low” or “High” and the designation determines the postures used and if there is singing. Not only do the Masses differ in when to stand, sit, or kneel, but Low Masses are said or read, while High Masses are sung.
Although both Low and High Masses have a Last Gospel after Holy Communion, at the Low Mass there are prayers offered before the priest leaves the sanctuary. These include three Hail Marys, a Hail Holy Queen, a prayer for the Church, and the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.
The Latin Mass Focuses on Sacrifice, Not a Meal
At a Latin Mass when the priest arrives at the altar, He prays ad Deum, toward God, with his back to the people because he speaks on behalf of those assembled. In this way, everyone is oriented towards God in worship.
The focus of the Latin Mass is not a meal, but the true and perpetual sacrifice instituted by Christ. In this memorial, the sacrifice of the Mass is connected to the sacrifice of the Cross. Christ is the priest, and Christ is the victim. Christ does not come down to us on the altar, but rather our offering goes up to be joined to His eternal sacrifice.
Participation at the Latin Mass is Mostly Silent
First, with the priest facing the tabernacle, the text of the Mass is mainly directed toward God as he prays on behalf of the people gathered.
Second, The Our Father (Pater Noster) is only said by the priest. As at the consecration, acting in persona Christi (in the person of Christ), the priest recites the prayer as Jesus Christ did when He taught it to His disciples.
Third, immediately after is the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) and there is no Sign of Peace. (An exception is at a High Mass between clergy.)
Finally, there is silence when receiving Communion on the tongue while kneeling. There is no need to say “Amen” because the priest presents the Sacred Host while saying a prayer for the communicant in Latin: “May the body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto everlasting life. Amen.”
The Latin Mass is Meaningful in Its Spoken Words and Silence
The Sacred Mystery of the Latin Mass is profound in its symbolism, gestures, orientation towards God in worship, sacrifice, and silence.
You can dig deeper into its richness by watching the “Mass of the Ages” featured at LifeSite News. Also tune in to The Terry & Jesse Show, episode 301 for a great discussion about the Latin Mass. Finally the book, The Latin Mass Explained, is available for you at the EWTN Religious Catalogue.