My blog neighbor Max Lindenman decided to see what all the fuss was about, and took in his first Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
A Mass in the Extraordinary Form does not have to be cold, bombastic, or decked in glitz like Liberace’s bathroom. It’s always seemed to me that trads like to plug all these qualities as a package deal under the label “reverence,” “majesty,” or “transcendence” Eavesdrop on the wrong Internet debates, and you’ll come away thinking they want every church to look like the cathedral at Rheims and every service to resemble the coronation of the Dauphin Charles. The chapel at MMM church is very small, in fact. I doubt more than 200 people were on hand for the 11:00 High Mass, but the pews looked nearly full. Though not severe, the decor is simple — no gazillion-dollar baldecchino, just a corpus, a tabernacle, a couple of statues, and some very nice tilework. I found the overall effect warm and homey.
In fact, a Mass in the Extraordinary Form can be downright easy to miss. When the celebrant priest entered the nave, followed by the altar servers, I knew something was up. When he about-faced and led them back down the aisle, blessing everyone with holy water, I was sure of it. But then he went back to the altar and stood in front of it for what seemed like a very long time. Just when I was about to ask the lady sitting next to me what was keeping Father, I overheard him praying. Oh, wait. I thought. This is the Mass. He sure doesn’t beat anyone over the head with it.
Time can fly during an EF Mass. Exactly 6.7 miles separate my house and MMM. To atone for allowing my car to be towed, I hoofed it the whole way, in cordovan oxfords. I arrived expecting to wince at every liturgically-mandated change in posture, but I didn’t. I credit the Gregorian chants, which are so hypnotic that standing and sitting and kneeling flowed into one another without causing a single spasm of discomfort, though the transitions came at a rate that would impress Billy Blanks.
Trad priests hold confessions right before, and even during, Mass. I’d heard this before, but had forgotten about it until this morning. This means that a fully-functioning traditionalist can end up spending less time in church than a fully-functioning regular Catholic. Well played.
Trad altar servers have the best knees of any human beings on earth. At this Mass, I counted six, all boys. By my lights, they seemed to kneel at least twice as often as us parishioners, and they had to do it fast — no dying-camel acts would have passed muster. It’s just as well none of them looked old enough to play high-level organized football. Having them line up in size order, with the tallest on the left, is a good policy, a gentle brand of regimentation far more in the spirit of Martha Stewart Living than Mein Kampf.
Having said that, Max was not exactly blown away by the experience. “Tradistan’s not a place I could live in, but it’s certainly a nice one to visit,” he concludes. Read the rest.