Traditional Latin Mass Newcomers Guide
The Mass of the Roman Rite
With his 2007 apostolic letter entitled Pontificum Summorum, Pope Benedict restored to the regular liturgy of the Church the traditional Latin Mass that dates back in its principal features to the early Christian centuries before Pope Gregory the Great fifteen centuries ago. He decreed that any Catholic priest can celebrate Holy Mass in either of two equally legitimate forms:
o The “ordinary form”, the newer post-Vatican II Mass of the 1970 Roman Missal
of Pope Paul VI; or
o The “extraordinary form”, the older pre-Vatican II Mass of the 1962 Roman Missal
of Pope John XXIII.
The table below shows the close correspondence between the various parts and prayers of the old and new Masses. The fact that the principal parts of one form of the Mass are virtually the same as in the other — and that they occur in the same order, with many of the prayers worded almost identically — corroborates the declaration of Pope Benedict XVI that the ordinary form (OF) and the extraordinary form (EF) are indeed two equally valid forms of one and the same Roman Rite of Holy Mass.
Early in the 1900s, long before Vatican II, Pope St. Pius X encouraged active and conscious participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:
"The Holy Mass is a prayer itself, even the highest prayer that exists. It is the Sacrifice, dedicated by our Redeemer at the Cross, and repeated every day on the Altar. If you wish to hear Mass as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart, and mouth all that happens at the Altar. Further, you must pray with the Priest the holy words said by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens on the Altar. When acting in this way, you have prayed Holy Mass."
The first traditional Latin Mass you attend likely will seem “different”, even strange. It may take several Latin Masses to become acclimated to a new more interior and prayerful mode of worship. It's probably best at first to mainly look and listen to get the look and feel of the ancient Mass—its sights and sounds, the bells and smells (the incense)--rather than trying to follow and understand everything fully. But you should fairly quickly learn to spot the "big" parts of the older Mass that you already know (albeit in English) from your familiarity with the newer Mass in the vernacular—the Kyrie (”Lord, have mercy”), Gloria (“Glory to God”), Credo (“I believe”), the Sanctus (“Holy, Holy, Holy”) followed by the Eucharistic prayer, the Pater Noster (“Our Father”) and the the Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”) before Holy Communion.
After participating in this way at several traditional Masses, you may be ready to use a missalette—like the one pictured at left below—to follow the prayers more closely, and to begin to familiarize yourself with smaller details so as to follow more closely the actions of the priest at the altar. Pick one up off the entrance table on your way into Latin Mass. It shows the Order of Mass with Latin on the left, English on the right.
Don’t let the Latin be a barrier to your appreciation of this form of Mass. The priest at the altar offers the prayers of the Mass to God in Latin. But most people—even those not unfamiliar with Latin—pray personally in English. And therefore unite themselves with the prayer of the priest by following the English column in the missalette and insert. This interior prayerful participation is the “active and conscious participation” that Pope Pius X urged.
The parts of the traditional Latin Mass that are printed in green below are contained in the 4-page inserts (like the one above right) that are available at each Sunday Mass at Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville. All the other parts are contained in missalettes. Most people move the insert through the missalette as the Mass proceeds, so they can follow and pray the variable "proper parts" (insert) and fixed "ordinary" parts (missalette) in turn. Note the pairing of EF parts on the left and the corresponding OF parts on the right.
Extraordinary Form (old Mass)
Prayers at the foot of the altar (pp 10–13)
The Introit (proper)
Kyrie Eleison ... (pp 14–15)
Gloria (pp 16–17)
The Collect (proper)
The Epistle (proper)
The Gradual (proper)
The Gospel (proper)
The Credo (pp 20-21)
Offertory verse (proper)
Offering of the Bread and Wine (pp 23–27)
The Secret (proper)
The Preface (proper)
The Sanctus (pp 28–29)
The (Roman) Canon (pp 30–39)
The Pater Noster (pp 38–39)
The Agnus Dei (pp 40–41)
Holy Communion (pp 40–45)
The Communion Verse (proper)
The Postcommunion (proper)
Dismissal and Final Blessing (pp 46–47)
The Last Gospel (pp 48–49)
Ordinary Form (new Mass)
Penitential rite (“I confess ... “, etc.)
Entrance antiphon (or opening hymn)
“Lord, have mercy ... ”
“Glory to God in the highest … ”
Profession of faith (“We believe ... “)
Offertory antiphon (omitted in OF)
Preparation of the Offerings
Prayer over the Offerings
“Holy, Holy, Holy, ...”
Eucharistic Prayer (I, II, III, or IV)
“Our Father, ... “
“Lamb of God, ... “
Prayer after Communion
Final Blessing and Dismissal
(deleted in Ordinary Form)
Page numbers refer to the red missalettes for the fixed parts of the Mass that do not change from day to day.
Proper prayers are found in the weekly inserts that provide variable parts of the Mass— the readings and prayers that do change from day to day.
The Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Angus Dei are sung by people and choir in a sung Mass.
After your first several Latin Masses, you may appreciate the reactions of some who—after attending Holy Ghost’s first solemn high Latin Mass in decades (account here)—spoke of its “moving beauty and reverence, of how the elaborate actions of the ministers at the altar and the fragrance of incense had combined with sight and sound to provide an enveloping atmosphere of reverence that lifted them up to heaven in adoration and worship.”
One of the fullest and most complete explanations of the special ambiance and ethos of the traditional Latin Mass was given by the homilist at the first solemn high Latin Mass to be televised live around the world on EWTN on September 14, 2007—the day on which Pope Benedict’s restoration of the Latin Mass in its extraordinary form went into effect. Read it here or listen to it here. You can even watch it here in the full video of this historic Latin Mass that was celebrated at Mother Angelica’s Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Finally, recommended for everyone but especially newcomers to the Mass in Latin (whether OF or EF): The beautiful and informative 52-page free booklet Commentary on the Latin Mass that you can read online or print for yourself. It offers parallel commentary on the OF and EF Masses illustrated by pairs of strikingly similar color photos of both at corresponding points in the two forms--taken at a church where the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Mass are both are regularly sung in Latin and celebrated ad orientem with Gregorian chant and ample smells and bells. In such ways that (as Cardinal Ratzinger once remarked) the typical Catholic might not perceive the difference between the two forms--when both are celebrated properly with appropriate beauty, reverence, and solemnity.