Why I Love the Extraordinary Form of the Mass
Having just joined the Church, I was still learning basic Catholic teachings, getting the hang of praying the Rosary and starting to change my life for the better. I definitely wasn't overly familiar with Ecclesiastical Latin, and if you mentioned that a priest wore a “cassock” to me, I'd probably wonder why you were talking to me about his footwear. On a practical level, as I sat through the Latin Mass, I didn't understand what was going on. I was just a broken, searching young person looking for a little peace and guidance in life, and yet, I instinctively knew a few things for certain. I knew that when I was at the Latin Mass, I was on “sacred ground”; I was in touch with the lifeblood of God's very heart. As I watched the priest offer the Sacrifice of the Mass ad orientem (“to the east”), I knew that Christ was radiantly alive in the world today, just waiting to take the sorrows and sins of us poor pilgrims upon Himself. I also knew that this divine liturgy brought solace to my soul in a unique, overpowering way – such as I had never felt before. As I attended the Latin Mass over and over, I began to sense that it was like a clandestine jewel of Christ the King, tucked away in the bosom of the Church; it had the capacity to bring a glimpse of Heaven to even the most pitiful of souls. And I began to see that in some beautiful way, God deems us, His creatures, worthy to walk on this “sacred ground”; to attend this Mass so akin to the praise of the celestial angels.
For this is the Mass that St. Gregory the Great inherited, developed, and solidified... This is the Mass that St. Louis IX, the crusader king of France, attended three times a day. This is the Mass that priests said secretly in England and Ireland during the dark days of persecution, and this is the Mass that Blessed Miguel Pro risked his life to celebrate before being captured and martyred by the Mexican government. This is the Mass that Blessed John Henry Newman said he would celebrate every waking moment of his life if he could. This is the Mass that Fr. Damien of Molokai celebrated with leprous hands in the church he had built and painted himself.
This is the challenge that the traditional Roman liturgy makes to us again and again, in its prayers, its ceremonies, its calendar, and its ethos. It is not accommodated to our worldly compromises... It proclaims unequivocally the primacy of things heavenly and spiritual. It is the luminous expression of an ageless tradition of worship, as carried out by men and women who made this worship their primary work in life. As such, it does the opposite of pandering to us moderns; it confronts us with our need for radical conversion. The old Missal is the unwavering, undying repository of the radical message of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God. Are we ready to hear this Gospel and take up the Cross?
The People of God need to see priests and deacons behave in a way that is full of reverence and dignity, in order to help them to penetrate invisible things without unnecessary words or explanations. In the Roman Missal of Saint Pius V, as in several Eastern liturgies, there are very beautiful prayers through which the priest expresses the most profound sense of humility and reverence before the Sacred Mysteries: they reveal the very substance of the Liturgy."