On the third Sunday of Advent I decided that I would try a attending a different kind of Mass than the one offered at the Dominican House of Studies. So I chose to attend a Latin Mass Extraordinary Form (Tridentine Mass) at St. Mary Mother of God parish in Chinatown. The church is only one of two churches in the Washington DC area that offers a Latin Mass Extraordinary Form on a regular basis. The other church that offers the Latin Mass Extraordinary Form is Our Lady Queen of Poland (Old St. John the Evangelist Parish) but this is a Polish speaking parish. So off to St. Mary Mother of God I went even though it is a bit of a trip from Silver Spring.
Minus the disaster that public transport was I arrived at St. Mary just as Mass was starting. My friend who joined me for Mass was waiting in the narthex of the church. Before entering the sanctuary I quickly put on my black and gold lace mantilla (chapel veil). When I stepped into the sanctuary and saw all the women wearing mantillas I felt like I had stepped into a true Catholic Mass. Seeing all the women wearing mantillas reminded of the Russian Orthodox Church where women are required to cover their heads. I also didn’t feel like I was the odd one out wearing my mantilla like I usually feel when I wear mantilla during the Ordinary Mass.
After Alex and I took our places I quickly realized that I wish I had a Latin Mass Missal with me as one was not provided by the parish. I really should have printed the one I found the previous night on the internet. I was fine with not having one for the Latin Mass but having one would have made the Mass easier to follow. I am not familiar with the Latin Mass in the Extraordinary Form and the rhythm of the Tridentine Mass is very different than order of worship of the Novous Ordo Missae.
What I noticed first upon walking into the sanctuary was the amount of reverence that the congregation showed toward Christ. This came in the form of how people were dressed with women wearing modest clothing while donning the mantilla and the men wearing suits or slacks with dress shirts. I also noticed that the children were very well behaved and that they new the order of the Mass as if it had been memorized. The little girls looked adorable with their small white mantillas. A since of reverence also present in the way the priest acted, carried out the rituals, and how he spoke. His movements were measured and precise and when he spoke his words were thoughtful and well spoken.
As for the visual side of the Latin Mass Extraordinary Form there is much to behold that is different that the Novous Ordo Missae. Firstly the priest wears richly decorated vestments that include a cope and black velvet hat. Secondly there are two alter boys that assist the priest during Mass who wear a black cassock and a white surplice (like in the Anglican tradition). What was also different than the Novous Ordo Missae was the placement of the altar and how the priest stood in relation to the altar. First off the altar for the Tridentine Mass is richly decorated with a reredos and is placed farther up the church than the altar used for the Novous Ordo Missae. This means that when the priest is serving at the altar he faces outwards with his back to the congregation in a sing of leadership. Another major difference between the Novous Ordo Missae and the Latin Mass Extraordinary Form is that the Mass is said in Latin and not the vernacular. At the end of the Mass I was also surprised by the second reading from the Gospel that was read in Latin.
Over all I really enjoyed the Latin Mass and hope to take my boyfriend to St. Mary Mother of God for another Latin Mass.My friend also enjoyed the Mass and he said the Latin Mass made Methodist worship look un-ritualistic and very simple. I thought the Latin Mass was a fine example of Catholic worship at it’s best. I look forward to going back but with a Latin Missal in hand next time.