From a reader comes this Question:
Some churches in the Archdiocese, including the Cathedral, offer a Latin Mass. Some have a “traditional” Latin Mass. Someone told me they’re different, but couldn’t say how. Can you explain it?
The Mass is celebrated almost entirely in the Latin Language. The sermon would obviously be in English and the readings could be read in English after their proclamation in Latin.
The Mass is celebrated with the priest and the people all facing the same direction. Some have negatively described this as “the priest having his back toward the people.” But the truer description is that the priest and the people are all facing the same direction looking to the liturgical east, looking for Christ to come again.
The liturgy is conducted almost entirely by the Priest and servers in the sanctuary. The faithful follow the mass using hand missals and can therefore pray the Mass with this assistance.
Holy Communion is received kneeling at the altar rail.
In addition there are many other elaborate details and ceremony that are simplified in the new Mass (which the Pope calls the “Ordinary Form) currently in use. In the Traditional Latin Mass There are many more signs of the cross, genuflections, bows and other gestures.
The older form of the Mass also features certain prayers such as the prayers at the foot of the altar and the prayers after low mass that have been dropped in the new, Ordinary Form, of the Mass.
In the Archdiocese of Washington the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in Latin is celebrated regularly at St. Mary Mother of God in downtown Washington, at Our Lady Queen of Poland (part of St. John the Evangelist Parish) in Silver Spring, and St. Francis De Sales in Benedict Maryland.
The Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated in three forms: Low Mass (which is recited by the Priests and servers), Sung Mass (in which the priest sings many parts of the Mass), and Solemn Mass (the most elaborate and beautiful form in which the priest is assisted by a deacon and subdeacon and much of the Mass is sung in elaborate Gregorian Chant).
I am privileged to be able to celebrate the Mass in this older form about once a month. It is a very beautiful liturgy and gives an experience of being in touch with Catholic heritage. This is the form of the Mass that most of the saints of old knew and experienced. Since the Pope has made this liturgy more widely available many Catholics have begun to rediscover some of the beauty of this form of the Mass. Some attend it exclusively, others every so often. But it is another example of the rich diversity of the expression of the One Catholic faith here in Washington and throughout the world. Below are some YouTube videos of this Mass in case you have never seen a Mass of this kind. The second one is actually an excerpt from a movie showing once again that we can find expressions of our Catholic faith in our wider culture.
Incidentally, it is also possible to celebrate the newer (ordinary form) of the Mass in the Latin language. This is what is done at St. Matthews Cathedral. The mass is celebrated just like it usually is today (with the priest facing the people etc.) except that it is largely in Latin.