There Will Be Blood

SurgeryPrepI was at a Tridentine Mass and the priest was vesting in the sanctuary. Altar men in full cassock and surplice were assisting the priest, like how nurses assist a surgeon before the operation, like how technicians assist an astronaut before launch, like how safety personnel assist engineers into haz-mat suits before a mission.

Yes, it was complicated, those Extraordinary Form chasubles of antiquity. But as I watched the priest vest in chasuble and maniple, my imagination took off (as you can see) and my mind stopped when I saw the symbolism. And when I saw it, I could never unsee it. Permanent and powerful.

Vestments

The chasuble was a giant apron, not unlike the kind that a dentist buries you under before they take X-rays of your jaws and teeth. The chasuble is thick, heavy and dense, and looks almost stab-proof.

Now why would the Church vest her priests in these bulletproof vests… err, aprons?

Why?… I wondered.

Because there will be blood. Because there will be BLOOD!

It’s going to get messy at Mass. It’s a sacrifice… the Lamb will be slain, the priest will fill a chalice with its precious blood, the priest will feed us with fresh flesh from the Lamb.

So of course a chasuble is necessary!

FinalChasubleManipleBurseVeilBut now, what about that maniple? That fancy, overgrown handkerchief pinned onto the priest’s left arm? It hangs down by about a foot… so obstructive (right?)! Why would that be important…

Because there will be sweat. Because there will be tears shed.

Worship and sacrifice is hard labor. Prayer and service for an hour before an altar, lugging around all that armor, deciphering all that Latin, chanting all that time, expressing all those gestures and postures, genuflecting, stooping, bowing, kneeling and weeping, and more…

So of course a maniple is necessary!

Because love is hard work, because love involves tears, sweat and blood from the lover and from the beloved. And love is the only thing worth it all.Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck

The Priest Disappears

For most of my life, I’ve been going to the Ordinary Form (aka: the Novus Ordo, the New Order) of the Roman Catholic Mass. It was the Mass I was born into, grew up with, and still appreciate. It’s the Mass of Vatican II, the Catholic Mass of today.

But once you taste the sushi, the steak, the cake, the wine… you just don’t wanna settle for the canned tuna, the burger, the Twinkie, the Hi-C. (That’s not to say you can’t have a really good tuna sandwich, gourmet burgers, and fresh homemade creme cakes with organic fruit punch, though!)

Sushi!

Mmmm… Mmmm!

Hmmm...

Hmmm…

And once I tasted the Extraordinary Form (aka: the Vetus Ordo, the Old Order, the Tridentine, the Traditional Latin Mass), I just found it more and more difficult to feel satisfyingly fed at the Ordinary Mass. I mean, even the name itself sounds… not-extraordinary.

Well today (October 13, 2013, World-Wide-Consecration-to-Mary Day!), a few fellow seminarians invited me along to the Tridentine. I was surprised at first, because we had just went to a Mass! At the Cathedral! Five minutes ago! But at the same time, I felt like someone was treating me to a banquet — how could I decline? How?

So I went to Mass again, twice within four hours!

And WHAT A DIFFERENCE.

I could give dozens of reasons why I’ve grown to love the Extraordinary Mass. Ever since my first encounter with the EF in 2010-ish, I’ve seen my love for the Liturgy and my reverence for the Eucharist mature and ripen. The Tridentine has taught me how to worship, how to pray and praise, and how to serve the Lord.

And today at Vetus Ordo, I noticed yet another reason why: the priest disappears.

That’s right! The priest — he disappears!

I found myself wrestling with the prayers, exercising my soul, working out my mind and disciplining my body. Then I looked toward the High Altar and couldn’t see the priest. “Wait, where did Father go? Where… hmm… OH! There he is!”

So what happened?

I meditated on what just happened (the silence of V.O. Mass let’s you do that easily) and I realized: Mass is really not about the priest. It’s not about his homily, not about the jokes that he shares, not about the stories he relates (good as some are).

No. Mass is about the Lord. Mass is about Christ sacrificing Himself for love of us. And about Him feeding us with Bread from Heaven, with True Food and True Drink (John 6: 48-69).

And the servant of the Lord — the priest — knew Who was the focus of Mass. The priest submitted himself to Jesus, submitted so much so to the Church that *poof* he disappeared.

I must decrease, and He must increase (John 3:30). Right?

Bon Appétit!

*Please see this short video for more*

The elevation of the Blessed Sacrament.

The elevation of the Blessed Sacrament.

UPDATED [Jan. 20, 2018]: My intuition is only further affirmed by this quote taken from this article from OnePeterFive:

In the Old Mass, the personality of the priest does not matter. His office matters, and he and the people together are facing the Lord. Conversus ad Dominum. And for that reason the role of the priest is an objective one. It’s not subjective, and for that reason he disappears. That is, obviously, he is the mediator between the congregation and God, leading the congregation toward God, but because of the objectivity of the structure, he disappears. That is very salutary, because the Mass is not about the priest; it’s about God. In the Novus Ordo, because of the versus populum practice, and because of all the options of the priest inserting something like a comment, or spontaneity, the role of the priest becomes terribly subjective. Therefore, he becomes the focus of attention, so the New Mass is terribly clericalized because it’s all about the priest, as opposed to the Old Mass. And this is unfortunate.