Postures of the Priest during the Traditional Latin Mass
In addition to translations for the liturgy, the red Missalettes available in every pew at St. Benedict’s explains many of the actions of the priests that are done differently from Masses said in the Ordinary Form.
For example, in the Extraordinary Form, the priest appears to be facing away from the congregation during Mass.
The priest is facing ‘Liturgical East’ with you. This is because of a long standing tradition heavily rooted in Scripture that tells us Christ will come again from the East. The Priest, as Alter Christus (another Christ), leads the people, all facing the same direction, in the supreme act of worship: the representation to the Father of the Sacrifice of the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. The priest does not give us his back; instead he humbly offers sacrifice and stands before God on our behalf.
In the celebration of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, the priest uses three tones of voice (low, medium, and high). The low voice is used, for example, during the prayers surrounding the Consecration and the Consecration itself, as the priest quietly prays the words of consecration, in which the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.
The medium voice is used by the priest at the altar to be heard the sacred ministers and servers who are near the altar and the high voice is employed to give the texts of the Mass that are heard by all.
It is, therefore, well to follow along in the hand missal so that one might meditate upon the prayers of the Mass. The silence experienced during the Canons of the Mass is a hushed awe in which the faithful render thanksgiving unto the Father for the mystery of Christ’s supreme sacrifice made present again on the altar.
When a newcomer attends the Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the first time, they are, moreover, surprised that the most important part of the Mass is accomplished in silence. Through the silence of Mass, we enter into a contemplative and sacred silence, over which the Holy Ghost is hovering. This anointed silence in the Traditional Latin Mass is a timeless silence pointing to eternity.