This Saturday evening, I plan to attend my first live Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Since this is my first one, and I want to know what to do and get out of it as much as I possibly can, I have begun my preparation. Today, I went out and picked up Baronius Press' Summorum Pontificum edition of the 1962 Missal -- the last one in the shop, as it so happened, sitting apart from all the other prayer books, as if it had been set out just for me.
As I looked through this classy volume, I couldn't help contrasting it with The Redoubtable One's one-volume English-language breviary, circa 1962. The language in it is far superior to the ICEL translation of the Divine Office currently in use; on the other hand, the volume is full of the sort of weird, cubist/LSD-type drawings that still infest the covers of missalettes -- a symptom, even at that early date, of coming dislocations. However, there is no place for that kind of nonsense in this missal. Here is a typical illustration:
(For those of you who have clamored to see a picture of me, there's my thumb.)
Since beginning this Mass preparation, I have been reflecting on the fact that, in the wake of Vatican II, the liberals have succeeded not only in having Gregorian chant, the Latin language, and the Tridentine Mass shelved; they have also managed to instill in many Catholics a visceral hatred of these things. The standard objections to these "relics of the past" -- nobody understands Latin, chant is "too hard" or "too depressing," etc., etc., etc. -- are so irrational and without foundation that hatred and prejudice, coupled with an utter lack of understanding of true Catholic worship, are the only explanations for them that makes sense.
There is nothing "hard" about the Mass in Latin. Generations upon generations of people far less educated than you understood the Mass. And understanding the Mass is what the Missal is for. I will grant that the Missal is a little on the complicated side, but the difficulties are not insurmountable. Certainly, if you know your way around a breviary -- and not a few laymen do these days -- then the 1962 Missal will not be too hard to figure out. Even if you don't recite the Office, the help is out there.
But here is the essential beauty of the Missal:
English on one side; Latin on the other. Simple! Not to mention all the nifty explanations in between -- because it doesn't kill us to learn new things.
And then there is the handy-dandy cheat sheet for when to stand, sit and kneel:
This Missal is also a treasury of devotions and essential Catholic prayers, which make it even more worth possessing.
So I, for one, am not worried about being able to follow what's going on at Mass this Saturday evening, or how I'm going to engage in "active participation." The "active participation" starts now, with this volume.
The only thing that worries me is how, once I have experienced the beauty and the power of the traditional Mass, I'm going to be able to cope with the crappy music, etc. at the regular Masses I'll attend on the days when I can't get the Extraordinary Rite.