Unto the Altar of God


I mentioned in an earlier post how the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter has made the commitment to stream live daily Latin Mass from several different locations around the world, and how grateful my family is for this apostolate. But as this live daily Mass has become such an integral part of my personal daily life, I thought it would be appropriate to write about it in more detail.

My soul has come to rely, in a very real way, on being able to “pray holy Mass” each morning. Indeed, in the words of Pope St. Pius X, it hungers that I “associate my heart with the holy feelings . . . to follow all that happens at the altar.” Where I live, we are tremendously blessed with the Traditional Latin Mass every Sunday. But if there were ever a church or chapel near me that offered it daily . . . oh, I would most certainly be there!

But since, for the present, there isn’t one nearby, I have recourse to literally kneeling in front of my computer, along with my siblings, and praying the Mass via live stream each morning at 8am 😉

But . . . why do it?

Of course, prayer is necessary for the soul, and Mass is the highest prayer of all. But as I’m not physically present at these Masses, is there any benefit that comes from my kneeling and praying along when the priest’s voice is merely emerging through computer speakers and the High Altar is constructed of pixels . . . and is there any good reason for my need for doing it?

On my sidebar, I link to an excellent article introducing the reader to the Latin Mass. The following section is my favorite:

The human soul needs mystery to thrive. Deep down, sometimes very deep down, we crave an experience that is disorienting in its wonder, something so marvelous we forget ourselves in the face of it. We want something that is at once knowable and unknowable, within our grasp and beyond our reach.

Good and true liturgy is like that. It draws us upward and out of ourselves. It is disorienting and uncomfortable in a healthy and joyful way. Holiness, if it is real, should feel disorienting. So give yourself permission to not know and understand everything that is going on in the Mass. Some priestly gestures and prayers are meant to be beyond your reach, and you aren’t meant to grasp their every meaning. That is just how it is. Embrace it. Let the mystery wash over you and transform you.

The mysterious aspect of the old Roman Rite is indeed marvelous, brimming with quiet splendor and wonder. High Mass is full of audible beauty: ethereal Gregorian chant, tapestries of polyphony, all offered anonymously from the choir loft. Low Mass is full of whispers and sacred silence. The first thing impressed upon me when I attended Latin Mass, a year ago on Trinity Sunday 2016, was that nothing was about me. Everything was about God; everything was directed towards Him, and all things came from Him. For me, there is no time in the Latin Mass. It could last two, even three hours and I would hardly notice, or feel the niggle to check a watch. Despite my human weaknesses, my sometimes growling stomach or frequently wandering mind–it’s rapturous.

Of course, that everything is about God is true of every valid Mass by definition, but something about the old liturgy that has been celebrated for over fifteen hundred years seems to impress this sweet and majestic truth very deeply on my human heart.

From the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar:

Ant. Introibo ad altare Dei. (I will go in unto the altar of God.)

R. Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. (To God Who giveth joy to my youth.)

to the reverent, exultant proclamation of the Last Gospel:

In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum.

(In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.)

. . . I find myself truly in awe, and in Love.

That may be the best explanation I can give as to why I am drawn to the Mass daily, to the point where streaming the Mass from several hundred miles away is a delight.

Even though I can’t be present in the congregation or receive the Eucharist physically, I do believe there’s real worth in uniting myself spiritually to the sacrifice of the Mass by praying along with it through a live-streamed Mass every morning. I’ve outlined a few reasons (mostly for myself to ponder 🙂 ) as to why:

  • Praying the Mass reminds me of eternity. And I think this is one of the most important reasons of all. My time here on earth is so short; if God has willed that I live around eighty years, well, I’ve already lived a quarter of that time. Roughly 25% (or possibly more) of my life on earth is gone and irretrievable. To live in a bubble of denial, to resist the thought of death and eternity and the four last things, is a snare of the Devil and a malady of today’s culture. Praying the Mass is a powerful antidote to that. I don’t want a day to pass in which I don’t think of Heaven, eternity, and my own death, and to pray for the grace of a holy death. I don’t want a day to pass in which I’m not reminded that I am a stranger and sojourner here, that I am a struggling traveler through a vale of tears, and that the fullness of all things lies ahead of me, not around me. The Mass does this better than anything else on earth; the vivid, ancient prayers of the Latin liturgy, especially, speak almost constantly of eternity and of salvation, of sin and contrition, and of perfect hope. The Mass transcends time; it stands at Calvary; it adores the Eternal God; it reminds me that time is a quickly passing creation, one day to be gone forever. It urges me to live life well, for my death will come and bring me to the shore of eternity before I know it.

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  • Praying the Mass fortifies my faith. To immerse myself every morning in the deepest mysteries of the Faith, in the beauty of the liturgy, in the prayers of the Mass and the reality of the Eucharist–it steadies and anchors my faith, as well as my desire for truth. The Mass, even if it’s only streamed, supports my soul as its strongest and surest anchor.

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  • Praying the Mass offers me an opportunity for a more fervent Spiritual Communion. A Spiritual Communion can be made any time of the day, many times a day–but to have already prayed along with the whole Mass does significantly affect my disposition and my desire to receive our Lord in whatever form He can come to me.

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  • Praying the Mass offers me the best way to keep my soul rooted in the liturgical year. To celebrate each feast, each commemoration, each Ember or Rogation Day, each saint, by praying the Holy Mass and reading the specific propers for the day, helps me to remain rooted in the garden of virtue that is the liturgical year. It helps me to learn more about the Faith, more about the saints, and inspires me to imitate them.

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  • Praying the Mass unites me to the intentions of the Church, and to those of the Heart of Christ and His Mother. By praying the Mass, I am moved to desire and pray for God’s will to be done in all things; to unite my heart to the highest and purest intentions, namely the salvation of all souls and the glory of God; and to submit all my personal desires and hopes to God’s omnipotence, omniscience and providence.

I’m sure there are many more reasons I’ve yet to unearth from my feeble brain, but I think these will suffice for now. Particularly, if this has inspired you to check out the FSSP’s apostolate of LiveMass, I highly encourage you to do so, and to support these sons of the Church in their holy work!

Hear Mass daily; it will prosper the whole day. All your duties will be performed the better for it, and your soul will be stronger to bear its daily cross. The Mass is the most holy act of religion; you can do nothing that can give greater glory to God or be more profitable for your soul than to hear Mass both frequently and devoutly. It is the favorite devotion of the saints.

-St. Peter Julian Eymard