For centuries, priests began the Holy Sacrifice with the words: "Introibo ad altare Dei," that is,
"I shall go unto the Altar of God." In the past decades, this beautiful Mass has all but dissapeared,
giving way to Masses in the vernacular (local language). Though not mandated by the Council,
freestanding altars facing the people were added in churches across the globe, and the priest said Mass
facing the people. The Council removed the Asperges, the prayers at the foot of the Altar, and
the Last Gospel.
The Asperges happened before Mass. In it, the priest would sprinkle the assembly with Holy Water while they chanted a psalm. The Asperges is important, because it reminds us that it is only when we are cleansed that we may approach God, for we are all sinners.
After the Asperges, the priest would then kneel at the foot of the Altar steps, and, together with the acoltye (altar server) recite the Judica Me ('judge me'). This psalm begs God's blessings and seeks to forego His Holy Wrath. It ends giving praise to God, the God who has done so much for us. After the Judica, the priest would confess his sins - the Confiteor. In our present day Mass, we keep the Confiteor, but it is said after the priest ascends the steps to the Altar. The Latin Mass more appropriately put it before the priest ascended the steps, because only with a profound humility should anybody dare to approach God, let alone consecrate body and wine into His Body and His Blood.
After the people were formally dismissed from Mass by the "Ite, Missa est", "Go forth, the Mass is over," the priest would read aloud the beginning of the Gospel of St. John. This beautifully sums up all God's deeds, from creation to the coming of Christ, and reminds us of what life is truly about. In the end, it sums up: "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become the sons of God; to them that beliece in His name: who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." The Gospel ends with the most appropriate words man can say: "Deo Gratias" (thanks be to God).
Mass is properly said facing God, for who is the priest worshipping? In our Mass today, most of the consecration prayers are said aloud. These prayers are meant to be whispered, to remind those present that the priest is talking to God. When the priest says those Holy Words aloud, and facing the people, it seems that the priest is worshipping the people. How more appropriate it is, then, to have the priest face God and whisper those Words of Words, the Words that call down the Word!
Mass should be in Latin. Some may argue that the people can not understand it. The people do not have to understand it, for it is an act of worship to God alone. Moreover, it is better to have Mass in a dead language (one that is not commonly used) than a live language (one that is spoken commonly), because live languages evolve: a century ago, the English word 'doodle' meant a fool, and 'brat' meant simply a child (no offensive meaning). After a century, changes in the understanding of vernacular translations of the Mass will lead to heresies, because people misunderstand the words themselves. Furthermore, Latin is the language of the Church. At Vatin II, those many cardinals, prelates, and bishops were able to communicate only through Latin. How wonderful that one language unified such a vast populace!
Let us then resolve to attend at least one Latin Mass, for in no time has it been more relevant, in no time has it been more important. In this period of lack of preparation, let us remind ourselves that we must prepare for God; in this period of indifference, let us remind ourselves of our God.