The Holy Quiet of the Low Mass

And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-12)

It is 7:30 AM on a cool Autumn Sunday. A small group has gathered for morning Mass. The church is quiet and still. The bell rings and the people stand as Father and the two small altar boys enter the sanctuary. They kneel at the foot of the altar and the low Mass begins. The church is still quiet and still. Kyrie Eleison. From time to time (at the place the rubrics indicate), the priest speaks in a louder, clear voice, but always returns to the still small voice of the Extraordinary Form low Mass.

Photo by Jeff CulbreathPhoto by Jeff Culbreath

There is a break from the quiet at the readings and the homily, and then for the climax of the liturgy there is the quiet again. Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus. The bells ring. It is almost time. The people pray and wait. The bells ring again, and the host is lifted up. The people adore. The bells. The chalice is lifted, and again the bells. Then quiet. Father raises his voice again to indicate where he is, then quiet. The people pray, watch, follow along. Agnus Dei. Lord, I am not worthy. The priest completes the sacrifice, and then turns to the people holding up the Lamb of God.

They come forward and kneel at the communion rail. The priest brings Christ to each person. It is the same still, quiet except for the soft repetition of,  “Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.” (“May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ keep your soul unto everlasting life.”) The priest returns to the altar to perform the final rites of the Mass. The people are still silent. The priest is still quiet, and then he prays aloud the post communion prayer. He turns to the people. Ite, Missa Est. Then the final blessing is given and the Last Gospel read. He leaves in silence.

It is the silence and the stillness that make the Extraordinary Form Low Mass unique and beautiful. It seems the most appropriate early in the morning, when the world is waking and still. For someone attending the Mass, nothing but one’s presence is required. The servers say the responses and the faithful can be completely receptive to the graces being given through the words and actions of the liturgy. It is a holy hour of prayer, where we are led by the priest, and by him given the very Body and Blood of our Lord. The quiet stillness is a break from the fast paced, loud world. Even when I spend the liturgy pacing in back with a chattering baby, the quiet is still so powerful.

I have been to a wide variety of Masses in my short lifetime, and I know that diversity of the universal Church. But I love that the quiet Low Mass is still being said throughout the world, in many different cultures, and that I can go to it and have a taste of Heaven.

Originally Published in full at Truth and Charity.