The Wonder of the Missa Cantata

The Latin Mass
Mass in St Louis church of the Institute of Christ the King. Photo courtesy of Phil Roussin by CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 via Flickr

Some years ago when my family and I lived in Madrid, we regularly attended Sunday Mass with the Institute of Christ the King at one of the Visitation Convents in the city.

One Sunday, Holy Mass had begun. We were singing the Gloria when suddenly, a couple with their young girl, perhaps seven years old, rushed from the street into the chapel. The large church was packed to the hilt, so the newcomers had to make their way right to the front, where the only places left were the very front pew seats, with no kneelers before them.

I imagine this small family were rushing, desperate to find a Sunday Mass. As it was obvious that they had not attended the Traditional Latin Mass before. For they were bewildered, not knowing what to do or when.

They constantly looked round to see when the faithful were kneeling, standing, sitting etc. They appeared extremely uncomfortable, being right at the front, in the vision of everyone.

Yet, their young daughter was awestruck. Her eyes gazed all around her, filled with wonder, taking in everything– the richness of the golden chapel interior, the imagery, the heavenly music, the incense, the beautiful vestments, the adorned altar, the altar boys dressed immaculately, silent and still and the ringing of the bells.

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All these beautiful elements of the Missa Cantata, which draw us into the Sacred Mystery, spoke to this young soul. Deeply appealing to her sensibilities, she was mesmerised.

After Holy Mass, as my family and I walked to the metro station, we encountered this new family. I was saddened to hear the mother mocking the singer, who led the music at this Mass each week. For I found her singing exquisite. I thought to myself, we’ll not see this family here again.

But to my delight, they returned.

And I have always wondered if it was the young girl who brought them back. Her innocence simply absorbed everything that was going on, in all its glory and beauty and heavenly wonder. She was able to experience the reality of this most sublime acts of worship, whereby the greatest mystery of all time occurs upon the altar – Our Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross, in it’s unbloody manner – because she was naturally drawn into it.

In other words, this young girl, knowing nothing of what was going on, understood it all, because her innocence allowed her to be present in a way her parents couldn’t be. It was an incredible gift to witness her – one that I will never forget.

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