So this morning I took a few deep breathes: all I had to do was change one letter in one word. You can do this! So as Mass began today I focused intensely on saying Spiritus instead of Spiritui. I managed to do it, but the effort threw me off balance. I started thinking about all the other word endings I have been saying from muscle memory for years now, and that’s like thinking about what your feet are doing when running down a flight of stairs. I got confused, and lost my confidence, and stumbled, and messed up some other words that I’ve never had problems with before….
Praying in Latin certainly keeps a man humble, at least if you think about the words from time to time. A priest can run through the Mass in his own tongue without effort and think to himself: “I’m pretty good at this. I understand the Mass and I can do it well.” A priest can think this way about the Latin Mass too, but at moments of such complacency the Latin Mass will box his ears. Both in its language and its form, the Latin Mass says to the priest: “You think you understand these mysteries? You think you can speak the language of Cicero and Augustine? Just let me remind you, buster, that you don’t know nothin!”
It’s essential that true worship remain mysterious, beyond our complete grasp, and veiled. After all, we are attempting to pray to a mysterious, unknowable, and hidden God. It is He, not us, who chooses the time and the manner of His revelation. To keep us from fashioning a god in our own image, the Sacred Liturgy keeps one step ahead of us, so that we can never grasp fully the mystery, but keep striving, keep seeking, keep longing for the Infinite One.