Learning about Tradition—and loving it! Our Visit to a Catholic Parish in Tula, Russia: May 23-25, 2014
This year's trip of the Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus led us to Tula, a region 180 km south of Moscow (about a three hour drive from Moscow). Father Vitaly Spitsyn, Rector of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Parish, hosted Father Thomas Huber (of Augsburg, Germany) and Gregor Huber, Chairman of the Association.
In the 1962 liturgical calendar, the Mass of Friday May, 23, 2014 was Fourth Class in rank. In this case, the priest has the option to choose a Requiem Mass, which was offered for all the dead. In particular, the intention prayer was for those departed from the Tula Parish who were killed during the war, as well as children, and babies who were victims of abortion.
The Requiem Mass, during which fairly complex Gregorian chants are being performed, such as the sequence Dies Irae (Day of Atonement), were properly learned in advance. At the request of Gregor Huber, Mrs. Irina Obolonskaya, who is responsible for the Gregorian chant in the Cathedral in Moscow, kindly agreed to take on his task. She sang the entire Requiem—and we thank her for her active leadership and participation!
During the Requiem Mass, Evgeny Zebrev, a local altar server from Tula, served at the altar with Gregor Huber.
Although only about half a dozen people generally come to a Friday Mass in Tula, there were approximately 15 who attended the Traditional Mass tho Friday. Was it due to sheer curiosity to become acquainted with the Traditional Mass?
Suprisingly, the Old Mass is something ‘new and unusual’ for Catholic parishes in Russia, which are generally accustomed to the Novus Ordo. Further, since the Requiem Mass can be even more difficult to understand and follow, people often feel the need to discuss and review the Liturgy. Before the service, members of the Association distributed to all the faithful the Latin Mass texts translated into Russian, as well as the third edition of the Ordo Missae, which had been re-edited for the trip to Tula. The Ordo Missae brochure was supplemented by the most important passages from the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, the apostolic letter issued by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. In addition, members of the Association presented the faithful with prayer cards for the Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (in Russian).
If someone knows very little about the Catholic tradition, taking part in the Requiem Mass for the first time is rather difficult, since following the Mass is not easy, especially in an unfamiliar language, and with the priest dressed in black, facing the cross. All this may bring about a sense of loneliness, as well as a certain abandonment to God. In this way, we might start thinking about the dead, and also about our own death. On the other hand, it is a very solemn Liturgy, which fully reflects the Catholic Faith, and our hope to be resurrected to eternal life one day.
The responses of the faithful to the Requiem were positive. Many were grateful for the opportunity to pray so worthily for the dead, and do something really meritorious for the poor souls. Of course, the Requiem Mass often has this effect on believers. One parishioner said that the Mass had the effect of a minor exorcism on her.
And well, the next day came and the 1962 liturgical calendar stipulated a Mass of the Fourth Class rank on Saturday, so a Votive Mass dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was chosen (the same Mass is always offered on August 22nd in the Old Rite).
For this Mass, and for the Mass on the following Sunday, the choir under the direction of Sister Irina Cherenkova (CSSE), learned the Missa de Angelis. On Sunday, Irina Skibinskaya accompanied the choir on the organ. For the choir and organist who participated in the musical accompaniment of the old Mass for the first time, it is always a difficult task, as coordination between the liturgy at the altar and the music is of extreme importance.
During the Sunday Chanted Mass, Igor Lubimov, Evgeny Zebrev, Augustino Ntasima and Gregor Huber administered at the altar.
After the Solemn Mass, the question on how well you need to know Latin to participate in the Old Mass was discussed. Father Thomas explained that it is not required to be able to converse in Latin, the way you do in say, Russian or German. After all, the prayers in Latin during Mass are clearly defined. In addition, learning some prayers is a good exercise, because for example, during the World Youth Days the Lord's Prayer is not pronounced in Russian or German, but in Latin.
Moreover, Latin brings together the local church and the historical center of the Catholic Faith - Rome. Latin indicates that the Russian Catholic Church is a part of the Roman Catholic Church, rather than a separate ‘national church.’
Since the Holy Mass is the Sacrifice of praise, prayers, thanksgiving and propitiation, the Liturgy is not performed in the same language or colloquialism which people buy say, sausages or beer. By praying together in the sacred language, it is as if we escape everyday life, and consciously move away from our individual selves—and turn to the Cross, the center of our lives. The Holy Mass is that moment of Sacrifice: it is Good Friday, not Holy Thursday - and must be clearly understood as such.
In conclusion, we wish to state that our visit to Tula was possible thanks to the financial support of German Traditional Catholics, driven by the desire to introduce as many Russian brothers and sisters as possible to the Tradition of the Catholic Church. The Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus would like to thank all the benefactors as we remember them in our prayers.
The Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus would also like to thank father Vitaly for his graciousness, interest and kind hospitality. For his part, Father Vitaly promised to recommend the Association’s parish visits to various other Catholic communities throughout Russia.