Since the release of the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, I have seen a lot of blog posts on how to use a missal or what gestures to follow and various phisical responses in the traditional Mass. I have also seen people constantly say that "active participation" is primarily a contemplitive aspect. These two responces seem directly opposed to each other. On the one hand we say that people should try to enter into contemplation at the traditional Mass and then on the other we tell them every single time one should respond "et cum spiritu tuo."
I'm not saying here that there's anything wrong with making responses or knowing when to stand and kneel. These are important things. What I am saying is that focusing on these things, especially at first, is not the way to foster a contemplitive spirit at the Mass.
So, that being said, here is ZACH'S GUIDE TO ATTENDING THE TRADITIONAL MASS!!!!!!!
If you've never attended a Mass in the Traditional Roman Rite, now called the Extraordinary Use of the Roman Rite, then you have to attend at least 3. Here's why. The first time you attend, typically, you will leave confused and you will have the biggest headache you've ever had. This is especailly true if you attended a solemn high Mass or a pontifical Mass as your first Extraordinary Use Mass. This is because there is so much to take in and combined with the fact that you probably don't know a thing that's going on and your brain just can't absorb it all, so it blows up (or at least feels like it). The second time you attend will be similar, but the headache will be less or non-existant. The third time you go, you will be floored and you will want to know more and more and more about this ancient rite.
So, how does one approach the Extraordinary Use Mass for the first time. Many people will tell you that when you first go to the traditional Mass to find a 1962 hand missal and to shove your nose in it through the whole Mass so you "know what's going on." I'm going to flat out say here that that's a stupid idea. If you go to the Mass with your nose in a missal you will never be able to appriciate the traditional Mass and, despite common belief, you won't know what's going on. Most of the prayers that you would read in a missal are said in silence at the Mass. So while you're busy trying to find where you are in the Mass because you'll have missed a lot of prayers, the Mass will already be about 10 pages ahead of where you think it is. In my opinion, hand missals are a useful thing, but there best use is when you are at home so you can study the Mass and learn what's going on. So, when you go to the traditional Mass for the first time, leave the missal at home.
So, we've established what you don't do. Here's what you should do. Pay attention to what the priest is doing. Pay attention to every action, because every action in the traditional Mass has meaning even if only a symbolic one. Remember also that the Mass isn't about you, so don't get upset if you can't see or understand what the priest is doing. Just remember that he is performing the sacrifice and at that instant is acting in the person of Christ, so at the very least you should be looking at him as you would look at Christ on the Holy Cross. The traditional Mass is as if you are climbing a mountain. The summit of which is the elevation. At the elevation, you have seen God, you have seen the greatest act ever done on Earth. What a mericle. What a priviledge to see God in the flesh appear before you. So you continue toward the summit, and at last, when recieving communion, you have recieved the fullness of all things. The creator of all the universe now approaches you, so you kneel before the altar and recieve this great gift.
Remember to always approach the traditional Mass with humility. You will be immideately struck by the realisation that the Mass is not about you. It is about God. You must submit yourself to it and realise that you are now at the foot of Calvery, looking at our Lord, and He looks at you.
I hope that this little guide and discription helps you the next time you go to a Mass in the Extraordinary Use of the Roman Rite. I hope as you continue to go that you will become more contemplitive in your approach to the Mass in either use and that your love for God will be fostered through uniting youself with the sacrifice of the Mass by being truely active.