The first time I went to a Traditional Latin Mass, I didn't really know what to expect. I had been going to the Novus Ordo Mass faithfully for eleven years, and being so used to the active participation of the Novus Ordo, I really noticed the difference. There were no responses to say, and I remember thinking there wasn't much participation at the TLM. I never felt "involved." At Communion, I must have been the only one to say, "Amen." Still, I left there realizing that I had participated in an act of worship that was unlike anything I ever experienced at the Novus Ordo Mass I go to. I started thinking about this; the participation being on a spiritual level rather than a physical level.
The second time I attended the TLM, I didn't even think about the lack of active participation. I welcomed the solitude of sacred silence, and the beauty and reverence of every gesture and prayer of the priest. It was possible to actually pray while the Sacred Mysteries were unfolding on the altar! There were no distractions to interrupt my silent conversation with God, and nothing to prevent me from paying attention to what was happening on the altar. The choir sounded like angels praising God, and I realized that this is the closest we will ever get to heaven on earth, and I understood why it is called the Mass of the Ages.
Participation at Mass should come from the soul, when we unite ourselves to God in the Sacred Mysteries, and is echoed beautifully in the words of Pope St. Pius X:
The Holy Mass is a prayer itself, even the highest prayer that exists. It is the Sacrifice, dedicated by our Redeemer at the Cross, and repeated every day on the altar. If you wish to hear Mass as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart and mouth all that happens at the altar. Further you must pray with the priest the holy words said by him in the Name of Christ and which Christ says by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words, and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens on the altar. When acting in this way you have prayed the Holy Mass.
- His Holiness, Pope St. Pius X