In the course of a certain morning I came into one of the quiet squares of a small French town and found its cathedral. It was one of those grey and rainy days which rather suit the Gothic. The clouds were leaden, like the solid blue-grey lead of the spires and the jewelled windows; the sloping roofs and high-shouldered arches looked like cloaks drooping with damp; and the stiff gargoyles that stood out round the walls were scoured with old rains and new. I went into the round, deep porch with many doors and found two grubby children playing there out of the rain. I also found a notice of services, etc., and among these I found the announcement that at 11.30 (that is about half an hour later) there would be a special service for the Conscripts, that is to say, the draft of young men who were being taken from their homes in that little town and sent to serve in the French Army; sent (as it happened) at an awful moment, when the French Army was encamped at a parting of the ways. There were already a great many people there when I entered, not only of all kinds, but in all attitudes, kneeling, sitting, or standing about. And there was that general sense that strikes every man from a Protestant country, whether he dislikes the Catholic atmosphere or likes it; I mean, the general sense that the thing was "going on all the time"; that it was not an occasion, but a perpetual process, as if it were a sort of mystical inn.At a good liturgy (and occasionally at a bad one, too) there is a sense of timelessness: not that Catholics through the ages are repeating the actions of the Mass, but that at any point in history we're all attending the same Mass and only the accident of time keeps us from being immediately present to one another.
When Darwin and I were travelling in Europe during our student days, we enjoyed attending masses in Latin because even in a country where we understood none of the language, we could understand and participate at church. This sense of companionship, of all being fellow travelers at the "mystical inn" is not only limited to those Catholics separated by distance, but also by time. Chesterton says it better than I can: "the general sense that the thing was "going on all the time"; that it was not an occasion, but a perpetual process".