A few answers to your questions
1. Firstly, it was silent. I didn't hear anything until the end of the service, at the dismisal.
- Why is it silent? Especially at the Gospel and Epistle?
- I was told by a seminarian who was there that the Low Mass is recited, and that basically its the priest talking in a low voice and the acolyte responding. I didn't hear a thing, but I was sitting way in the back.
This is the nature of the low Mass. The Low Mass is supposed to be an easy to execute Mass that only needs a priest and an acolyte, and is supposed to be said in a low voice without the response of the people in the pews. Sometimes a choir would sing, even during a low Mass, but I'm told by a good Irish Catholic author (Thomas Day in "Why Catholics Can't Sing) that the dominance of the Irish clergy in the US meant that the Irish habit of having completely silent Masses generally prevailed over other, more musical Italian or German customs.
This is just the nature of the Roman Liturgy. Even in a High Mass, there's much more a role for the schola or choir than there is for the people (even though the Gospel is read aloud, in Latin).
a) At the consecration I THOUGHT that I saw the acolyte bring the water AFTER everyone took communion. Any significance to that? I could be wrong, I was REALLY far away.
it's been a long time since I was an acolyte at the so-called "Tridentine Mass", but IIRC the water is used simply to rinse the chalice. The priest pours some in and then drinks it to be sure the Precious Blood isn't in there anymore.
b) I never saw the priest put the "bread" into the wine. Is it pre-done? Like I said, I was really far and I couldn't hear anything cuz it was silent.
I don't recall the rubrics, but if this is done I'm sure you'd never be able to see it.
As for the direction of crossing, that's just a matter of tradition. I'm told that if you look at Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Copts, Armenians, Syriacs etc. there are several different ways to cross yourself. I just accept the local tradition and leave it at that.
Funny story about Latins crossing themselves. There is a 13th century encyclical from Pope Innocent III that says that the proper way to cross yourself is the Eastern Orthodox way. I have a friend who teaches at a traditionalist RC seminary. The traditionalist RCs always ask him why the Greek Church crosses itself funny. He pulls out a copy of the Latin original and begs them to translate it for him. After a short period of translation the questioner is completely dumbfounded
So my whole question is, why has this idea been lost in the RC church? I don't want to open any wounds, but i'm really curious as to how the people got taken out of the whole process? It seams to me that the clergy have become all powerful. I say this just from a liturgical stand-point.
As far as the people, we don't know "when" this happened because there are not enough missals from the early era to chart this. What we do know is that by the 10-1100s, in a large cathedral or monastery, "singing" the Mass was in many ways the job of the choir, and in many places priest was generally hidden behind something similar to an icon screen (yes an icon screen) who was rarely heard in the main part of the Church (we know a lot less about the practices of a parish Church).
Factors I would say caused this include:
- the decision to retain Latin after it was no longer the language of the people - restricting the Mass to what was then the highly educated
- the complexity of Western liturgical music, especially once Gregorian chant was completely replaced by polyphony in the 1300s or so
- the extinguishment of the office of the deacon. If you removed the litanies and other parts prayed by the deacon from our Divine Liturgy, and made the music unsingable by the average guy standing in the church, your liturgy would resemble the Latin "High Mass" in many ways.
And for all of these "flaws", a Mass similar to the "Tridentine" Mass was the norm in western Christianity for nearly 500 years, and for Roman Catholics for another 450 some years. During that time, millions of Western Christians lived and died, Western Christanity spread to the New World (and indeed many other parts of the world) and hundreds of westerners I (of course) consider saints lived. People were brought to God, even if they couldn't understand the liturgy or (in the post-printing press world) if they needed to keep their noses in their missals. I don't look back nostalgically to it, but it wasn't as bad as you might think.