The View from the Pew Part II – The Introductory Rites
Last week, I touched a bit about what goes in terms of how the Church guides us to celebrate Mass as a community in terms of the liturgical seasons and feast of the day, and how the Church asks the Mass to be celebrated.
This week, I’d like to start going through some of the different parts of the Mass and talk a bit about why we do what we do at each part, and why some Masses differ a bit in terms of how they are celebrated and the prayers used.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The first part of Mass is what is known as “The Introductory Rites.” This is the entrance, the greeting, the penitential act, the Gloria, and the Collect which is otherwise known as the opening prayer. This is what precedes the readings or “Liturgy of the Word.”
Mass starts with the procession, and typically on Obligatory Holy Days and at 3 of our 4 weekend Masses, we enter in song. This helps put us in the mode to celebrate Mass together and gets us thinking about what is to follow. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says it can be sung by the people, a choir, the choir alone or the people alone. At Masses where there is no hymn, we have what is called the antiphon recited by the priest.
You’ll then notice that the priest and deacon venerate the altar. This is again a sign of respect, as the altar is sacred.
We then make the Sign of the Cross, something we do often before we pray even as individuals. We do this to remind ourselves of our Baptism. The priest then has a greeting, signifying how God is present to the people who are assembled. It’s actually an ancient greeting as we read in Ruth 2:4 Boaz says to the reapers “The Lord be with you.” We say “And with your spirit” as a way to return the greeting. This was changed in 2011 as we then said “and also with you,” but the reason for the change is to acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy, as the Spirit works through the priest who offers the Mass.
What follows this is what is called the Penitential Act. We pause briefly in silence and acknowledge our sins in our hearts. This gives us a chance to think about the things we’d like to do better, but also calls to mind how merciful and loving God is. It can take the form of the Confiteor or “I Confess…” or three invocations, Lord Have Mercy, Christ Have Mercy, Lord Have Mercy, each of which is preceded by a theological statement on who God is and His nature. It can be omitted though and often is during Easter and replaced with the sprinkling rite which reminds us of our Baptism.
As a way to mark a solemnity, what follows this is “Glory to God in the Highest” which can be sung by the choir, the people, or both together as we typically do. This prayer has been a part of Mass since the Sixth Century.
The last part of the Introductory Rites is the Opening Prayer or “Collect.” This is so that we can become aware of God’s presence with us. It’s addressed to God the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, and is concluded with a Trinitarian Ending, so you’ll often hear it end with “Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever” if the prayer is directed to the father or “who lives and reigns forever and ever” if the prayer is directed to the Father but the Son is mentioned at the end or “who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever” if the prayer is directed to the Son. There are unique prayers based on the day the Mass is being said on the liturgical calendar.
In a nutshell, you can think of the Introductory Rites as a way we dispose ourselves for Mass. We get ready to hear God’s word and celebrate His presence among us also in the Eucharist by calling to mind our sins and turning them over to our God who is love, and prepare to worship God and enter more deeply into our relationship with Him through what is about to follow.
Of course before all this begins, the Church is open too for private prayer, which is a great thing to do before Mass begins as well as we prepare for the celebration of the Mass to follow.
Next week, I’ll get a bit more into the Liturgy of the Word and it’s components in terms of how the readings are selected and talk a bit about the homily and how I prepare it.
As I wrote last week, the Mass is so beautiful and so much happens at each Mass. It’s really worth thinking about why we do what we do because all that we do we do for a reason, which ultimately comes down to the Church giving us a blueprint so we can grow closer to God and one another.
Have a wonderful week ahead!
God Bless, ~Fr. Paul
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