Introduction to the Liturgy of the Word and/or Silence

This post is part of a series on Getting the Most Out of Mass: tips to best dispose yourself to receive graces available during Mass (this will be specifically about Sunday Mass, but some of these ideas will also apply to daily Mass). Today, we transition from the Introductory Rites for Mass to the Liturgy of the Word.

(The introduction and the silence are optional parts of the Mass, so you might not experience them at your parish.)

What

After the Collect, everyone sits to listen to the Bible readings.

The priest may choose to give an introduction to those readings.

There may be a brief period of silence during this time before the readings.

Why

Why Sitting?

We have finished the Introductory Rites of Mass and transitioned into the Liturgy of the Word. This is the time in Mass when we listen to the Bible readings and Homily and then wrap them up with the Profession of Faith (the Creed) and the Universal Prayers (the “Lord Hear Our Prayer” prayers). Since the beginning of this section of Mass is so focused on listening, we sit for this time. This puts our bodies in a posture of receptivity and the hope is that our hearts and minds will follow that lead.

Why an Introduction?

Just as we discussed in Preread The Scripture Readings for Mass, the Church wants to steep us in Holy Scripture (the Bible), and part of being able to absorb what God has for you in Holy Scripture is having a context to better understand what is being read. Therefore, a priest may choose to give everyone a quick introduction to the readings.

The Priest may, very briefly, introduce the faithful to the Liturgy of the Word.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 128

Why Silence?

The best way to prepare to listen to God speaking through His written Word is silence. The more we are able to quiet ourselves (externally and internally), the better we will be at listening for any prompting God may have for us. A prompting may be a better understanding of something about God, the Church, life, etc.; a different way of looking at something; a conviction that you ought to change something in your life or do something for another person (or other people); etc.

The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to favor meditation, and so any kind of haste such as hinders recollection is clearly to be avoided. In the course of it, brief periods of silence are also appropriate, accommodated to the assembled congregation; by means of these, under the action of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the First and Second Reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the Homily.

Ibid. 56

Going Deeper

As you sit down, focus your mind and heart on listening to what will be read and spoken throughout the liturgy of the Word. Try as much as you can to be present to what is being said and be alert for any ways that God prompts your heart toward Himself. If your Mass has a pause for silence, use this extra time to calm your mind and heart even more to be docile to whatever God has for you.

If your Mass has in introduction, listen attentively to this introduction. Try to make any connections from your preread of the readings and any study you have done to prep you to more fully understand the readings that are about to be read.

What About You?

  • Do you have any particular ways that help you prepare to be focussed on the readings?
  • Can you recall a time that the silence before the readings and/or a priest’s introduction to the readings especially helped you get more out of the readings?
Photo Credit: New York Times

The Collect

This post is part of a series on Getting the Most Out of Mass: tips to best dispose yourself to receive graces available during Mass (this will be specifically about Sunday Mass, but some of these ideas will also apply to daily Mass). We’re in the section on the Introductory Rites.

What:

The priest invites us: “let us pray”, pauses for a brief period of silence, and then prays the prayer out loud.

The congregation responds: “Amen”.

Why:

Why the pause?

The priest pauses both for us to recollect that we’re in God’s presence, but also for us to add our own intentions to the Mass. This is the first main spot in the Mass for adding our own prayers to the sacrifice. Depending on the priest, the pause might be longer or shorter.

Next the Priest calls upon the people to pray and everybody, together with the Priest, observes a brief silence so that they may become aware of being in God’s presence and may call to mind their intentions.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 54.

Why is it called the Collect?

The prayer that the priest prays aloud collects all of our intentions into one prayer.

Why “Amen?”

The response of “Amen” unites the community to the Collect prayer and makes it their own.

The people, joining in this petition, make the prayer their own by means of the acclamation Amen.

Ibid.

Going Deeper:

In the brief silence, between “let us pray” and the priest beginning the prayer, we make ourselves conscious of the fact that we are in God’s presence and we mentally add any petitions to God that we may have in our hearts.

Since this time can be brief, I try to pick one main intention I have for each Mass (or a few main intentions) that I bring to mind and offer to God as we begin Mass. If you have more intentions but the pause is not long enough for you think mentally pray them all, there is time later to add more intentions.

Listen carefully to the words of the prayer1 and truly make it your own with your “Amen.” Don’t just zone out and mindlessly mumble your “Uh-mn” as you sit down (I speak from experience here). Really listening to the prayer and speaking it to God in your heart unites you to the prayer of everyone in the room and opens you up to receieve the graces God wants to give you in this moment.

This is one of the parts of the Mass that are specific to today. See if you can pick out a theme for today’s Mass as you hear this prayer, the readings, and the other parts of the Mass that are specific to today. If you already did that when you read the reading ahead of time, bring this theme to mind and be open to see if God allows you to notice anything new about the theme.

What About You?

  • What are some things you have done to more deeply pray the Collect (Opening Prayer) at Mass?
  • What are some ways that deeply praying the Collect has helped you Get the Most Out of Mass?

Footnotes

  1. If you get a Missal, you can read these prayers ahead of time and/or along with the priest, so you can better unite yourself to what is being prayed.
Image credit: Relevant Radio

The Gloria

This post is part of a series on Getting the Most Out of Mass: tips to best dispose yourself to receive graces available during Mass (this will be specifically about Sunday Mass, but some of these ideas will also apply to daily Mass). We’re in the section on the Introductory Rites.

What:

English

[Often the priest or choir will begin:] Glory to God in the Highest…

[All:] …and on earth peace people of good will. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God Almighty Father. Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, you take away the sins of the world; have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world,1 receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For you alone are the Holy One,2 you alone are the Lord,3 you alone are the Most High Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in the Glory of God the Father. Amen.

Latin

[Often the priest or choir will begin:] Glória in excélsis Deo

[All:] …et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis. Laudámus te, benedícimus te, adorámus te, glorificámus te, grátias ágimus tibi propter magnam glóriam tuam, Dómine Deus, Rex cæléstis, Deus Pater omnípotens. Dómine Fili Unigénite, Iesu Christe, Dómine Deus, Agnus Dei, Fílius Patris, qui tollis peccáta mundi, miserére nobis; qui tollis peccáta mundi, súscipe deprecatiónem nostram. Qui sedes ad déxteram Patris, miserére nobis. Quóniam tu solus Sanctus, tu solus Dóminus, tu solus Altíssimus, Iesu Christe, cum Sancto Spíritu: in glória Dei Patris. Amen.

Why:

The Gloria is an expression of praise to God. After recognizing our failure and unworthiness to even be in the Lord’s Presence in both the Penitential Act and the Kyrie, we turn to God and glorify Him as the One Who is worthy of glory and who loves us so much that He forgives our sins and welcomes us into His Presence.

Well, after that we begin to want a bit of cheering up. And the thing we use to cheer us up is the Gloria in Excelsis… it is an appeal to our Incarnate Lord, as Incarnate, to make things all right for us… We try to cheer ourselves up, after all the grovelling, by reminding ourselves and reminding Almighty God that human nature has been raised to something altogether higher, ever since our Lord took human nature upon himself, and that if we unite our prayers with the prayer of our Incarnate Lord, we can, in spite of everything, make our prayers worth looking at.

Knox, Msgr. Ronald. The Mass in Slow Motion. Sheed & Ward. New York, NY. 1948. p. 20

The Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) is a most ancient and venerable hymn by which the Church, gathered in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb… It is sung or said on Sundays outside Advent and Lent, and also on Solemnities and Feasts, and at particular celebrations of a more solemn character.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 53

Since the Gloria is such a celebratory hymn, it seems most appropriate on the most celebratory days (Sundays, Solemnities, Feasts, etc.) and not so appropriate during penitential seasons or on most weekdays.

Originally… you only got the Gloria on Christmas Day. Then it was put in on all feast days and most Sundays; so that in practice you hardly ever get a Mass without it unless it’s a black Mass or a day in Lent, or some other mournful occasion. And that is as it should be, because when it is a mournful occasion we like to go on grovelling, instead of trying to cheer ourselves up. But when we want to feel jolly, as we do on feast days or on Sundays, because Sundays are meant to be jolly in spite of letters home, we recover from the mood of depression we felt during the Kyrie, and start quite gaily on the Collects.

ibid. 21

Going Deeper:

  1. This is another “Mass part” one of the times we are expected to sing.
    1. Whether you’ve got a great voice or you can’t carry a tune, sing this song to God–He will take your meager efforts and raise them to His glory.
  2. Focus on the words you say, don’t simply repeat them without meaning. As with all memorized prayers, try to put as much love into these words as you can. Sing purposefully as though you’re teaching the people around you about God (especially helpful if you have kids).
    • Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to people of good will.
      • We begin the Gloria borrowing words from the angels at Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)
      • “Glory” is used in many different ways, but here we’re using it in a way that means “praise rendered to God in acknowledgment of His majesty and perfections manifested objectively in the world, or through supernatural revelation.”4 (Basically we’re saying how awesome God is.)
      • Throughout this prayer, it can be helpful to bring to mind various ways that God is awesome:
        • His Perfections (He is Infinite Goodness, Truth, Beauty, Wisdom, Mercy, Love, Power, etc.)
        • His Works (creation, salvation history, miracles in the Bible, other historical miracles, miracles in your life, etc.)
        • His Gifts of Himself to us (the Church, the Sacraments [especially the Eucharist], the Truths of the faith handed on by the Church, etc.)
    • We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God Almighty Father.
      • Here, we continue with praising God, but we end by specifying that we have been addressing God the Father.
      • During this time, it might be helpful for you to bring to mind an image of the Trinity (or look at one in your church) and focus specifically on God the Father.
    • Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father…
      • Here, we have clearly changed to speaking to God the Son.
      • We clearly recognize that He is also fully the one God (Lord God) but also somehow not the Father (Only Begotten Son… Son of the Father). We’ll get more into this when we profess the Creed.
      • By saying Lamb of God, we foreshadow what’s coming next. As Lamb of God, Jesus took on our sins and redeemed us by dying for us on the Cross and opened for us the fountain of Mercy (forgiving even the unforgivable).
    • …you take away the sins of the world; have mercy on us; you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
      • In each of these three phrases, we’re begging Jesus for His mercy, but not because we’re hoping that it’s possible He might consider it. Rather we’re asking with the confidence of sons to a loving Father and Brother Who have shown us over and over again that they desperately want to forgive us, if only we come to them.
      • This is a joyous song, expounding God’s greatness, and here in the middle, we touch on His greatest attribute: His unfathomable mercy.
      • In the Kyrie, we
    • For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in the Glory of God the Father.
      • Again, here we finish the prayer by praising God’s greatness and recognizing each person of the Holy Trinity as fully possessing that greatness.
    • Amen.
      • Yes, I agree. This is true.

What About You?

  • What do you do to try to enter more deeply into the Gloria during Mass?
  • Do you have any stories of particular insights you’ve gained while praying the Gloria?

Footnotes

  1. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
  2. “For thou alone art holy.” (Revelation 15:4)
  3. Let them know that thou alone, whose name is the LORD, art the Most High over all the earth. (Psalms 83:18)
  4. https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/glory

The Kyrie

This post is part of a series on Getting the Most Out of Mass: tips to best dispose yourself to receive graces available during Mass (this will be specifically about Sunday Mass, but some of these ideas will also apply to daily Mass). We’re in the section on the Introductory Rites.

What:

English

Priest: Lord Have Mercy.1

All: Lord Have Mercy.

Priest: Christ Have Mercy.

All: Christ Have Mercy.

Priest: Lord Have Mercy.

All: Lord Have Mercy.

Greek

Priest: Kyrie eleison.

All: Kyrie eleison.

Priest: Christe eleison.

All: Christe eleison.

Priest: Kyrie eleison.

All: Kyrie eleison.

Why:

Why the Kyrie?

In the Kyrie, we beg God for His mercy.

The general effect is meant to be just mercy, mercy, mercy–it’s not so much that we ought to feel beasts because we are sinners, as that we ought to feel worms because we are creatures; however holy and pious we were, we should still want to start by telling Almighty God that he is Almighty God and we are a set of perfectly ridiculous creatures; when we have got that into our heads, we have begun to get the situation clear.

Knox, Msgr. Ronald. The Mass in Slow Motion. Sheed & Ward. New York, NY. 1948 p. 19

Whereas the Penitential Act (especially as stated in the Confetior) is mostly an admission of guilt and asking for prayers, the Kyrie begs God for His forgiveness.

Why Greek?

In Jesus’ time, the most commonly spoken languages were Greek and Latin. Throughout time, the Church in the West retained Latin as its official language (all official Church documents are still written in Latin today). Praying in these languages gives us a linguistic connection to our roots.

The Western Church seems to have adopted this particular prayer from the Eastern Church, which would have prayed it in Greek, so it traditionally stayed in Greek despite most of the rest of the Mass being in Latin. Since the 1970s priests have had the option to pray the Mass in the vernacular (local language).

Going Deeper:

Deeper Participation in the Words

Since you are addressing God, concentrate on saying these words to God—specifically, you can call to mind:

  • God the Father during the first round of Kyries (Lords)
  • God the Son (Jesus Christ) during the Christes (Christs)2
  • God the Holy Spirit during the second round of Kyries.

Here, it might help to look at the Tabernacle (where God is most present) or art that represents God–especially if there is a depiction of the Holy Trinity, so you can focus on each person individually; or a depiction of the Divine Mercy image or Jesus’ Sacred Heart, so you can focus on God’s mercy.

Deeper Participation in Chanting

If the Kyrie is chanted, chant with a full voice (don’t just mutter along). The Kyrie is one of the songs called a “part” of the Mass (or “Mass parts”). We’re expected to participate in them more so than even the hymns. Men, particularly, need to find their voice. I generally try not to pay attention to others during Mass (so that I can better focus on God), but I admit that sometimes my attention wanders, and I am saddened to note how few men sing at Mass. Mass is not a ladies’ choir practice. If we are to lead our families,3 it should start with leading in prayer and our “parts” of the Mass are some of the easiest places to lead. Let’s remember St. Augustine’s adage: “He who sings well prays twice.”

Deeper Participation in the Sacrifice

Regardless of which option the priest chooses, recognize that the Penitential Act/Holy Water Sprinkling is setting the stage for later. Not only do we bring to mind our sins and ask for God’s mercy now, but later in the Mass, these admissions of guilt and requests for forgiveness will be united to the offering of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and offered to God the Father. Jesus’ sacrifice is offered for many things, but among them is saying “sorry” to God for our sins.

The sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross is first of all adoration; it is latrial . . . [It] is propitiatory. It appeases God Who was angered because of sin . . . [It] is eucharistic. It is the greatest act of thanksgiving . . . [It] is impetratory. It is the greatest supplication, a supreme appeal . . . to divine goodness.

Charles Cardinal Journet, The Mass: The Presence of the Sacrifice of the Cross, (South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press, 2008), 21-22

What About You?

  • How has more deeply participating in the Kyrie prepared you to enter more deeply into re-offering Jesus’ sacrifice with the priest?
  • How has asking for God’s Mercy helped you open your heart to receive the graces He offers you?
  • What practices do you have that help you enter more deeply into the Kyrie?

Footnotes

  1. In the Gospels, there are many instances of people asking Jesus to “Have Mercy”: (Matthew 9:27, 15:22, 17:15, 20:30-31; Mark 10:47-48; Luke 17:13, 18:13, 18:38-39)
  2. “…our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18)
  3. See Ephesians 5:23-33

The Penitential Act

What:

The priest says: “Brethren (brothers and sisters), let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.”

[He has the option to choose to say this in Latin. If so, he says: “Fratres, agnoscámus peccáta nostra, ut apti simus ad sacra mystéria celebránda.“]

There is a pause.

We pray one of the following prayers:

A

The Confiteor:
Priest: I confess to Almighty God

All: and to you my brothers and sisters that I have greatly sinned1, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, in what I have failed to do, [all strike their breast, saying] through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask Blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

B

Priest: Have mercy on us, O Lord.

All: For we have sinned against you.2

Priest: Show us, O Lord, your mercy.

All: And grant us your salvation.3

C

[Recite the Kyrie here instead of later (see the next post).]

Priest: May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.

All: Amen.

The priest may choose to pray this in Latin:

A

Confíteor Deo omnipoténti et vobis, fratres, quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo, ópere et omissióne: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea mea máxima culpa. Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem, omnes Angelos et Sanctos, et vos, fratres, oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum.

B

Priest: Miserére nostri, Dómine.

All: Quia pecávimus tibi.

Priest: Osténde nobis, Dómine, misericórdiam tuam.

All: Et salutáre tuum da nobis.

Priest: Misereátur nostri omnípotens Deus et, dimíssis peccátis nostris, perdúcat nos ad vitam ætérnam.

All: Amen.

An Alternative

Occasionally (especially during the Easter season) the priest may choose to bless holy water and sprinkle it on the people instead of the Penitential Act.

Why:

Why call to mind our sins?

We all recognize that we are sinners, sorrowfully approaching the Lord for forgiveness. The Church is not a group of perfect people, looking down on the rest of mankind. Rather, we’re a group of imperfect people who know the Perfect One and are striving to become more like Him. Here, we admit those ways in which we’ve failed.

The better you can recognize your need for God and His mercy, the more open you will be to receive the graces He offers you. The more we foster a spirit of contrition—recognize our own unworthiness to be in God’s presence and His mercy to allow us to be here anyway–the more we dispose ourselves to receive grace. 

Note: when the priest prays “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins…” it is a request that God will forgive us at some point, but it does not have the effect of immediately forgiving our sins.4 We still need to go to Confession.

Why do we strike our breasts?

Breast-beating is a sign of penitence.

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’

Luke 18:13

Why sprinkle with holy water instead?

The sprinkling may occur instead of the Penitential act as a reminder of our Baptisms.5 When we were Baptized, God washed away all of our sins to that point, made us members of His family (the Church), gave us His abiding presence in our souls (Sanctifying Grace), and gave us access to His other Sacraments.

Going Deeper:

Deeper Penitential Act

After the priest prays “let us acknowledge our sins,” take that momentary pause to call to mind your Examination of Conscience.

Concentrate your attention on whom you are addressing:

  • When you are addressing God (e.g. “I confess to Almighty God” and most of the rest of this prayer), concentrate on God. It might help to look at the Tabernacle (where God is most present), art that represents God, etc. 
  • When you address the saints (e.g. “therefore I ask Blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, etc.) concentrate on them. It might be helpful to look at art that represents them (or a relic of a saint if your church has any).
    • All the angels and saints are present at every Mass. Call to mind that you are “surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.” (Hebrews 12:1)
  • When you address the congregation (e.g. “to you my brothers and sisters,” etc.), this is one of the few times during the Mass that you actually address the people around you instead of God. Go ahead and momentarily concentrate on them (you are talking to them after all). It might be helpful to briefly glance at the people around you (as long as it doesn’t become a distraction from the rest of the prayer).

Notice at the end of the Confiteor, how we all ask everyone else in the conversation to pray for us. Take that time at the very end of the prayer to pray for everyone gathered that God would have mercy not just on you, but on all of them as well.

Deeper Holy Water Sprinkling

If the priest chooses to bless and sprinkle holy water, take the time to remember your need for His forgiveness and that your Baptism both forgave your sins and gives you access to Confession and the Eucharist which both offer forgiveness of post-Baptimal sins.

What About You?

  • How has admitting your sins at the beginning of Mass helped you to be open to God’s graces?
  • Do you have any helpful practices to more deeply enter into the Penitential Act?

Footnotes

  1. And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing.” (1 Chronicles 21:8)
  2. Hear, O Lord, and have mercy, for we have sinned before thee. (Baruch 3:2)
  3. Show us thy steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation. (Psalms 85:7)
  4. General Instruction of the Roman Missal 51
  5. Ibid.

Introduction

This post is part of a series on Getting the Most Out of Mass: tips to best dispose yourself to receive graces available during Mass (this will be specifically about Sunday Mass, but some of these ideas will also apply to daily Mass). We’re in the section on the Introductory Rites.

(This part of the Mass is optional, so you might not experience it at your parish.)

What:

The priest (or a deacon or lay minister) might optionally give a short introduction to the Mass of the day.1

Why:

Each Mass tends to have a theme that runs through the readings and prayers. The introduction can help connect those dots for people to help them enter more deeply into the Mass and better understand the reason why the specific readings and prayers were chosen for that day.

Throughout the year, the Church has different seasons (“liturgical” seasons). The introduction can help situate the theme of the Mass within the greater context of the liturgical season.

As we discussed last time, the Church wants us to be well versed in Holy Scripture. She wants it to pervade our lives. Giving people an introduction can get people thinking about the readings, allow them to understand them more fully, and whet their appetites to learn more.

Going Deeper:

If your parish happens to introduce the Mass try to listen for what might help you understand the reading and/or prayers more fully. Try to keep that information fresh in your mind as you go through the parts of the Mass that were explained (most commonly the readings).

Use the information shared as a springboard to go further.

  • What consequences can be drawn from what was shared?
  • How is God calling me to change my life?
  • In what way does this shed new or better light on God and/or His Church?
  • What further study could I do to learn more about what was shared?

What About You?

  • Has there ever been an introduction to the Mass that really helped you enter more fully into the Mass?
  • In what ways have you been able to use the introduction at Mass to help you enter more fully into the readings and prayers?

Footnotes

  1. General Instruction of the Roman Missal 50, 124

The Priestly Greeting

This post is part of a series on Getting the Most Out of Mass: tips to best dispose yourself to receive graces available during Mass (this will be specifically about Sunday Mass, but some of these ideas will also apply to daily Mass). We’re in the section on the Introductory Rites.

What:

The priest extends his hands toward the congregation and greets them with one of the options below:

A

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.1

B

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.2

C

The Lord be with you.3

The congregation responds: “And with your spirit.”5

[Every priest has the option to use Latin during parts of the Mass. If yours chooses to do so, he would say one of the following:]

A

Gratia Domini nostri Jesu Christi, et caritas Dei, et communication Sancti Spiritus sit cum omnibus vobis.

B

Gratia vobis et pax a Deo Patre nostro et Domino Jesu Christo.

C

Dominus vobis cum.

If the priest uses Latin, the congregation responds: “Et cum spiritu tuo.”

Why:

… by means of the Greeting he signifies the presence of the Lord to the assembled community. By this greeting and the people’s response, the mystery of the Church gathered together is made manifest.

General Instruciton of the Roman Missal, 50

In this act of greeting, the priest represents God welcoming us. He does so using a line from scripture. The Catholic Church loves scripture and is always trying to saturate its prayers with scripture to steep our hearts and minds in God’s word.

By initiating this time in God’s name using the Sign of the Cross and continuing with this greeting, we show that Jesus’ Mystical Body is gathered, and since we are gathered in His name, the Head of the Body is present, too.6

Going Deeper:

As the priest offers this greeting, imagine The Holy Trinity standing behind him, offering you grace, love, communion, peace, and/ or Their Presence through the priest, and imagine yourself offering that same back to the priest. When you say “and with your spirit,” really focus on what it is you’re saying. Don’t let them roll off your tongue as empty words.

Also, take note that the priest is addressing the community. Mass is split between times where the priest talks to us, times where he talks to God (in these times, we are supposed to be saying the same words to God internally) alone or leads all of us in talking to God, and times where we are reflecting on what was just said or done. Staying conscious of this will help you to pray the Mass better.

Take a look at all the scriptural references below and reflect on how so much of our prayer in the Mass is taken from scripture and how the Church (as our Mother) is always trying to feed our souls with the Heavenly Food of Scripture.

See how St. Paul and the others used these same greetings and think about how these words connect us to our roots in an unbroken chain of succession from Jesus and the Apostles to today.

What About You?

  • How has devoutly participating in the Priestly Greeting helped you enter more deeply into the Mass?
  • Have you ever noticed how many times lines from scripture are recited throughout the Mass?

Footnotes:

  1. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14).
  2. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7)
    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:3)
    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:2)
    Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ… (Galatians 1:3)
    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:2)
    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phillippians 1:2)
    Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:2)
    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philemon 1:3)
    Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” (Colossians 1:2)
    Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. (1 Thessalonians 1:1)
    …Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne… (Revelation 1:4)
    Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:2)
    Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (2 Timothy 1:2)
    Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (Titus 1:4)
    May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1 Peter 1:2)
    Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love. (2 John 1:3)
  3. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem; and he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.” (Ruth 2:4)
  4. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen. (Galatians 6:18)
    The Lord be with your spirit. (2 Timothy 4:22)
  5. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)

Sign of the Cross

This post is part of a series on Getting the Most Out of Mass: tips to best dispose yourself to receive graces available during Mass (this will be specifically about Sunday Mass, but some of these ideas will also apply to daily Mass). We’re in the section on the Introductory Rites.

What:

The priest stands at his chair and makes the Sign of the Cross (trace a cross over his body by touching his forehead, breast or belly, opposite shoulder, and then same shoulder), saying “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”1

[Every priest has the option to use Latin during parts of the Mass. If yours chooses to use Latin, he would say “In nomine Patris, et Fílii, et Spíritus Sancti.”]

All bow their heads, make the same gesture, and say “Amen”.

Why:

Why “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”?

By doing this, we explicitly dedicate this time, these actions, and these words to God. That is, we do it in His Name, and Jesus told us that when we gather in His name, He is present.

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Matthew 18:20

Jesus Himself gave us this phrase when He taught us how to baptize.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…

Matthew 28:19

Saying this phrase expresses belief in the Trinity – that God is one in Being & Nature, but three in persons. The central tenant in all Christianity is that Jesus revealed God to us as a community of persons, truly distinct from one another, infinitely loving each other, but at the same time only being a single God. We give voice to this belief every time we say these words.

Why the Cross?

We recognize that salvation was won for us by Jesus’ death on the Cross and that His death on that Cross is the greatest act of love of all time.

Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

This is such an important part of our belief that we regularly trace the sign of the cross on our bodies both in memory of Jesus’ act and in dedication of our time, actions, thoughts, and words to Him.

Why do we bow our heads?

Bowing our heads is a simple form of respect. We recognize that God is due respect, so we bow our heads whenever we hear “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” or the name of “Jesus.”

A bow signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them.

GIRM 275

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Phillipians 2:9-11

We also recognize God’s great work through particular people and bow our heads whenever we hear their names, too. We do so whenever we reference “Mary” (the Mother of God) and if it is a Mass for a saint’s feast day, we also bow our heads for that saint’s name, too.

A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.

GIRM 275a

Why Amen?

The specific Hebrew word amen (’amen ) appears to be derived from a related verb–’aman , which means “he confirmed, supported, or upheld.” This verb is also associated with the Hebrew word for truth (’emet ), which carries the idea of certainty or dependability (i.e., that which is true is that which is certain or dependable).

What Exactly Does Amen Mean? – Catholic Answers

Amen means “truly; it is so; let it be done.” Whenever we say “Amen,” we are assenting to what is being said and uniting ourselves to the action. There are two very important uses of “Amen” later in the Mass. We will discuss them further as they come up.

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!” Then all the people said “Amen!” and praised the LORD.

1 Chronicles 16:36

Going Deeper:

Fight the temptation to rush through this prayer. Because it is so good at suming up our faith and setting us in the mode of doing our actions in God’s name, we make the Sign of the Cross very often (usually at the beginning and ending of most of our prayers and many other times on its own as a single prayer).

Methodically concentrate on the Cross as the instrument of our salvation (it can help to glance at the crucifix before bowing your head or bring to mind an image Cross). You can also focus on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as individually distinct Divine Persons, but at the same time the one God (here it can help to bring to mind an image of the Trinity). Don’t worry about trying to comprehend how being one God and three persons works–you never will (it’s beyond full comprehension)–but you can come to know more and more about it–especially by studying what the Church has taught about it:

You can reflect on St. Bernadette. When she saw an apparition of Mary and saw her make the Sign of the Cross, it taught her profound respect for that prayer. Her Sign of the Cross was forever changed. Many people commented that though she was very uneducated, her Sign of the Cross spoke volumes. It was so reverent that it made others believe her.

Here is an article describing that: Lessons from St. Bernadette: Praying the Sign of the Cross. In that article, it references the biography Saint Bernadette Soubirous by Abbe Trochu. I’d like to share a few excerpts from that below:

[From one of the people who had initially come to see Bernadette during an apparition in order to mock her:] “During the ecstasy the child also made the sign of the cross from time to time, and, as I said myself on the way back from the grotto, if the sign of the cross is made in heaven, it can only be made in that manner”

Trochu. Saint Bernadette Soubrious. 97

In the presence of the Lady, Bernadette continued her Rosary. When she finished it, she tried three times to lift her fingers, which held the crucifix, to her forehead, but she could not. But on the next attempt she made a beautiful sign of the cross such as I had never seen anyone else make. I asked her later why she had only been able to make the sign of the cross on the third attempt. She answered: “Because it was only then that the Apparition, having finished running the beads through her fingers, had herself made the sign of the cross.”

ibid. 140

As a novice at Saint-Gildard, Bernadette gently reprimanded a fellow sister who was hurriedly signing herself upon entering the chapel. Bernadette said, “You make the sign of the cross badly. You must see to that, for it is important to make it well”

ibid. 235

[From her Novice Master:] They were edified by her piety and enchanted by the simplicity of their new companion. Her sign of the cross, made slowly, with her hand, carried well out to the tip of each shoulder, “undoubtedly as she had seen the Blessed Virgin make it”, had been a revelation to all of them

ibid. 261

Likewise in matters of piety, although she did “what all the others did”, she put into her devotions a sort of supernatural richness such as no one else did. She did not make the sign of the cross more frequently than her companions, but she made it with impressive dignity.”

ibid. 338
Photo credit: wikipedia

An Eastern Tradition

Many eastern Catholics and Orthodox have a tradition of toucing their thumbs and first two fingers together as they pray this. The three touching fingers represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The two down fingers represent the two natures of Jesus (fully God and fully man).

Kissing Your Thumb?

After making the Sign of the Cross, many Catholics (especially Latino Catholics) form a cross with their fingers and kiss it as a symbol of accepting their crosses in life.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Matthew 16:24

What About You?

  • How has devoutly making the Sign of the Cross helped you enter more deeply into prayer (especially the Mass)?
  • Do you have anything you do to help you make the Sign of the Cross more devoutly?

Footnotes

  1. GIRM 50, 124

The Procession

This post is part of a series on Getting the Most Out of Mass: tips to best dispose yourself to receive graces available during Mass (this will be specifically about Sunday Mass, but some of these ideas will also apply to daily Mass). We’re in the section on the Introductory Rites.

What:

The priest, wearing his vestments, will enter, as may other ministers.1  He is led by the Thurifer (the one swinging the incense burner, if used), Boat (the one carrying the extra incense), Crucifer (cross-bearer), Torches (candle-bearers), and any other ministers.

On reaching the altar,2 the priest, deacon, and other ministers reverence the altar with a profound bow (or a genuflection if the tabernacle is behind the altar). All clerics (deacons, priests, and bishops) will then kiss the altar.3

If the occasion suggests, the priest may incense the cross and the altar.4

Why:

Why Vestments?

The priest’s vestments are a symbol of his office (one who offers a sacrifice). He wears a cloth that looks like a wide ribbon, called a “stole” (the symbol of authority), and over that, he wears a chasuble (the symbol of mercy). Wearing the chasuble on top shows that his mercy trumps his authority—he is here to lead us closer to God through the forgiveness of our sins.

Why Incense?

Incense is a symbol of A) our prayers rising up to God5 like a sweet aroma6, and B) the veil that shrouds us from directly seeing the mystery of God (how He is beyond what we can clearly see and comprehend).

Why Candles?

Christ is the Light of the world (John 8:12), we are called to reflect Him and so also be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16).

The pure wax extracted by bees from flowers symbolizes the pure flesh of Christ received from His Virgin Mother, the wick signifies the soul of Christ, and the flame represents His divinity.

Catholic Encyclopedia: Altar Candles

Why Reverence the Altar?

The altar is reverenced because it is the place where the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross will be made present again.

Going Deeper:

Keep in mind that, in Mass, you are participating in the Heavenly worship service (though you can only see it in signs and symbols).

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

Psalms 42:4

In the Mass, we are participating in Jesus’ Passion. Just as on Palm Sunday Jesus had HIs triumphal entry into Jerusalem before sacrificing Himself, so we participate in a triumphal entry prior to the sacrifice.

Another image you can bring to mind is seeing your priest as your congregation’s holy knight, leading you all into battle with the processional cross as your banner

Vocabulary:

  • Processional Cross (the cross carried by one of the ministers in the procession)
  • Crucifer (the minister who carries the processional cross)
  • Thurible (the container in which incense is burned)
  • Thurifer (the minister who carries the Thurible)
  • Boat (the container for unburned incense)
  • Principal Celebrant (the priest who will speak most of the words of the Mass)
  • Concelebrants (other priests who will assist at Mass)

What About You?

  • Have you ever found your heart lifted up to Heaven by the site of the Procession (the Cross, the Incense, the Priest, etc.)?
  • What have you done to consciously enter more deeply into the Entrance Procession?

Footnotes

  1. GIRM 119-120
    See Biblical examples of vested priests in Heaven (Rev. 1:13, 4:4)
    Other ministers include: acolytes and/or altar servers, lectors and/or deputed lay readers, deacons, other priests, and bishops.
  2. See Biblical example of incense being brough to the altar in Heaven (Rev. 8:3)
  3. Reverencing the altar: GIRM 49, 122-123, (as a genuflection) 274
  4. Incensing the altar: GIRM 49, 122-123, 276
  5. Command to burn incense (Ex. 30:7-8) Incense rising up to God in Heaven (see Rev 8:3-4)
  6. But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life… (2 Cor. 2:14-16)

The Entrance Chant

This post is part of a series on Getting the Most Out of Mass: tips to best dispose yourself to receive graces available during Mass (this will be specifically about Sunday Mass, but some of these ideas will also apply to daily Mass). Today, we transition from preparing for Mass to the actual celebration of Mass itself. Now, the Catholic Mass is separated into four parts: The Introductory Rites, The Liturgy of the Word, The Liturgy of the Eucharist, and The Concluding Rites. Today, we start the Introductory Rites.

What:

We stand. The music is played to accompany the Procession (next post’s topic). You may1 join in singing the entrance chant.

Why:

Why Introductory Rites?

Their purpose is to ensure that the faithful, who come together as one, establish communion and dispose themselves properly to listen to the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 46

Why Stand?

Standing is a Sign of Prayer and attention to someone or something important. (e.g. Nehemiah 8:4-5)

Here, we show this sign of Respect for the Priest as God’s minister, acting in the Person of Christ.

Why Chant?

Its purpose is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical time or festivity, and accompany the procession of the Priest and ministers.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 47

Going Deeper:

Don’t just sing the song. Concentrate on how the words are a prayer; lift them up to God; picture yourself singing these words to God in Heaven.

He who sings well prays twice.

St. Augustine

What About You?

  • How has the singing the Entrance Chant helped you enter into the Mass and dispose you to receive the graces available?
  • Do you have any pointers for better disposing yourself to receive graces by singing the Entrance Chant?

Footnotes

  1. N.B. Not all songs are equal. Some do a great job of directing us to God both by the words and by the melody. Officially, the Church’s music is Gregorian Chant, but other types of song have been allowed. I encourage you to sing, but if you find that a particular song doesn’t glorify God well, you don’t have to sing it.