A Second Look at the Mass
The GIRM – General Instruction of the Roman Missal- reminds us that before his last Passover Meal, Jesus gave the disciples instructions on preparing a place for the supper. In centuries that followed, the Church has taken great care to apply the commands of Christ to the present Eucharistic celebration, using both tradition and new elements for a new time. In the memorial of the Lord, Jesus promised, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I in their midst”. (Mt. 18:20) In coming months, we will look at the makeup of and the how and why of Liturgy; the two main parts – Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist, surrounded by two smaller parts – Introductory and Concluding Rites.
Entrance Song, Greeting, Penitential Rite, Kyrie, Gloria and Opening Prayer to draw the faithful (us) together to form a community, prepare to listen to God’s Word and celebrate the Eucharist. As people gather with an opening song (or antiphon), priest and ministers come in a procession intensifying the unity of all gathered and lead us to the mystery of the season or feast. They enter the sanctuary, reverence the altar (the ordained kiss the altar), and all make the sign of the cross. The priest greets the congregation to declare that God is present. The priest or other minister may introduce the faithful to the Mass of the day. The priest invites us to take part in the Penitential Rite (communal confession ending with the priest’s absolution).
The Kyrie begins (unless part of the Penitential Rite): a song of praise, prayed by all or alternately by congregation and choir/cantor. Kyrie Eleison is Greek for “Lord have mercy,” a Latin transliteration and very old quaisliturgical exclamation, both from pre-Christian (Psalms) and New Testament texts. On Sundays outside of Advent and Lent the Gloria is sung or said, and optionally on solemnities, feasts and special celebrations a joyful response to the forgiveness received in the Penitential Act. When first introduced to the Roman Liturgy, it was sung only at the Christmas midnight celebration, hence called the “Angelic Hymn” (the song of the angels heard at Jesus’ birth): Glory to God in the highest (Lk 2:14) and on earth peace to people of good will.
The Introductory Rite closes with the Opening Prayer or Collect , expressing expresses the theme of the celebration. The Priest petitions God through Christ in the
Holy Spirit. We make the prayer our own and give our assent: “Amen!”