I nervously waited in the pews for Mass to begin in St. Patrick's Parish in Rolla about 15 years ago. I hadn't been to Mass in a long time, and this was the first time I went by myself. What was happening? What do the words and gestures it mean? Listen to the homily using the link above to find out. The articles below are from the bulletin and are not the homily.
Readings: WIS 1:13-15; 2:23-24; PS 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13; 2 COR 8:7, 9, 13-15; MK 5:21-43 OR 5:21-24, 35B-43
St. Patrick Parish in Rolla, MO
(Photo taken from their website)
This homily was the 4th in the series. Click on the links below for the other homilies.
The information below is not the homily, but is a combination of multiple related bulletin articles.
At the beginning of Mass, there is an Entrance Antiphon, or more often on Sundays, an Opening Hymn. Before Mass, we pray as individuals in the pews. However, we pray together as a community starting with the Entrance Antiphon or Opening Hymn.
At this time, the liturgical procession begins. The procession is through the Nave, the area of the church with the pews, which represents earth. The procession ends in the Sanctuary, the elevated front part of the church with the altar, ambo, tabernacle, etc., which represents heaven. The procession represents our pilgrim journey on earth toward heaven, which requires the strengthen given to us at Mass. Typically, the Crucifix carried by a server leads the procession as a reminder that Christ leads us toward heaven and that the journey includes suffering but is filled with love. The procession may include other servers, readers, and deacons as part of it and concludes with the priest.
When the priest and other clergy, if they are present, reach the sanctuary during the entrance procession, they kiss the altar before going to their seats.
An altar is a place where sacrifice is offered. The altar is kissed by the clergy because it is at the altar that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is made present to us again through Sacramental signs. The altar also represents many things, Christ Himself, the Cross, the tomb in which He was buried, the table of the Lord at the Last Supper, and the celebration of the Mass. The altar is the place in which Jesus Christ comes to us in the Eucharist. For all of these reasons, the clergy rightly reverence it.
Reverencing the altar at each Mass is similar to our reverencing the Crucifix on Good Friday. We reverence the Crucifix because Christ’s death on the Cross was the sacrifice that won salvation for us. The Cross was the place where Jesus Christ offered Himself up to God the Father. The Cross was Jesus’ altar.
The Sign of the Cross is made together. It summarizes our common faith in our Triune God. While simultaneously pointing to the Cross, which represents the means of our salvation, while expressing the extent of His love through suffering.
The priest greets the people using either a direct quote from scripture, such as “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ...” (2 Cor 13:14), or with one that is inspired by scripture, “The Lord be with you.” (Gn 26:3,24; 28:13-15; Ex 3:12; Jos 1:5, 9; 2 Sam 7:3; Jer 1:6-8; & Lk 1:28). The scripture-based greeting indicates that this gathering is sacred and focused on God and our relationship with Him.
The response “and with your spirit” is more than just greeting the priest. The “spirit” is the spirit he received at his ordination that configured him to Jesus Christ the Head. The response is calling for him to be Jesus Christ for us at this Mass and to celebrate it well. It also is a recognition that he is the priest and as the priest, he leads our communal prayer.
The priest invites the faithful to recall their sins. Whenever we choose something contrary to the will of God, we commit a sin. By acknowledging our sins, we can better recognize our need for God and His forgiveness. We are imitating the repentant sinner that Jesus spoke about who begged for mercy and was forgiven (Lk 18:10-14).
Then, we have a brief period of silence to allow us to recall our sins and present them to the Lord in the silence of our hearts.
There are options for what comes next. Typically, either the priest will start the community in the Confiteor (“I confess…”) or the priest or deacon will start a series of invocations, “You were sent… You came… You are seated…” The Confiteor is more explicit as to what we are doing, since we are admitting we are sinners, through our own fault, and asking the saints and each other to pray for us. At the words, “through my fault,” we beat our chests as a sign of acknowledging and mourning our sins, like the repentant sinner (Lk 18:13). By calling on others to pray for us we are recognizing that their prayers can help us and that we should also pray for each other. Even with the invocations, we are declaring our sinfulness before God and others and our desire for mercy.
The priest then prays a general absolution. This is not the same as Confession, and does not forgive serious, mortal sins, but can forgive small, venial sins depending on the furor of the penitent. Bowing our heads during the absolution is a sign of humility and acceptance of the forgiveness that is offered.
If the Confiteor was prayed, then the Kyrie, eleison (Lord, have mercy) is prayed after the absolution. If the invocations were used, then the Kyrie was included before the absolution. Like the repentant sinner, we beg for God’s mercy. The Kyrie also echoes other invocations for mercy (Mt 9:27-30; Mt 15:22-28; and Mk 10:46-52).
Having humbled ourselves in the Penitential Rite, we now lift our souls up to God by singing the Gloria. It is an ancient hymn, that goes back to 128 A.D. It’s origin though is found in scripture (Lk 2:13-14) when the angels proclaimed the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. So, with this hymn we are praising God for the Incarnation, and it is an expression of the joy of Christmas at the beginning of Mass. It also quotes many other passages of scripture including multiple quotes from the Psalms, Revelations, and the Gospel of John.
The prayer “Glory be” is like a miniature Gloria because in both glory is given to our Triune God. In whatever we do, we are to glorify God (1 Cor 10:31) and in this sense of glory we mean to praise God. Glory can also refer to the presence of God, and so we are also acknowledging His presence among us.
In this hymn by recalling who God is, what He has done for us in taking away our sins, and that He alone is God, we are proclaiming that God is our God. As such, He is to be first in our lives. Is He first in your life?
This joyful hymn is included every Sunday, except in Advent and Lent when we are focusing on penance, sorrow for sin, and preparation for Christmas and Easter. The Gloria is included on Solemnities and Feasts days (even during the week) to highlight joyfulness of the celebration.
Following the Gloria is the Collect. First the priest invites us to pray. In the brief silence that follows we pray to God from our hearts individually. We can offer Him whatever is on our hearts, ask for something we need, or pray in other ways. The priest then “collects” our prayers and offers them to God as he prays the Collect on behalf of the whole congregation.
This prayer has four parts. First, invoking God (usually the Father). Second, recalling the good that He has done for us. Third, making a request. Fourth, making the prayer through Christ who is the one mediator between God and man. This concludes the Introductory Rites.