The Introductory Rites of the Mass

The Sign of the Cross

Whenever we make the sign of the cross we invoke Gods presence and invite Him to bless us, assist us and guard us from all harm.  St Cyril of Jerusalem noted two dimensions to the Sign of the Cross.  The distinguishing and protective aspects, calling it “a badge of the faithful” and “A terror to the devil.”

Every time we trace the sign of the cross over our bodies we are doing two things.  First we are expressing our desire to be set apart from the corrupt ways of the world in our own day. Second, when we sign ourselves with the Cross we are invoking Gods protection for our lives.  With the Sign of the Cross we ask him to guard us from all harm and evil.  When making the sign of the Cross we call upon the name of the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.  The Triune God.  We are praying that this divine life might grow within us.  That we may live our lives in greater harmony with God and that everything we do, we do in His name.  This is why careful attention and reverence must be given with every Sign of the Cross we make. Instead of small cramped gestures that give no idea of what it means, make large unhurried signs from forehead to breast and shoulder to shoulder.  Taking time to think about what you are doing and what it means

The Greeting

“The Lord be with you and with your spirit” is no ordinary greeting.  It’s not like saying “Good morning Father” after the priest has said “Good morning” to you.  The Lord be with you recalls words spoken to a lot of heroes in the bible who were called to do many things outside their comfort zone.  For example after Moses died, Joshua was called to lead the people into the Promised Land.  He had a lot of work to do but God told Joshua to have courage because “I will be with you”.  So these words “The Lord be with you” can both inspire and encourage you.  They also assure us that we have access to a higher power that can support us through the trials and challenges of life and help us be faithful in whatever God has entrusted us to do.  If we are experiencing sorrow, discouragement of darkness in our spiritual life, the Mass reminds us that the Lord is truly with us even though we may not sense His presence. Just like Joshua and many others we can confidently trust in the Lords’ help.  We can trust that Gods strength will make up for whatever is lacking in us.

Our response ‘And with your Spirit” is acknowledging The Holy Spirits unique activity through the priest during the sacred liturgy.  The people are addressing the spirit of the priest, the deepest interior part of his being where he was ordained precisely to lead the people in the scared action of the Mass.

The Confiteor – “I confess…”

Here we are acknowledging our unworthiness to stand in God’s presence.   We begin our preparation to celebrate the scared mysteries of the Mass.  John teaches that we should confess our sins with the confidence that the Lord will forgive us and James tells us to confess our sins to each other asking for prayers that we may be freed from our sins.  Our sins affect our relationship with God and our relationship with each other.  In our thoughts, words and deeds.  And the repetition of ‘through my fault, though, my fault, through my most grievous fault” helps us to recognize that sinning against God is no light matter.  It call us to take responsibility and feel deeply sorrowful for our actions.  It’s not a simple apology but heartfelt sorrow

Lord Have Mercy, Christ Have Mercy, Lord Have Mercy.  As we are preparing to enter the sacred mysteries of the liturgy we draw near to the Thrice-Holy God and pray for His mercy and salvation.  When our heavenly Father sees us sin and sincerely repent, He sees our contrite hearts and shows us mercy.  Mercy is about Gods love for us even in the face of our sins.

Gloria and Collect (Cah-lect)

The liturgy now shifts from repentance to joyful praise of God.  The Gloria is typically sung because the words were sung over Bethlehem by the angels announcing the birth of Jesus.  As God was made manifest to the world 2000+ years ago in baby Jesus, so He is made present sacramentally on the altar at the consecration of the Mass.  We prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus by repeating the same words of praise the angels used to announce Christs coming in Bethlehem.

After the Gloria the priest invites the people to pray to the Collect.  This prayer gathers together intentions of the people participating in the Mass and concludes the Introductory Rites.

Handout

Reference: A Biblical Walk Through The Mass.  Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy.  By Edward Sri.