Introductory Rites

Excerpts from the book, A Biblical Walk Through The Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy written by Edward Sri, S.T.D. and printed by Ascension Press in 2011.

Priest: In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.

We begin with the sign of the cross which is not simply a way to begin praying, it is itself a powerful prayer that is meant to pour out tremendous blessings on our lives. This sacred tradition goes back to the early centuries of Christianity. It expresses our desire to be set apart from the corrupt ways of the world, and expresses a firm commitment to live according to Christ’s standards. When we sign ourselves with the cross, we are invoking God’s protection for our lives.

In Scripture, to call on the name of the Lord denotes worship and is often associated with prayer and sacrifice. A name mysteriously represents the essence of a person and carries the power of that person. Whenever, we call on God’s name, we invoke his divine presence and ask his assistance with the various struggles we face each day. At the start of the liturgy, we invite God into our lives in a powerful way. We solemnly call on his name, invoking his divine presence and power. In the sign of the cross, we pray that our whole lives may be lived in greater harmony with God. We should make every sign of the cross with careful attention and reverence.

Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.

As God’s children, we each have a particular mission to fulfill in the Father’s plan. Each of us has a role that no one else can play. We can trust that God’s strength will make up for whatever is lacking in us.

All: I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
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.

We too, are called to prepare ourselves for a sacred encounter with the Lord every time we go to Mass. Yet our meeting with God is more profound than anyone in ancient Israel ever imagined. We truly are not worthy to participate in all this. And so the priest invites us to “prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries” by humbly confessing our sins publicly before almighty God and the congregation. The practice of confessing one’s sins is found in the Old Testament and continues into the New Testament. Since confessing sin was a common practice in ancient Israel and the New Testament period, it is not at all surprising that the early Christians confessed their sins before partaking in the Eucharist.

In the Confiteor, we confess our sins not only to almighty God but also to our brothers and sisters. The prayer thus follows the exhortation of James to “confess your sins to one another”, and it highlights the social effects of sin. Our sins affect our relationship with God and our relationships with each other. The Confiteor also reminds us that the Christian path is not merely about avoiding sinful thoughts, words, desires, and actions. Christianity is ultimately about the imitation of Christ. Jesus does not want us merely to avoid sin; he wants us to grow in his self-giving love.

Priest: Lord, have mercy.
People: Lord, have mercy.
Priest: Christ, have mercy.
People: Christ, have mercy.
Priest: Lord, have mercy.
People: Lord, have mercy.

What does it mean to ask for God’s mercy? John Paul II once noted that mercy is sometimes mistakenly viewed as establishing “a relationship of inequality”. Biblical mercy is not like that. Rather, the relationship of mercy is better exemplified by the parable of the Prodigal Son.

In this case, the father does not merely pardon his son for his offenses. Rather, he sees the good taking place in his son; his change of heart, his sorrow for his sins, and his noble desire to get his life back on track. Mercy is not to be seen as a higher power like a monarch randomly pardoning criminals in his kingdom. It is about God’s love for us, even in the face of our sins.

We can entrust to the Lord our own sufferings confident in the Lord’s ability to assist us. We join the countless afflicted souls, from the time of Jesus to today, who have found comfort and strength when they cried out, “Lord, have mercy.”  We, too, can entrust to the Lord those we love every time we pray the Kyrie at Mass.

All: Glory to God in the highest,
and on Earth peace to people of good will.

All: 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.

There is a sense in which every Mass makes present the mystery of Christmas once again. As God was made manifest to the world in the baby Jesus he is made present sacramentally upon our alters at the consecration in every Mass.

Any Christian in tune with the Scriptures will hear echoes from the Bible at every step of this prayer. The Christian who prays the Gloria joins the great men and women throughout salvation history, and even the angels and saints in heaven, in their praise of God for his work of salvation and for his own glory.

We praise him for his omnipotent reign over heaven and earth. Yet his omnipotence must be seen in the context of his Fatherhood. God’s power is in perfect harmony with his loving will that always seeks what is good for us and that provides for all our needs.

We express our love for God, saying, “We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we give you thanks”. This is an expression of pure praise, loving God not just for what he does for us, but for who he is, for his glorious goodness and love.

All: 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,
receive our prayer,
you are seated at the right hand of the Father,
have mercy on us.

These titles echo a dramatic line in the prologue of the fourth gospel that focuses our attention on the Incarnation, the mystery in which the Son of God became man. The Gloria also addresses Jesus, saying, “Lamb of God … you take away the sins of the world.” These words reveal Jesus as the new Passover Lamb, who offers up his life on the cross for our sins. Notice how the whole mission of Jesus is summed up in this section of the Gloria. We move from the Son’s Incarnation, to his paschal mystery, to his enthronement in heaven. Indeed, the very climax of salvation history can be summed up in the Gloria.

In the Kyrie, we express our need for salvation and God’s mercy. In the Gloria, we joyfully express our gratitude for having received salvation from Christ. We come to Mass conscious of two things: That we stand greatly in need of redemption, and that we have actually been saved.

All: 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.

Perhaps most remarkable is the line “you alone are the Lord”. Today, this line from the Gloria challenges each of us to be loyal to Jesus Christ and his commandments above everything else in this world.