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Beginning, Introduction and Preparation
There are three significant words that we could associate this part of the Mass which could help us understand this rite: a. Beginning; b. Introduction; and c. Preparation (B.I.P.). Most often this is that part of the Mass that people often skips whether intentional or not as some people may arrive late at Mass. Regardless of whatever circumstances they may be in, our treatment of this part of the Mass reflects the manner into which we "see" its significance. This part of the Mass is as important as the rest of the Eucharistic celebration in so far as it disposes and introduces the faithful into the celebration. When we go to a movie theatre, we do not want to miss any part of the movie as to fully understand it, otherwise we could miss the climax or even its main plot. Same goes with the Mass. The Mass is ONE WHOLE celebration. It is full of meaning and symbolisms. We cannot miss nor skip any part of it. We want to be part of the wholeness of the sacred celebration. Unlike the movies though, we cannot press rewind and ONLY watch the part that we missed. We have to celebrate the liturgy from BEGINNING to CONCLUSION.
There are four distinct movements in the Introductory Rites:
1. The Entrance. Those involved in the procession (The Cross bearer, altar servers, lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, the presider, etc.) processes from the vestibule towards the altar. The procession signifies our ongoing journey. As in the procession, our journey has a beginning and an end. It starts from birth to death. In between is what we do with our lives as we strive towards the accomplishment of our goal which is to return to the Father in heaven. As the priest approaches the altar, he kneels down together with those in procession and goes to the altar and kisses it. The kissing of the altar signifies the priest acknowledging the Church as his bride in persona Christi capitis or in the very person of Christ. Then he goes to the chair, the cathedra (meaning seat or chair where the word Cathedral comes from - where the Bishop resides as head of the Diocese and where his leadership is primarily signified) as he starts the celebration with the sign of the cross, he then greets the people, "The Lord be with you." The current translation of the response is, "And with your Spirit." This response goes beyond ordinary greeting as "hello" or "hi." The current translation is more faithful to its Latin origin, "Et cum Spiritu tuo" and also true to St. Paul's greeting in most of his letters to Churches (Cf. 2 Tim. 4:22; and Phil. 4:23). More importantly, this greeting acknowledges the presence and the grace of the Christ in the spirit and soul of the priest who presides over the assembly (Cf. Diocese of Oakland bulletin insert on October 15/16)
2. The Penitential Act. As we prepare ourselves for the Sacred Liturgy, the best preparation we could give is to acknowledge our sins and to ask for forgiveness and mercy. Before we could truly exercise our sacred duties or ministries, we have to be first clean and worthy. The penitential act disposes us in this way by humbly offering to God ourselves in sorrow for our sins. This is that part of the Mass where we can be forgiven of our sins (except of course if we are guilty of mortal sins). There are three penitential options for this: a. The Confiteor or general confession of sin, b. Dialogue format spoken between priest and people, c. Three invocations or tropes, spoken by the priest, deacon or other minister. The new translation of the Confiteor again is made faithful to the Latin translation. The words of absolution then follows as a fitting reminder that we all seek God's mercy and forgiveness as we celebrate the Eucharist.
3. The Gloria. This is a very ancient hymn which goes back to the very time of the birth of Christ as when the angels sing to the shepherds "Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth" in Luke 2:14. That is why the current translation is made more extensive as it is in the Latin text as our praise of God should. It proclaims our praise to God the Father for the gift of the Passover Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, along with the gift of the Holy Spirit. We omit this hymn during seasons of penance and anticipation, during Advent and Lent except during the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
4. The Opening Prayer of the Collect. As the word itself connotes, it is a "collection" or "summation" of the assembly's intentions which is formed into a petition. It is addressed to the Father through Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit as a formula. As usual, the people responds, "Amen" in the end affirming in faith that they believe and have faith in the prayer that has just been said.