The Introductory Rites of Mass

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This week for bible study we began going over the Mass.

The sign of the cross.

This is something that we try to hide or do really quick sometimes. It is actually a prayer in and of itself. We invoke God’s presence and invite Him to bless us. Tertulian (160-225AD): In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross.

It can also be used to help souls fight temptation and protect them from evil. St. John Crysostom (347-407AD) : Never leave your house without making the sign of the cross. It will be to you a staff, a weapon, an impregnable fortress. Neither man nor demon will dare to attack  you, seeing you covered with such powerful armor. Let this sign teach you that you are a soldier, ready to combat against demons, and ready to fight for the crown of justice. Are you ignorant of what the cross has done? It has vanquished death, destroyed sin, emptied hell, dethroned Satan, and restored the universe. Would you then doubt its power?”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem echoed these words himself.

Biblical roots of the sign of the cross:
Check out the book of the prophet Ezekiel. In his vision in Ezekiel 8 (p.879), he saw many leaders of the Jews committing idolatry. But not everyone was committing idolatry in his vision: the righteous ones received a mark that looked like an X or cross on their foreheads, it was to set them apart from the rest of the corrupt culture and be a sign of divine protection, as we see in Ezekiel 9:4-6 (p.880). Similarity with the Passover? Also Rev 7:3 (saints in heaven have a seal on their foreheads) and 9:4 (the seal separates the righteous from unrighteous).

The early Christians saw the mark on the foreheads as a prefiguring of the sign of the cross.

By crossing ourselves, we are expressing our desire to be set apart from the corruption of this world. We are also invoking God’s protection in our lives.

In the sign of the cross, we are also calling upon God’s name. Calling upon God’s name means to invoke His presence and power. Check out Psalm 105:1 for example.

It also reminds us of the doctrine of the trinity. So let’s not be ashamed of the sign of the cross or to do it hurriedly, but do it with reverence.

The Lord be with you.

It’s more significant than “good morning.”

Conveys the reality: “When two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.” -Matthew 18:20.

The priest is praying that the divine life that we received in baptism continues to grow in us.

God promises to be with us in many parts of salvation history, like with Moses in Exodus 3:12 and with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Luke 1:28. They received this assurance at significant points in their lives. They were called to do great things, and God didn’t just give them the talents to do it, He merely assured them of His presence, which is all that they need. They would fulfill their missions not because of their own talent but because of  God’s help.

Hearing this should remind us of our high calling, and inspire us with the reminder of God’s desire to be with us and help us on our journey.

We respond: “And with your spirit.”

This is very similar to Galatians 6:18. It’s not just a polite response. It is acknowledging the Holy Spirit’s unique activity through the priest in the liturgy by virtue of his ordination. So we are addressing the spirit of the priest- the deepest part of him- and asking him to be our priest.

Sometimes the Priest gives the apostolic blessing that St. Paul loved to give in his letters: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Check out Romans 1:7 for example.

Penitential Rite:

When God immediately appeared to people, they often threw themselves down on the ground and covered their faces in acknowledging their unworthiness. But when He gave them warning, the people made sure to prepare themselves beforehand. In Exodus 19:9-19, we see that Israel, with 3 days warning, consecrated themselves to the Lord and washed their clothing.

We also need to prepare for the coming of God during mass. We not only see God but receive Him sacramentally, so it’s an even bigger deal for us.

So it’s the perfect time for us to confess our sinfulness and ask for God’s mercy. We also have regular confession, which is required at the very least once a year, so that we are worthy to receive the Eucharist. Confessing ones sins was done in groups (Nehemiah 9:2, p.421) or privately in the Old Testament (Psalm 32:5). This continued after Jesus. Of course, Jesus instituted the formal sacrament of confession, which we can cover in more detail some other time, but John wrote in his first letter, 1 John 1:9. St. Paul expressed the importance of the confession of sins before partaking of the Eucharist in 1 Cor 11:27-28. The Didache, 14, said, “Assemble on the Lord’s Day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one.” We confess our sins not only to God but to each other, as we see in James 5:16. Our sins not only affect our relationship with God, but our relationships with each other. How have you guys noticed the affects of our sin in these ways?

In this prayer note how there are four areas to examine: our thoughts, our words, our actions, and the actions that we should have done. It’s more than just avoiding doing bad things, we have to also strive to do all we can for others. The story of the rich young man highlights this reality, in Matthew 19.

Why do we repeat and strike our heart? It is an opportunity to show our true sorrow.

*We didn’t even get to the Kyrie, Gloria, or Opening Prayer. This might take a while..

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