As we continue through this series on Holy Mass, thus far we have discussed five reasons we should attend Mass weekly, the overall nature of the Mass, and the general items concerning the fact that God has specified a manner in which to worship Him, that we gather together as members of the mystical Body of Christ, and that we engage our whole person, body (senses) and soul, at Mass. While I could probably share more generalities, it is now time to enter into the specifics and what we do at Mass.
We start at the beginning: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” By beginning with these words, we are acknowledging implicitly that Holy Mass is not initiated by our own efforts; rather, it is a reminder that the Mass is the work of the Most High God: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God calls us into the sacrifice of the Mass, and we respond to His invitation and grace. Along with this, we don't undertake this great mystery on our own. We are invoking the name—the authority—of the Blessed Trinity; only by the authority of God do we dare to do this. Lastly, these words remind us of our baptism, wherein we were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. At our baptism, we were immersed and brought into the life of Christ (why it's sometimes called a “Christening”) and into the life of God. The Mass is drawing us more deeply into Christ's life and the life of the Blessed Trinity.
As we are saying these words, we also make the Sign of the Cross. As I mentioned last week, we are engaging our senses and our bodies as part of this supreme form of worship of God. The Sign of the Cross is a reminder to us of our Lord Jesus Christ's saving action in His Passion, laying down His life for us on the Cross. We make the Sign of the Cross on our bodies because it reinforces that we have been marked—on our souls—in baptism and claimed for Christ. The Sign of the Cross is a concrete and tangible reminder that the meaning and pattern of life is found in the Cross of Jesus Christ.
After a greeting, we enter into the Penitential Act. Recognizing the holiness of God and sacred nature of the Mass, we beg God to have mercy on us and forgive us for our failings. Remembering the imagery Jesus gives in a parable regarding entrance into a banquet, and remembering the holy ones who have washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb in order to enter the Supper of the Lamb in the Book of Revelation, we are asking God to purify and cleanse us to participate most fully. It has been taught for ages that our venial sins are forgiven in the Penitential Act; important here to remember is that mortal sins, if any, are not absolved in Penitential Act.
There are three options for the Penitential Act. I'll briefly speak about one form. The only form used for centuries is what is often referred to as the Confiteor. Confiteor is a Latin word meaning, “I confess,” and therefore, it is the first word for the rest of the prayer in which we confess, admit to our faults and failings in thought, word, and deed and in which we ask the saints and angels, along with those physically present, to pray for us. We then ended by crying out, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.”
We will continue our excursion into the next parts of Mass next week. We are saints under construction, entering more deeply into the life of God in Holy Mass. Have a great week!