Every time we gather to pray together,
we are being invited to become part of something larger than ourselves—
part of a community, part of the body of Christ.
From many directions, through many doors, we come into one place.
From our individual prayer, we are called into prayer together.
We stand together. We make the sign of the cross together.
We sing together. Through words, gestures, and music, we say yes,
I want to be part of this community of faith.
The unity of our prayer makes visible, today, in this place,
the body of Christ, living and active in the world.
Why is there so much singing at Mass?
Because when we stand and sing together,
we acknowledge that we are not the audience, those who merely listen.
We are a community of believers, the body of Christ,
called to take an active, not a passive role in the prayer of the Church.
The Church teaches that there is nothing like singing
for expressing unity and helping to strengthen it.
And so we sing during the entrance of the ministers;
we sing as we are sprinkled with baptismal water;
we sing the Gloria, the ancient prayer that begins with a song of angels,
as we give glory to God on high, and pray for peace on earth.
Our prayer together is like a symphony.
Like a symphony, it needs all kinds of instruments:
loud and soft, high and low, young and old, nasal and throaty—
all kinds of instruments, given to us by God.
Each and every voice is the one God simply has to have
to make this symphony complete.
So, we are tuned and ready to rejoice and sing to the Lord.
Let us rise!
In this time to Believe, Celebrate, Live the Eucharist, we all have an opportunity to reflect on the rich mysteries of our faith, with a focus on our greatest prayer, the Mass. As you might expect, we’ll start at the beginning: with the gathering of the assembly, the entrance procession,
and the opening song.
Called to Worship
“It’s Sunday morning.
You decide to go to Mass. Or rather, God decides for you. God draws each of us out of our solitude and isolation, and makes us into a people that lives by faith and whose unity is Christ,” writes Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the recently deceased Archbishop of Paris. “Yes, we should consider it a grace of God to have been ‘chosen’ to be members of the People of God, ‘to serve in his presence,’ to be gathered into his Church, the Body of Christ” (Lustiger, La Messe, p. 11).
We come to Mass not because we happen to have the time or because we feel like it or because we have to.
We come in response to a call. In coming to Mass, Sunday after Sunday, we are letting ourselves be
gathered by God.
When God’s people are thus gathered together, God’s Church is made visible. Many diverse individuals become something altogether new. They become one community entrusted with a task that no one else can accomplish for them: to be the body of Christ in this place, at this time. The whole is truly greater than its parts.
The entrance procession doesn’t begin with the entrance hymn! Perhaps you could say it begins
when someone arrives to turn on the lights and open the doors. This great procession continues as the faithful arrive from every direction—on foot, by car, by bus, by taxi, by van, maybe even by boat—
to greet one another and take their places in the church. This is the great entrance procession; the vested ministers simply conclude it. The formal entrance is an emblem of what has already begun to happen. We see in it a people ceasing to be a civic or other kind of community, and becoming a liturgical one. But, of course, there is more, because the procession is not just about us. It’s about Christ’s living presence in
our midst. As the cross enters the church, we stand—
the simplest possible gesture, and yet a powerful sign
of attention and respect. We’ve already seen that it is
the living God who gathers us here, though we may think
we arrive under our own steam. The cross leads us, and the solemn, deliberate pace reminds us that the pilgrim people of God have nothing to fear. Their destination is sure and their guide cannot go astray. Candles are signs of a living presence, and the candles carried with the cross remind us that the cross we adore is a living cross, a flowering tree, both alive and life-giving.
The procession points to other signs of Christ as well. Servers carry candles around the Book of the Gospels, because, as the Second Vatican Council teaches us, “Christ himself speaks when the scriptures are
proclaimed in the Church” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy [CSL] #7). The priest presiding over the celebration is another sign of Christ’s presence. This is perhaps most obvious in the vestments he wears. One fourth-century Christian commentator wrote, “Their outer garb is more sublime than they are”; the priest-presider “does not wear his usual clothing nor does he wear his ordinary outer garment; a vestment of fine, bright linen envelops him” (quoted in Martimort, Principles of the Liturgy, p. 189). The vestment is an outward sign of an interior reality, the sacrament by which the priest is enabled to act