Let us continue to deepen our Eucharistic Amazement and Revival, as the U.S. bishops are encouraging us to do, by deepening our understanding of the Mass and its parts.
The Holy Mass is a sacrament of Christ’s love for us, of his “greater love no man has than to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In the Mass Christ shows us his love by re-presenting to us his sacrifice on the Cross, so we can experience that love first hand. In fact, in the Holy Mass Christ re-presents to us his whole life, especially his public life, so that we can enter into that life and live our lives alongside his.
We begin the Mass with the Sign of the Cross and the Penitential Rite where we confess our sins to God and before one another. This is the way we prepare ourselves for the main part of the Mass. This corresponds to how our Lord began his public life:
“John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:4-5).
So, the Penitential Rite prepares us for the Mass the exact same way St. John Baptist prepared Christ’s first disciples for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let’s learn to live the Penitential Rite well, with sincere sorrow for not living up to the covenant of love God made with us when we were baptized—how many times were we selfish, proud, using other people for our own selfish, sensual pleasure or utility? How often did we lose our temper and failed to control our anger and our hurtful language? How many times did we put our focus and desires on material things rather than on loving and serving others? How have we neglected the love of our lives—Jesus Christ—and our relationship with our heavenly Father, escaping into our virtual world or addictions?
So in the Penitential Rite—rejecting our sinful ways and tendencies—we become prepared to receive the “meaty” portion of the Holy Mass, to welcome the coming of Christ’s Kingdom, which is “not of this world” (John 18:36) but in our hearts. As we leave behind our selfish and proud past, we beg God for his mercy—Kyrie eleison… Lord have mercy—disposing us to welcome Christ and his Word into our lives.
After that we usually recite the Gloria; this re-presents to us John baptizing Jesus in the River Jordan:
“And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17).
Just as the heavens were opened at our Lord’s birth and the angels proclaimed with one accord, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14), we sing the Gloria with the angels and saints in heaven: praising and glorifying God, adoring and thanking our almighty Father, Lord, King, and God; we acknowledge Jesus Christ, the beloved and only-begotten Son of the Father, and the Lamb of God who mercifully takes away the sins of the world; Jesus Christ is the Holy One, most high Lord, in the Holy Spirit.
Just as the shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem heard the angel proclaim the coming of the Messiah and then drew near to the child Jesus and his mother, so too do we too want to draw near to Jesus in the Holy Mass so as to look upon him with awe and to listen to his Word. If we tune out at the Mass then we miss the opportunity of a lifetime… the opportunity to encounter the Emmanuel, God-with-us.