Updated: Jul 5
General Introduction to Mass celebrated in the
communion of the Catholic Church in America
(Revised July 5th, 2021)
This document is only an introduction. Other instructions and guidance will be added to provide further clarity in the near future.
For the Faithful
The Divine Liturgy is the heart and soul of Catholic worship. This is due to our faith that, in the Eucharistic Liturgy, we encounter the "Real Presence" of our Lord within the "accidents"(material elements) of ordinary bread and wine. In this understanding, we also believe the warnings of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:17-34) that we fully examine our conscience, and to the best of our ability, approach the Holy Meal with a contrite heart, free of mortal sin. We ask (without being judgmental) that those of conflicted conscience, as well as those not baptized, refrain from partaking of this sacred encounter.
We highly recommend that all faithful Christians attend these sacred liturgies and receive the Eucharist frequently, as we consider it to be food four our soul, drawing us more fully into communion with Christ and one another as brothers and sisters in faith -- the Church.
Our faithful members are also encouraged to prepare their hearts to be receptive to God's word, which is read at each mass, as well as spoken by our bishops, priests, and deacons in the homily. This is best done by making a heartfelt prayerful act of contrition and contemplating the daily readings prior to attending these Holy Rites. Participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly is also encouraged. Additionally, to the best of your ability, we are cautioned not to bring our quarrels with us to Church. As outlined in the" Lord's Prayer" our ability to forgive others is intrinsically linked to our own salvation. Do your best to love your neighbor as yourself, and always be open to forgiving all who have sinned against you.
For the Clergy, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons
As Eucharistic liturgies are the holiest of our faith, we must be careful, too in the best of our ability, preserving the sacred dignity and integrity of the Rites which we celebrate. All we do and say becomes purposeful and intentional, for the sole purpose of worshipping and adoring our Most High God. We, as a particular Church, recognize that there has been an abundance of liturgical rites used throughout the centuries, and many dignified modifications have been made based upon local spirituality, language, and customs. With that stated though, the common ground of all these Rites has been our communal and central dedication and to Most Holy Eucharist, not wavering from this as a core element. Therefore, while we recognize differences in tradition and local worship practices, We as a jurisdiction choose to maintain the Eucharistic Liturgy as a common element within our particular part of the Body of Christ.
Prior to the official Introductory rights, it is appropriate (according to local customs), to begin the celebrations with songs of praise and worship. However, before beginning any liturgical celebration, praise, worship, the entrance procession, veneration of the altar, sign of the cross and greeting of the assembly, the celebrant and ministers at the altar take care that they have carefully prepared, having read the words and followed the actions prescribed in the liturgy of the day, and are, themselves in a prayerful state of grace.
After the initial greeting and Sign of Peace, the priest, deacon or a lay minister may introduce the Mass of the day using personal remarks. That the introduction should be brief -- not a homily, but all else–the content, form and phrasing–is left entirely to the discretion of the one delivering the opening comments.
Teachers of liturgy suggest several sources that may serve as inspiration for the words of the introduction. Among them are: the entrance song, scripture readings, the particular season or feast, those in attendance and the circumstances of the celebration.
Entrance Song :
The congregation collectively intoned the entrance song. While still fresh in the assembly’s mind, some priests choose to expand on one of the motifs presented in the song and use its topic as a natural transition to introduce the day’s celebration.
Another method is to highlight the underlying message from the day’s readings. Typically there is a common theme that unites the first and second reading, the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel proclamation. The priest may choose to focus on this connective motif rather than emphasize a particular reading or verse.
The Liturgical cycle itself can provide inspiration as every mass is particular– each taking place on a specific day in the Church year. Whether it is the first Sunday in Advent, the Second Sunday after Christmas, or the Third Sunday of Easter, every mass moves the Church along a circular path on the temporal cycle– that is days commemorating key events in the life of Christ. Each season has its own character which may be emphasized in the introduction.
“Holy Mother Church is conscious that she must celebrate the saving work of her divine Spouse by devoutly recalling it on certain days throughout the course of the year…Within the cycle of a year, moreover, she unfolds the whole mystery of Christ, from the incarnation and birth until the ascension, the day of Pentecost, and the expectation of blessed hope and of the coming of the Lord.”
The sanctoral cycle of the Church year commemorates the people close to Jesus such as the Blessed Mother, Joseph, and John the Baptist.
“In celebrating this annual cycle of Christ’s mysteries, holy Church honors with especial love the Blessed Mary, Mother of God, who is joined by an inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son.”
Each day of the Church calendar is also devoted to saints and martyrs making all masses inherently unique.
“The Church has also included in the annual cycle days devoted to the memory of the martyrs and the other saints. Raised up to perfection by the manifold grace of God, and already in possession of eternal salvation, they sing God’s perfect praise in heaven and offer prayers for us. ”
The celebrant may choose to use these solemnities, feasts, and memorials as the basis for the introductory comments.
Those in Attendance:
Special parish groups may be recognized in part of the introduction, such as departing missionaries, those completing a retreat, or a club celebrating their founding.
In order that they feel included, children may be specifically welcomed in the introduction and referred to in other parts of the mass21.
“Nevertheless, in Masses of this kind, it is necessary to take great care that the children present do not feel neglected because of their inability to participate or to understand what happens and what is proclaimed in the celebration. Some account should be taken of their presence: for example, by speaking to them directly in the introductory comments (as at the beginning and the end of Mass) and at some point in the homily.”
If it affects the parish community, special guests such as religious or governmental officials may also be acknowledged in the introduction.
If it is a nuptial mass, the celebrant may recognize the bride and groom in the introduction. A married couple renewing their wedding vows may be acknowledged as would those becoming part of the Church if there is a baptism within the context of the liturgy. When the Mass is joined to the celebration of a sacrament or the Divine Office, the priest may make mention of this in the introduction.
These and other sources provide an inexhaustible font from where the priest, deacon, or lay minister may draw from to compose an introduction. The succinct words we use should crystallize the importance of the day’s liturgy, heighten the mass's communal nature, and draw the assembly more fully into the Eucharistic celebration.
The Different Elements of the Mass
Reading and Explaining the Word of God
When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his
people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel. Therefore, the readings from the Word of God are to be listened to reverently by
everyone, for they are an element of the greatest importance in the Liturgy. Although in the readings from Sacred Scripture the Word of God is addressed to all people of whatever era, by the moving of the Holy Spirit, is understandable to them, a fuller understanding and a greater efficaciousness of the word is nevertheless fostered by a living commentary on the word, that is, by the Homily, as part of the liturgical action.
The Prayers and Other Parts Pertaining to the Priest
Among those things assigned to the Priest, the prime place is occupied by the
Eucharistic Prayer, which is the high point of the whole celebration. Next are the orations, that is to say, the Collect, the Prayer over the Offerings, and the Prayer after Communion. These prayers are addressed to God by the Priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ, in the name of the entire holy people and of all present. Hence they are rightly called the ‘presidential prayers’.
Likewise it is also for the Priest, in the exercise of his office of presiding over the gathered assembly, to offer certain explanations that are foreseen in the rite itself. Where the Structure of the Mass, Its Elements and Its Parts 9
this is laid down by the rubrics, the celebrant is permitted to adapt them somewhat so that they correspond to the capacity for understanding of those participating. However, the Priest should always take care to keep to the sense of the explanatory text given in the Missal and to express it in just a few words. It is also for the presiding Priest to regulate the Word of God and to impart the final blessing. He is permitted, furthermore, in a very few words, to give the faithful an introduction to the Mass of the day (after the initial Greeting and before the Penitential Act), to the Liturgy of the Word (before the readings), and to the Eucharistic Prayer (before the Preface), though never during the Eucharistic Prayer itself; he may also make concluding comments regarding the entire sacred action before the Dismissal.
The nature of the ‘presidential’ parts requires that they be spoken in a loud and clear voice and that everyone listen to them attentively. Therefore, while the Priest is pronouncing them, there should be no other prayers or singing, and the organ or other musical instruments should be silent.
For though the Priest, as the one who presides, expresses prayers in the name of the Church and of the assembled community, at times he prays only in his own name, asking that he may exercise his ministry with greater attention and devotion. Prayers of this kind, which occur before the reading of the Gospel, at the Preparation of the Gifts, and also before and after the Communion of the Priest, are said quietly.
Other Formulae Occurring during the Celebration
Since the celebration of Mass by its nature has a ‘communitarian’ character, both the dialogues between the Priest and the assembled faithful, and the acclamations are of great significance; for they are not simply outward signs of communal celebration but foster and bring about communion between Priest and people.
The acclamations and the responses of the faithful to the Priest’s greetings and prayers constitute that level of active participation that is to be made by the assembled faithful in every form of the Mass, so that the worshipful action and intent of the whole community may be clearly expressed and fostered.
Other parts, most useful for expressing and fostering the active participation
of the faithful, and which are assigned to the whole gathering, include especially the Penitential Act, the Profession of Faith, the Universal Prayer, and the Lord’s Prayer.
Finally, among other formulae:
Some constitute an independent rite or act, such as the Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest), the Responsorial Psalm, the Alleluia and Verse before the Gospel, the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), the Memorial Acclamation, and the chant after Communion;
Others, on the other hand, accompany some other rite, such as the chants at the Entrance, at the Offertory, at the fraction (Agnus Dei, Lamb of God) and at Communion.
The Manner of Pronouncing the Different Texts
In texts that are to be pronounced in a loud and clear voice, whether by the Priest or the Deacon, or by a reader, or by everyone, the voice should correspond to the genre of the text itself, that is, depending upon whether it is a reading, a prayer, an explanatory comment, an acclamation, or a sung text; it should also be suited to the form of celebration and to the solemnity of the gathering. Consideration should also be given to the characteristics of different languages and of the culture of different peoples.
Therefore, in the rubrics and in the norms that follow, words such as ‘say’ and
‘proclaim’ are to be understood either of singing or of reciting, with due regard for the principles stated here above.
The Importance of Singing
The Christian faithful who come together as one in expectation of the Lord’s
coming are instructed by the Apostle Paul to sing together Psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles (cf. Col 3: 16). Singing is the sign of the heart’s joy (cf. Acts 2: 46). Thus St. Augustine says rightly, ‘Singing is for one who loves’,48 and there is also an ancient proverb: ‘Whoever sings well prays twice over’. This is just one of the reasons why the Catholic Church in America encourages songs of praise and worship prior to beginning the more formal and scripted rites of our liturgical rubrics for worship.
Great importance should therefore be attached to the use of singing in the
celebration of the Mass, with due consideration for the culture of peoples and abilities of each liturgical assembly. Although it is not always necessary (e.g., in weekday Masses) to sing all the texts that are in principle meant to be sung, every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people not be absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and on Holydays of Obligation.
However, in the choosing of the parts actually to be sung, preference is to be given to those that are of greater importance and especially to those which are to be sung by the Priest or the Deacon or a reader, with the people replying, or by the Priest and people together.
The main place should be given, all things being equal, to Gregorian chant, as being proper to the Roman Liturgy. Other kinds of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded, provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful.
Since the faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is desirable that they know how to sing together at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the Profession of Faith and the Lord’s Prayer, according to the simpler settings.
Gestures and Bodily Posture
The gestures and bodily posture of both the Priest, the Deacon, and the ministers, and also of the people, must be conducive to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, to making clear the true and full meaning of its different parts, and to fostering the participation of all.52 Attention must therefore be paid to what is determined by this General Instruction and by the traditional practice of the Roman Rite and to what serves the common spiritual good of the People of God, rather than private inclination or arbitrary choice.
A common bodily posture, to be observed by all those taking part, is a sign of the unity of the members of the Christian community gathered together for the Sacred Liturgy, for it expresses the intentions and spiritual attitude of the participants and also fosters them.
The Structure of the Mass, Its Elements and Its Parts
The faithful should stand from the beginning of the Entrance Chant, or while the Priest approaches the altar, until the end of the Collect; for the Alleluia Chant before the Gospel; while the Gospel itself is proclaimed; during the Profession of Faith and the Universal Prayer; and from the invitation, Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren), before the Prayer over the Offerings until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated here below.
The faithful should sit, on the other hand, during the readings before the Gospel and the Responsorial Psalm and for the Homily and during the Preparation of the Gifts at the Offertory; and, if appropriate, during the period of sacred silence after Communion. They should kneel, on the other hand, at the Consecration, except when prevented on occasion by ill health, or for reasons of lack of space, of the large number of people present, or for another reasonable cause. However, those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the Priest genuflects after the Consecration.
It is for our Conference of Bishops to adapt the gestures and bodily postures described in the Order of Mass to the culture and reasonable traditions of peoples. However, attention must be paid to ensuring that such
adaptations correspond to the meaning and character of each part of the celebration.
Where it is the practice for the people to remain kneeling after the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) until the end of the Eucharistic Prayer and before Communion when the Priest says, Ecce Agnus Dei (Behold the Lamb of God), it is laudable for this practice to be retained.
For the sake of uniformity in gestures and bodily postures during one and the same celebration, the faithful should follow the instructions which the Deacon, a lay minister, or the Priest gives, according to what is laid down in the Missal.
Among gestures are included also actions and processions, by which the Priest, with the Deacon and ministers, goes to the altar; the Deacon carries the Evangeliary or Book of the Gospels to the ambo before the proclamation of the Gospel; the faithful bring up the gifts and come forward to receive Communion. It is appropriate that actions and processions of this sort be carried out with decorum while the chants proper to them are sung, in accordance with the norms laid down for each.
Holy silence is a a valuable opportunity for the faithful gathered to allow the Holy Spirit to form within them an sacred attitude of awe for the sacred mysteries that are beginning. Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times. Its nature, however, depends on the moment when it occurs in the different parts of the celebration. For in the Penitential Act and again after the invitation to pray, individuals recollect themselves; whereas after a reading or after the Homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise God in their hearts and pray to him.
Even before the celebration itself, it is a praiseworthy practice for silence to be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred celebration in a devout and fitting manner.
The Introductory Rites
The Introductory rites are distinctly different than any praise and worship activity that may precede in some communities.
The Introductory Rites are those which precede the Liturgy of the Word, namely, the Entrance, the Greeting, the Penitential Act, the Kyrie, the Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) and Collect, have the character of a beginning, an introduction, and a preparation. Their purpose is to ensure that the faithful, who come together as one, establish communion and dispose themselves properly to listen to the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily.
In certain celebrations that are combined with Mass according to the norms of the liturgical books, the Introductory Rites are omitted or take place in a particular way.
When the people are gathered, and as the Priest enters with the Deacon and
ministers, the Entrance Chant begins. Its purpose is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical time or festivity, and accompany the procession of the Priest and ministers.
The entrance song should be chosen to merge well with the spirit of the daily readings. It is also appropriate to utilize the proscribed entrance chants outlined in the rubrics for the day. These are to be sung by the choir and the people or similarly by a cantor and the people, or entirely by the people, or by the choir alone.
If there is no singing at the Entrance, the antiphon given in the Missal is recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a reader; otherwise, it is recited by the Priest himself, who may even adapt it as an introductory explanation
Reverence to the Altar and Greeting of the Assembled People
When they have arrived at the sanctuary, the Priest, the Deacon, and the ministers reverence the altar with a profound bow.
Moreover, as an expression of veneration, the Priest and Deacon then kiss the altar itself; the Priest, if appropriate, also incenses the cross and the altar.
When the Entrance Chant is concluded, the Priest stands at the chair and, together with the whole gathering, signs himself with the Sign of the Cross. Then by means of the Greeting he signifies the presence of the Lord to the assembled community. By this greeting and the people’s response, the mystery of the Church gathered together is made manifest.
After the greeting of the people, the Priest, or the Deacon, or a lay minister may very briefly introduce the faithful to the Mass of the day.
The Penitential Act
After this, the Priest calls upon the whole community to take part in the Penitential Act, which, after a brief pause for silence, it does by means of a formula of general confession. The rite concludes with the Priest’s absolution, which, however, lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance.
From time to time on Sundays, especially in Easter Time, instead of the customary
Penitential Act, the blessing and sprinkling of water may take place as a reminder of Baptism.
The Kyrie Eleison
After the Penitential Act, the Kyrie, eleison (Lord, have mercy), is always begun,
unless it has already been part of the Penitential Act. Since it is a chant by which the faithful acclaim the Lord and implore his mercy, it is usually executed by everyone, that is to say, with the people and the choir or cantor taking part in it.
Each acclamation is usually pronounced twice, though it is not to be excluded that it be repeated several times, by reason of the character of the various languages, as well as of the artistry of the music or of other circumstances. When the Kyrie is sung as a part of the Penitential Act, a ‘trope’ precedes each acclamation.
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) is a most ancient and venerable hymn by which the Church, gathered in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb. The text of this hymn may not be replaced by any other. It is intoned by the Priest or, if appropriate, by a cantor or by the choir; but it is sung either by everyone together, or by the people alternately with the choir, or by the choir alone.
If not sung, it is to be recited either by everybody together or by two choirs responding one to the other.
It is sung or said on Sundays outside Advent and Lent, and also on Solemnities and Feasts, and at particular celebrations of a more solemn character.
Next the Priest calls upon the people to pray and everybody, together with the Priest, observes a brief silence so that they may become aware of being in God’s presence and may call to mind their intentions. Then the Priest pronounces the prayer usually called the ‘Collect’ and through which the character of the celebration finds expression. Though the missal contains Collects for most every liturgical day, it is appropriate that may compose his own prayer to better address the timbre of the day's liturgy.
By an ancient tradition of the Church, the Collect prayer is usually addressed to God the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, and is concluded with a Trinitarian ending, or longer ending, in the following manner:
If the prayer is directed to the Father: Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever;
If it is directed to the Father, but the Son is mentioned at the end: Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever;
If it is directed to the Son: Who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.