Friday, February 04, 2005

Liturgical Footnote #4
By Fr. J.C. Garrett

During the singing of the Entrance Antiphon/Hymn (Introit), the priest and other liturgical ministers process to front of the church. As they reach the Sanctuary, if they are not carrying anything, they make a sign of reverence before entering the Sanctuary. If the Tabernacle, which contains the physical presence of our Eucharistic Lord, is behind the main Altar, as it is here at St. James, all should genuflect (if they are able) before our Lord. If the Tabernacle is at another prominent place besides directly behind the Altar, then all the ministers should reverence the Altar by making a profound bow.

Each person in the congregation should make these same acts of reverence when they enter the church. As we first enter the church, by each of the doors, there are the small Holy Water dishes, which we should use to bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross, reminding ourselves of our Baptismal call. As we reach the pew where we will be sitting, again, if the Tabernacle with the Presence of the Lord is behind the main Altar we should genuflect. Genuflection is a sign of reverence and honor that dates to the earliest times. When a person entered the presence of the Roman Emperor they were required to genuflect on their left knee. Recognizing the greater presence of Christ Jesus, the Church adopted this gesture for giving reverence and honor to Christ the King; altering it slightly so that one genuflects on one’s right knee (bending the left knee so that the right knee touches the ground). We should NEVER enter a church without recognizing the personal presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle. If the Tabernacle is off to the side (or if we cannot physically genuflect), then we reverence the Altar before entering the pew by a profound bow that is a bow from the waist.

As the priest (and deacon, if one is present) enters the Sanctuary, they further reverence the Altar by kissing it. The Altar, as the place of sacrifice, reminds us of Christ Jesus, and just as we might kiss a photograph of a loved one, the priest kisses the Altar as a sign of his affection for Jesus. However, the Altar does not represent only Jesus; it also represents all of the Church – Militant (those still on earth), Suffering (those in Purgatory), and Triumphant (those in Heaven) – so by kissing the Altar the priest is also showing his love for the Church.

After kissing the Altar, the priest moves to the chair and begins the Mass with the Sign of the Cross, which all the people copy. Then he uses one of three greetings; the shortest is “The Lord be with you,” and the longest invokes the whole Trinity. To the greeting the people respond “And also with you.” This greeting is a sign of the mutual goodwill between the priest and the people, and the desire to build a friendship between them. After all, as we enter into the celebration of the Mass we are entering into the work of salvation done by Jesus so that we can enter into the friendship of the Trinity.

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