The Opening Rite (continued)
The rest of the opening rite, after the preparation, starts with the Introit. This is one of the so-called minor propers, that change for the day and match the readings and prayers. The Introit begins with the celebrant ascending to the altar, kissing it in reverent recognition of its holiness and sign of Christ’s presence with his people, and then going to the epistle side of the front, that is, the right as you face it, making the sign of the Cross on the book and reading the antiphon, a psalm verse, and the Gloria Patri, finishing with the antiphon again. In places where they sing, which should be everywhere, the Introit is sung by the cantor or choir. I have seen parishes where the music is printed in the bulletin and the people sing along with the choir, a practice I heartily commend, as the tunes are easily learned and sung by anyone. It was customary for the preparation to be said by the celebrant while the choir sang the Introit, but I discourage the practice. Multitasking is for computers, not God’s people in his worship!
After the conclusion of the Introit, the celebrant goes to the center of the altar and offers the first salutation (as commented on in the previous post by Fr. Fodor.) Then he prays the Collect for Purity. The word “collect,” emphasis on the first syllable, is a prayer of specific form, more about which below. This collect is really a remnant of the priest’s private prayers, and in some places may be prayed quietly, but never silently. Then the priest reads the short Summary of the Law, or in penitential seasons may be substituted the Decalogue in litany form. The Book of Common Prayer prescribes the Decalogue once a month, but it seems to me a logical and more salutary practice to use it only on purple Sundays–when the Gloria in Excelsis will not be sung.
The Kyrie Eleison follows. Again, the tunes are simple and the people should sing this. I favor singing it nine-fold, that is, each trope thrice, on Sundays and feasts where the Gloria in Excelsis will not follow, and singing it three-fold, that is, each trope once, at any Mass for which the Gloria is appointed. The kyrie, although it sounds like it in English, is not really a penitential lament, but was originally a greeting that was given the Emperor, taken over by the Church and addressed to the great Ruler of all.
Immediately following is the Gloria in Excelsis. The Book of Common Prayer prints it at the end of Mass, but that was the result of wicked protestant influences on the second Edwardine Book, 1552. This song belongs where Christendom has traditionally placed it, here, and where it is found in the Anglican Missal, English Missal, and American Missal, and naturally all the great Western liturgies, including the Anglican liturgies of the first BCP of 1549, the Scottish BCP (1929, and their 1970 Eucharist), South African BCP (1954), West Indies BCP (1959), and Nigerian BCP (1996). All stand for this great hymn, of course, and the celebrant stands in the center of the altar.
After the Gloria, the celebrant turns to the people and offers the second of seven salutations in the Mass, then returns to the book at the epistle corner and prays the Collect of the Day, followed by the two collects appointed for the season. A collect is a prayer in a specific form, almost the sonnet of prayers, in that it always consists of an invocation, an address to God mentioning one of his attributes or actions, follows with a petition, and then closes with the trinitarian formula. In Latin, the collect was always one single sentence, and in English, collects composed with taste and good form are as well.
The Collect is the last act of the openng rites, and was originally the opening itself. Over time, things tend to be added to the liturgy, usually at the “soft” points, the beginning, the end, and transitions. When the Church began to worship openly in public, it was found that the Collect should have an opening song, so the Gloria was added. Soon that began to be considered part of the Mass, and another opening was needed: the Kyrie. As you can see, things kept being added to the beginning until now, a parish could have four opening songs: a hymn, the Introit, the Kyrie, and the Gloria!
There is another rite that in some modern circles has supplanted the opening: the Asperges, or Sprinkling with Holy Water. I’ll be looking at the Asperges in a later post, after we have finished the whole Mass, but I will note that traditionally the Asperges precedes the primary Sunday Mass, a practice I think should be commended to all.
Next time we will look at the first half of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, also called the Mass of the Catechumens.