Full and Active Participation in the Introductory Rites

Full and Active Participation in the Introductory Rites
Over the next few weeks, I will look the structure, purpose and nature of the various parts of the Mass, and suggest ways of improving our participation in these rites.
The elements that constitute the Introductory Rites are Entrance Song, Greeting, Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling Holy Water or Penitential Rite and Kyrie, Gloria, Collect (Opening Prayer). These rites are dropped in whole or part for certain special occasions such as nuptial or funeral Masses, and some seasonal feasts require their rearrangement to accommodate other rituals. The two essential elements are the Entrance Song and the Opening Prayer.
According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the purpose of the Introductory Rites is to gather the people together as a worshipping community and prepare them to listen properly to God’s word and celebrate the Eucharist worthily (# 46).
Our participation in the Mass begins long before the opening chord of the entrance song. It consists of greeting others as we arrive, making the sign of the cross with holy water as we enter the building, and making a profound bow to the altar or genuflecting to the tabernacle if it is located in the main worship space.
The function of the Entrance Song is “to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical season or festivity, and accompany the procession of the priest and ministers” (GIRM # 47). It needs to be long enough to achieve the first three purposes listed and not stop when the presider has reached his place! Joining in the singing of the Entrance Song is our first act of participation in the Mass proper. How can we refuse to do so?
By making the sign of the cross after the entrance song, we renew the covenant that began with our baptism and proclaim that we gather for worship as participants, not spectators.
GIRM #50 says that the liturgical Greeting and the people’s response signifies the presence of the Lord and manifests the mystery of the Church gathered together. That is why a casual “Good morning everyone!” is not an appropriate substitute.
According to the rubrics of The Sacramentary: “The rite of blessing and sprinkling holy water may be celebrated in all churches and chapels at all Masses celebrated on Sunday or Saturday evening”. Is it so rarely used because we prefer to focus on our guilt than on our baptism?
The most commonly used form of the Penitential Rite, option C, is also one of the most misunderstood elements of the Mass. It is not a doleful self-accusation (“For the times we have….”), but an acclamation of the mercy and compassion of God (“You bring pardon and peace to the sinner”). The invocations used should reflect the season or feast or scriptural focus of the celebration.
“The Gloria is a very ancient and venerable hymn the text of which may not be replaced by any other text ….” (GIRM # 53). While the Gloria is ideally sung, doing so may unduly lengthen the gathering rite. Perhaps sung settings could be reserved for festive seasons, or used during the sprinkling rite or for the thanksgiving at a Liturgy of the Word with communion.
“Next the priest invites the people to pray. All observe a brief silence so that they may be conscious of the fact that they are in God's presence and may formulate their petitions mentally. Then the priest says the prayer which is customarily known as the Collect “(GIRM # 54). How well do we participate by formulating our own petitions to be gathered up in the collective prayer of the assembly?

Elizabeth Harrington