Parts of the Mass: Introductory Rites, Readings


Parishes, RCIA groups, RE teachers and others will hopefully find Liturgy Lines over the next few weeks a useful accompaniment to Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s multi part series on the Catholic Mass at

Introductory Rites

The Introductory Rites of the Mass are made up of the entrance song, greeting, penitential act, Gloria, and collect (opening prayer). Their purpose is to gather the people together as a worshipping community and prepare them to listen to God’s word and celebrate the Eucharist worthily.

Singing the entrance song is our first act of participation in the Mass proper. It announces that we are here to worship God as members of the Body of Christ.  The sign of the cross after the entrance song also proclaims that we gather for worship as participants, not spectators.

The liturgical greeting (‘In the name of …. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…’) and the people’s response signify the presence of the Lord and manifest the mystery of the Church gathered together.

The penitential rite is not a time for self-accusation but rather an acclamation of the mercy and compassion of God (‘You bring pardon and peace to the sinner’). The General Instruction of the Roman Missal describes the Gloria as a very ancient and venerable hymn whose words may not be replaced by any other text.

The final element of the Introductory Rites begins with the invitation by the priest ‘Let us pray’.  In the silence that follows, we pray our individual intentions which are then gathered up in the words of the opening collect.

Liturgy of the Word Part I

The Liturgy of the Word is the first of two main parts of the Mass. It begins with several readings from the bible. The official documents of the Church stress the value of the scripture readings at Mass, this from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal for example: ‘When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel’.

The structure of the Liturgy of the Word is: First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, Second Reading, Gospel Acclamation, Gospel, Homily, Profession of Faith, and Prayer of the Faithful or Universal Prayer.

Except in the Easter season, the first reading is taken from the Old Testament. The psalm that follows has been chosen from the Book of Psalms as the appropriate response to the first reading; it is not just another hymn that we sing.  The second reading comes from one of the New Testament epistles (letters).

To show that the gospel reading is the high point of the Liturgy of the Word, the assembly stands and acclaims Christ’s presence by singing the gospel acclamation.

The homily unfolds the mysteries of faith contained in the readings and relates this word to our lives today.

The pattern of the Liturgy of the Word is one of dialogue - between reader and listener, between God and us.


Elizabeth Harrington