Pope Francis on Wednesday stressed the importance of getting to Mass on time, noting that every piece is important, especially the opening Sign of the Cross, where we prepare as a community to worship God together.
“It is not a good habit to look and the clock and say: ‘I am in time, I will arrive after the sermon and with this fulfill the commandment,’” the Pope said Dec. 20.
“The Mass begins with the Sign of the Cross, with these introductory rites, because we begin to adore God as a community. And for this reason, it is important to plan to not arrive late, but in advance, to prepare the heart for this rite, for this celebration of the community.”
Calling it a “symphony” of prayers, the Pope continued his catechesis on the Mass and Eucharist at the general audience, laying out each part of the Mass step-by-step.
In the “symphony” of the Mass, “various tones of voices resonate, including times of silence,” he said, “creating a moment of ‘agreement’ between all the participants.” In this way, “the common faith and mutual desire to be with the Lord, and to live unity with the whole community, is expressed.”
The purpose of the introductory rites is, as it says in the Roman Missal, to gather the faithful together and “dispose themselves to listen with faith to the word of God and to worthily celebrate the Eucharist,” he said.
Beginning by explaining the opening Sign of the Cross, the Pope said that when we mark ourselves it is not only to remember our baptism, but to “affirm that the liturgical prayer is an encounter with God in Christ Jesus, who became incarnate, died on the cross and rose gloriously for us.”
As he has encouraged before, Francis asked parents and grandparents to teach their children how to make the Sign of the Cross correctly, while explaining to them how it is a way of invoking the protection of the cross of Jesus.
He said that every part of the Mass is important, pointing to even the little elements we might not always notice, like when the priest bows and kisses the altar at the end of the entrance procession,
Here the priest makes “a sign of veneration, kisses (the altar) and, when there is incense, incenses it,” because the altar is a figure of Christ, he explained.
“These gestures, which risk passing unobserved, are very significant, because they express from the beginning that the Mass is a meeting of love with Christ, who ‘offering his body on the cross [...] became altar, victim and priest,’” Francis said.
Continuing to list out the parts of the Mass through the introductory and penitential rites, Pope Francis noted that he will continue explaining the next steps of the Mass at the upcoming General Audiences.