Every year we train our children who are preparing for the Sacraments the names and purpose of all the parts of the Mass. We also have adults who are preparing to enter the Church at Easter who are becoming accustomed to our way of Worshiping God in the Mass. All of us need an occasional refresher on the meaning, names, and purposes of the Mass so that we may participate more fully.
Part of the great genius of the Roman Rite of Mass is that it has a beauty that comes about from order. All of its parts are distributed among the people and ministers in a way are reflective of the Body of Christ. As the Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to describe the Church, each member has its own function, and each part works together with the other members of the body so that it may be a perfect unity. Accordingly, when the Church worships God, the textual parts of the Mass are distributed among the priest, deacon, cantor, choir, and faithful so that each is responsible to sing or say their own part.
The Order of Mass contains all the dialogs between the priest and the people. These dialogs are distributed throughout the Mass; all of them may be sung or spoken
-The Sign of the Cross, which the priest says, and to which the people respond, “Amen”.
-The Opening dialog, when the priest says “The Lord be with you” and the people respond “And with your Spirit”.
-The Offertory dialog, “Pray brethren that my sacrifice and yours…. “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands…”
-The Preface dialog “lift up your hearts”, “We lift them up to the Lord.” and etc.
-The embolism dialog after the Our Father, “Deliver us Lord…”For the Kingdom the power…”
-The invitation to the Sign of Peace. “The peace of the Lord be with you always…” “And with your spirit.”
-The dialog before Communion, “Behold the Lamb of God… “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”
The Ordinary of the Mass, likewise is sung or said by the people and the priest together. The Ordinary of Mass is unchanging, and it includes the following prayers and invocations which may be sung by the people with the support of the choir, and occasionally sung on their behalf by the choir.
-The Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy)
-The Gloria (Glory to God in the Highest)
-The Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy)
-The Our Father
The Instructions belong to the deacon, or if there is no deacon the priest gives them.
-The invitation to give the sign of peace
-The instruction to bow down for the blessing
-The Ite Missa est or Dismissal
The Reading and Epistle are sung (!) or read by an instituted lector, (or a reader)
The Gospel is sung or read by the deacon, or priest.
The Propers of the Mass are to be sung by the cantor and the choir, and the people may respond to them. You will recall from an earlier article that the Propers include:
-The Introit (Entrance Antiphon)
-The Gradual or Responsorial Psalm (If there is not a psalmist or cantor, this may be read by a Lector or Reader)
-The Alleluia and its verse (sometimes called the Gospel acclamation)
-The Offertory Antiphon
-The Communion Antiphon
The Orations and the Eucharistic prayer with its Preface belong to the priest alone. The priest may say or sing the Orations. At the conclusion of these prayers, the people respond by singing or saying Amen.
The Orations include:
-The Collect or Opening Prayer.
-The Prayer introducing and concluding the Prayers of the Faithful.
-The Prayer over the Offerings
-The Prayer after Communion.
It is surprising that although we are used to the notion that a priest “says” Mass, a very large measure of the text of Mass is sung or said by the people, the choir, the cantor and the deacon. Since all of us have important parts of the Mass to pray out loud, we should take responsibility for learning more about the meaning of these parts, and trying our best to learn to sing or speak them from our hearts as well as our lips.
Cantate Domino (sing to the Lord!)
Fr. Matthew Keller