How Does Mass Begin?

Overview of the Introductory Rites

The Mass is a holy act of worship and thanksgiving, meaning that it is set apart from all other activities of life. Because of this, we need an "introduction" of sorts that transitions us spiritually from the ordinary to the extraordinary—the meeting of heaven and earth. The Introductory Rites accomplish this goal. The entrance chant or song and the procession turn our gaze toward the sanctuary of the church, the place where the Scriptures will be proclaimed and the holy sacrifice of Christ's Body and Blood will be offered. The Penitential Act is a chance to seek God's forgiveness for our unholy thoughts, words, and actions. The Gloria is the first great act of praise of the Mass, and the Collect gathers together all the prayers of the assembly. Once we have participated in the Introductory Rites, we are ready for the first major part of the Mass: the Liturgy of the Word.

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Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.