Four years ago, when we walked out of our non-denominational coffee-house style church - the only thing I knew about Catholic Mass was what I had read in books or what I remembered from a couple visits to Catholic churches or Catholic weddings. It is a drastic understatement to say I was nervous to leave behind the familiar. On our last Sunday at Yucaipa Christian Church, I knelt during the singing time. I felt more than a little weird, but I was humbled by the significance of the occasion. After church, and after we picked up our children from their fun Sunday School classes - I paused on the walkway to pray for the church, its pastor, and all the people we'd come to know but were now leaving. And we weren't just leaving that church in Yucaipa, we were leaving all that I had known as a Christian up to that point.
I had a lot to learn. I'm still learning. I like when my kids ask me questions about the Mass because it's like giving myself a pop quiz. And if I don't know the answer, it's fun to go research it.
I think for the next few Sundays, I'll blog about the parts of the Mass. I was thinking today about how much I've learned, and how much I'm still clueless about. This will give me a chance to reflect on it. Today's episode: The Entrance!
We start off by singing as the priest and his entourage enter the church. I don't think many official church documents will call the deacons, ministers, or altar servers an entourage. And I don't mean to be irreverent, in fact I'll try to be the opposite. But if you want to read the official structure of the Mass according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal - go here. Otherwise, this is my personal version, along with my characteristic sidebars, tangents, and overthinking that go along with all that I write.
Once the priest reaches the front of the church, he bows. He also kisses the altar! Can you imagine what I thought when I first saw that? Well, truthfully, but anticlimactically, I just wondered why. Turns out it's a sign of veneration. Somehow, every Sunday for the last four years this moment gets me emotionally. Maybe I'm thinking about the priest's commitment to Jesus and the Church and am moved by it. Whatever my reason, I like that moment. (It gets even cooler on Good Friday when the priest(s) lie prostrate before the altar.)
From there, the priest goes and stands by his chair, the singing stops, and everyone makes the Sign of the Cross. Here we go! The Sign of the Cross was easily picked up by clueless little me, or so I thought, until I found out later that it's only done with the right hand and there is even a certain way to hold your fingers. While I think the church should do a better job of instructing newbies like me, I'm at the same time glad that there are no police in the aisles checking to make sure I get everything just right.
That's it for the entrance! If you're with me this far, you already know more than I did about the nitty gritty details on my first Sunday in Mass.
P.S. Just to get you going - do you know that it is a mortal sin for a Catholic to miss church on Sunday (unless there is a serious reason)?
See you next week when we delve into the Act of Penitence!