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The Collect

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The formal name for the opening prayer we have at the beginning of every Mass is called the Collect, and it is introduced by the familiar words, Let us Pray.

Now this prayer comes at the end of what we would call the Introductory Rites, which is important because after this prayer we enter into the Liturgy of the Word so this prayer is really meant to mark a transition. A transition from gathering together to pray, to truly entering into the heart of the Mass.,

But there is something which gets lost in this transition which is unfortunate. We hear the words, Let us Pray so often that we have forgotten what we are invited to do at this moment. A priest jokes that the words, Let us Pray, has become translated to: “bring the priest the book.”

But this is not what these words are meant to say, and I am going to quote from the rubrics of the missal which tell us what these words mean.

“Next the priest invites the people to pray. All, together with the priest, observe a brief silence so that they may be conscious of the fact that they are in God’s presence and may formulate their petitions mentally.”       

In other words, when the priest says Let us Pray, we are invited to do two things: (1) acknowledge we are in God’s Presence and (2) tell him who we want to offer this Mass for, who we want to pray for.

The priest then prays the Collect, which collects all the prayers, all the people you and I are praying this Mass for, and offers them to God.

It is so easy to take a passive approach to Mass, just watching the priest, but at every single Mass at the words, Let us Pray, we are reminded that the Mass is all of our prayer. As a priest it is so beautiful, that as I pray the Collect, the collection of prayers you and I are bringing to this Mass, I end the Introductory Rites by bringing them to God. It is almost as if I am saying, “ok God, we are all here and this is who we praying for.” So that as we enter more deeply into the prayer of the Mass in the Liturgy of the Word, we are bringing with us the people we are holding close to our heart.

In this way we are not only praying for our own intentions, but also the intentions of each other, we are truly praying as one community. Beautiful.

It’s a wonderful thing to remember the next time we are at Mass. (1) that we can plan ahead and think of who needs our prayers before we begin Mass, (2) but also that when we hear the words, Let us Pray, we intentionally bring them to God, and we may find ourselves no longer just passive observers, but active pray-ers.

The Church Building

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Signs, Symbols, and Gestures of the Catholic Faith

As with everything we have been exploring, there is so much to share about the church building, so I am going to focus on two images every church we see should evoke in our mind.

The first image is that of home. A home is different than a house, and I always feel affirmed when I hear many of you call St. Dominic your home, for a house is just a building, a home is a place where we belong and also where someone is waiting for you.

At the moment of our baptism, every single church building becomes our home. No matter where we are in the entire world, we have a home to go to. A home where we find rest, safety, family, where we can truly be ourselves, and in each one of these homes someone is waiting for us, God.

The very notion that we have a place where God dwells is incredible. That is why the Jewish temple was so important, it was literally the only place where the presence of God dwelt, he was not confined there, but that was his home on earth. With Christ and now the Eucharist every Catholic Church becomes a home for God. We do not have to fly to Jerusalem to go home, we can drive here. Every time we see or enter a church we are reminded we are never homeless. And as with any home, it is always good to visit often.

The second image is that of a ship. Architecturally speaking many churches especially those in the Middle Ages often have ceilings which resembled a boat upside down-explain. The reason for this is to remind us that we are pilgrims, we are navigating the waters of the world to the harbor of heaven and the church is our ship. Flying the St. Dominic flag.

As pilgrims we must be careful of how much weight we are bringing aboard, for we do not want to sink it or slow her down. We need to do our part as any sailor to help this ship and her passengers make it safely to her journeys end. While admiring the beauty of the world as we sail, we do not want to stop too long at one place for the harbor of heaven awaits us. 

So every time we enter a church we should realize that we are coming home and also entering the boat journeying toward the heavenly harbor.

The Procession

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Why do we have a procession from the back of the Church to begin Mass? As with the past topics we have covered, the physical actions we perform in our Faith convey a message which would take much longer to say with words. Case in point, the procession takes about a minute, while its explanation takes 3-4 minutes.

A procession always has a destination; you process to something. In our case, we process to the altar which represents Christ, so at its foundation it is a procession toward God.

Now while it is technically only the ministers who process down the aisle, they represent the larger assembly. One of the reasons we all face the same direction in the pews is to reflect this. We are all moving in the same direction, moving toward God. This unified movement toward God is very important, for it is a reflection on how all of us outside of Mass should be living our life, toward God. We are growing in holiness together, not as individuals.

The more unified in this act we are, the smoother and easier the road, the procession, will be. If you have ever been to a Packer Game or any stadium environment, you probably have experienced the same frustration I have when encountering someone who is walking against the flow of traffic. It causes a ripple of chaos.

The same holds true when someone stops suddenly or is just standing there. It causes great disruption. So it is on our spiritual procession toward God, the more we grow in the holiness, the less we move away from God or stop because of sin, the quicker and easier it is for not only ourselves to reach him, but others as well.

It is one of the strange yet beautiful aspects of our Faith, when we grow in holiness, the people it benefits the most are those around us. We make it easier for them to move to God. So the procession before Mass represents the procession of all of our lives. Our procession toward holiness, our procession toward God.

 

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