Missa – Introit
The Mass begins with the Introit which is Latin for Entrance. Bells may ring or a greeter may notify the congregation to stand as a procession begins from the back of the church. In this procession you will often have several people but, may also just be the priest who is presiding over the mass, the former occurring on Sundays and Holy days while the latter on weekday masses or low masses.
On a normal Sunday the procession begins with a cross and is followed by a person carrying an evangelion which is a book that contains the gospels. Altar servers and deacons make up those in the front of the procession. At the end of the procession is the priest who will preside over the celebration. Sometimes, especially on certain feasts there will be several priests involved in the mass but the one presiding will always be the last. On certain occasions a Bishop may also be serving at a mass. (He’s the one with the Shepherds Staff) All clergy will take part in the mass.
The Introit is accompanied by singing or the reciting of a psalm. On certain days there may also be an entrance antiphon, which has a connection the days celebration. An antiphon is really just a responsorial hymn. A person sings or speaks one part and the congregation responds with the second, or a part of the choir may sing the first part and the other part of the choir may respond with the second. Examples of Antiphonaries, or books that contained a collection of Antiphons can be found from long ago. The picture on the right show an illuminated antiphonary which is for Gregorian chant.
The Introit is understood as part of the “Proper” of the Mass. That means that it is something that can change depending on the celebration, for instance during the Easter Vigil the entrance is done with candles and in the dark, Palm Sunday the entrance has palms. Sometimes incense is used, and once I even saw a donkey……(also a Palm Sunday) Different songs may accompany different processions based on the season or day. The “Proper” is contrasted to the “Order” of the mass, which are the parts of the mass which do not change according to seasons or days.
The entrance signifies Christ coming into the church. It reflects scripture passages like the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, and also the Passion of Christ as he carried the cross to Calvary. It also brings to my mind a certain portion of the Hebrew Scriptures concerning God’s Covenant with Abraham.
And the Lord answered, and said: Take me a cow of three years old, and a she goat of three years and a ram of three years, a turtle also, and a pigeon. 10 And he took all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid the two pieces of each one against the other: but the birds he divided not. 11 And the fowls came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away. 12 And when the sun was setting, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a great and darksome horror seized upon him. 13 And it was said unto him: Know beforehand that your seed shall be a stranger in a land not their own, and they shall bring them under bondage, and afflict them four hundred years. 14 But I will judge the nation which they shall serve, and after this they shall come out with great substance. 15 And you shall go to your fathers in peace, and be buried in a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall return hither: for as yet the iniquities of the Amorrhites are not at the full until this present time. 17 And when the sun was set, there arose a dark mist, and there appeared a smoking furnace, and a lamp of fire passing between those divisions. 18 That day God made a covenant with Abram, saying: To your seed will I give this land, from the river of Egypt even to the great river Euphrates.
It is the picture of God entering time and space to meet with us. To form, fulfil and complete the covenant he established. With such a concept of holiness as this passage pictures, it sets the tone for how I approach and participate in the divine liturgy. This isn’t just going to church, it isn’t just tradition or religion. It is Christ in our midst.