minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Missa – Peccavimus

untitledThe penitential rite, as mentioned in the former post, has three formulas which may be used. The first made up the content of the former post. The second two will make up this post.

The point of the penitential rite is confession, repentance, and a clearing of the conscience to prepare one for the Mass. Unlike the sacrament of confession, the rite is done as a community, and more importantly, it does not take the place of the sacrament which is done privately.

The second formula that can be used for this rite is a simple prayer which is spoken alternately by the priest and congregation:

Priest: Have mercy on us, Lord
Congregation: For we have sinned against you.
Priest: Show us, O Lord, your mercy.
Congregation: And grant us your salvation.

Like many parts of the mass, this interaction between the one presiding and those attending, is not a matter of separating clergy and laity. Rather it is an example of the body of Christ, the church, praying together. It is one of the very striking differences between the ancient church and many of the modern sects whose “worship” tends to be based on a teacher/classroom or preacher/audience format. The ancient church is more congregational in it’s worship, which is one of the nice results of worship being liturgical. This carries into many of the early protestant sects which also use the liturgical format. In the older “Tridentine” mass, which was used prior to vatican 2, this was even more evident as the priest did not face the congregation. Priest and congregation faced forward together which symbolized this unity in the body. However in the tridentine mass there was no verbal interaction or conversation. Prayers said by the congregation are silent and in communion with the priest who is presiding. It was still communal but more contemplative in nature.

The last of the formulas is also spoken by priest and congregation and when used takes the place of the Kyrie, which is the first part of the “ordinary”. This is because the last formula is the Kyrie with a little bit more.

Minister: You were sent to heal the contrite (or a similar invocation): Lord, have mercy.
Congregation: Lord, have mercy.
Minister: You came to call sinners (or a similar invocation): Christ, have mercy.
Congregation: Christ, have mercy.
Minister: You plead for us at the right hand of the Father (or a similar invocation): Lord, have mercy.
Congregation: Lord, have mercy.

More will be said about the Kyrie, which makes up the response from the congregation, in a later post. Here it is the ministers words that give us the direction of this prayer which professes the ministry of Christ. Healing the contrite, calling the sinner, and pleading to the Father for us. It reminds us of the Incarnation in that it envisions Christ, who is God, in the role of mediator. It is that great bow, as Christ is the humble servant, ministering to the church who he died for. Still calling, healing and pleading. It should also remind us that our own ministry has to follow in his footsteps.

Three different formulas with the same intent and yet with very different takes on penitence. In the next post we will look at some of the alternatives that compensate or replace the penitential rite during certain times of the year.

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