As we will discover together, the Mass is like climbing a mountain. This “mountain experience” gets higher and higher, better and better, as we progress through this prayer time together. The Penitential Rite is just the next high we have during Mass.
Admitting to sin is a high? We say YES! In the Penitential Rite many things are happening: a time of silence, a communal prayer called the Confiteor (“I confess to God, and to you my brothers and sisters…”), striking our chest, asking for prayers from Our Mother, the saints, and our fellow parishioners, asking God for forgiveness, getting that forgiveness, and asking for God’s mercy. Whew! That’s a lot in a 3-5 minute span!!
This rite is more than admitting to sin. In this rite we get the opportunity for a moment in silence. The fact that the alter server doesn’t begin to bring the prayer book to the priest until after a moment of silence, is not because he/she isn’t prepared, or that they are stalling, our Church sees it as a purposeful, small opportunity to take time to “be still” and meditate on what God may be wanting to present to us at that time. We are taking a moment of preparation, before admitting to sins and seeking forgiveness. “It is important to make use of this part of the Mass that focuses on our sinfulness, to foster a deep sense of our need for God. While some may have been overly sensitive to sin in the past and never availed themselves to God’s love and mercy, today many fail to be aware of the need they have for forgiveness.” … “Many times our greatest sin is our feeling of self-sufficiency.” (1)
Next, we speak words of a general confession, all the while we should think of any ways we have done things that do not show love to God or to our neighbor. This also includes the things that we do not do (i.e. times that we do not do things because they would be embarrassing to ourselves, take away from our plans/time, not doing something because it’s inconvenient, etc.). During this time, it’s important to note, that if there is anything that we have done purposefully and will full knowledge (voluntarily) this general confession does not replace the sacrament of Confession. This is great time to meditate and ask God to define the differences in our sins for the “oops, I didn’t realize” and the voluntary sins we commit.
Ask quickly as we begin the Confiteor, within it, we ask for prayers from our heavenly family and earthly family. We are human, we need help to do better and to love better. Together, we seek forgiveness from God – who is so quick to give it! Did you know that the prayer the priest speaks immediately after is considered a prayer of absolution. Sisters – we are given an outward sign, verbal words that we can hear, of our forgiveness from our God. We are forgiven. And we hear these words at Mass. What a release on our souls. Fights and arguments, disagreements and bad situations between our own family or friends can cause us to seek forgiveness from them – and it isn’t until we hear these words from the other that we feel a weight lifted off our shoulders, stress reduction, and the ability to move forward? We become hopeful and the guilt/anxiety of our transgression is gone. This too is happening at Mass – do we even realize?
Our Mother Church knows this, even when we do not see or recognize it. Which is why our next part of the Mass is singing or saying the Kyrie. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. We were just forgiven. And our proper reply is to ask and thank God for His mercy. He is so gracious, so merciful, so forgiving. Next Sunday – we encourage you to pay attention during this part. Prayerfully and purposefully pray each word. Together, let’s mean what we say.
1. Dubruiel, Michael., The How-To Book of the Mass, 2002, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing
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