Why is this our Opening Song? How the Propers Integrate into the Liturgy

Guest post by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, pastor of St. Edward Catholic Church in Newark, CA

The newer simpler version of this chant by Adam Bartlett

The Entrance Chant is like a door opening onto the Mystery.  It begins as the priest and other ministers enter the church.  The Entrance Chant sets the celebration of Mass in motion; it fosters unity; it expresses something of the feast or season being celebrated.  The Entrance Chant accompanies the procession of the priest and ministers into the sanctuary and generally will not end until after the priest arrives at the chair.

Apart from a very few exceptions, the Entrance Chants of the Mass are drawn from the Bible, usually from the Book of Psalms.   The great majority of these Introits or Entrance chants are from the Old Testament, because most of them were set in place in the Liturgy before the New Testament even existed.  This means we are praying prayers and singing melodies that the early Christian Martyrs would have sung and some of these chants were sung in the temple during and before the time of Jesus.  It is significant that Mass opens with God’s word addressed to us.  Already in the Entrance Chant it is God who comes out to meet us. The text of the Introit is harmonized with all the other variable prayers of the day so that the idea of the feast or the thought of the day pervades the whole Mass.

At the 10:00am Mass the Introit is sung in Latin to the ancient melody.  The text and translation are provided for your prayerful reflection but you are not expected to sing. There is much that is more important that can be happening at this moment. For whom are you offering the Mass? What sacrifice are you offering to join with the sacrifice of Jesus? Often people will bow when the Book passes by.  The Word of God enters to greet you and you pay your respects. Often people will bow when the priest goes by. This is not because they like the priest, but they recognize he stands in the person of Christ at this Mass.  At the other English Masses a modification of the ancient melody is sung with an English translation. This is to enable you to sing along if you wish, but you could easily be involved in the activities previously mentioned.

The ancient melody that the chant above is based on

At Mass we are in the company of our Lord by faith.  We want to live in Him so that we may live like Him and die with Him and rise with Him.

Truly actively participating in Mass, means actively seeking to identify ourselves with Christ, who is hidden in the Sacred Host. We, hidden in the world,  pay attention to the words of the liturgy which are a mirror of the soul of our Lord, as he offers himself to the Father. It means adopting his state of mind as far as we are able, in order to be able to leave Mass with a will that is more apt to imitate Christ in reality.

The liturgy comes with an invitation and a challenge.  Today in the Entrance chant we hear that God is in his Holy place, that he unites those who dwell in his holy place.  He gives might and strength to his people.   Then in the Gospel we hear that the farmer finds a great treasure in the field.  He sells all he has to buy that field.  Will you?

This is how you pray the Introit or Entrance chant. Based on the strength that he gives you, will you be able to do his will?  Will you be able to do what he asks?

If you are still paying attention to the superficial stuff, the flowers, the music, the priest, and even the homily, chances are you are not paying attention to what the Mass calls forth from you. When you entered the church this morning, if you are doing anything besides what was mentioned above, you came to a social gathering of friends, but you did not come to encounter the Lord in the Sacred Mysteries.