VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Don’t be late for Mass believing the introductory rites do not matter, Pope Francis told visitors and pilgrims.
The words and gestures that open the celebration help the faithful come together as one and prepare them to listen to the Word of God and celebrate the Eucharist worthily, he said Dec. 20 during his weekly general audience.
“It is not a good habit to be looking at the clock” and calculating how much of the beginning of Mass would be OK to miss and still fulfill one’s obligation, he said.
Get to Mass early – not late, he said, because it is during the introductory rites that “we begin to adore God as a community” and “to prepare the heart for this celebration with the community.”
The pope continued his series of audience talks on the Mass, reflecting on the introductory rites.
“Understanding these holy signs is necessary in order to fully experience the Mass and savor all of its beauty,” he said.
The gestures that accompany the Mass “risk going unnoticed,” he said, but they “are very significant because they express from the start that the Mass is an encounter of love with Christ,” who offers his body on the cross, becoming victim and priest.
After the entrance, the celebrant bows and kisses the altar as an expression of veneration because the altar is a symbol of Christ, the pope said.