By Deacon Frank Agnoli
(Editor’s note: The publication of the third edition of the Roman Missal provides a great opportunity for each diocese, parish and individual Catholic to grow in their love for — and knowledge of — the liturgy. In this series Deacon Frank Agnoli, the Davenport Diocese’s director of liturgy, reflects on the parts of the Mass.)
Penitential Act and Gloria
Liturgy requires honesty, authenticity. That’s why our liturgical norms call for live music instead of recordings, for real wax candles (that die as they give life and light, an image of our Savior) instead of oil-filled tubes, for real plants and flowers that wither and die rather than the falsity of silk and plastic that obscure the paschal mystery.
So we begin by acknowledging that we are broken, in need of healing; sinful, in need of forgiveness; lost, in need of a Savior. In the Penitential Act we acknowledge that reality and we declare the mercy of God. We give voice to our belief that in Christ we are healed, forgiven, saved. It is only by first owning and proclaiming such truths that we can then honestly give God praise by singing the Gloria, one of our most ancient hymns.
Most of the Collects in the Missal are ancient in origin, and are put together in a particular way.
They begin with the priest chanting (or saying), “Let us pray” — not because we haven’t been praying already, but in order to invite us into a period of silence during which we might pray in our own words. The silence is key; without it the invitation and the prayer that follows don’t make much sense. We call this prayer the “Collect” because the priest “collects” our individual prayers and gives voice to them using the words of the Church. The prayer itself begins by addressing God (the Father), and then names an attribute of God or what God has done in the past. Having recalled God’s faithfulness, we can now make our petition. The concluding formula reminds us that by and large all our liturgical prayer is made to the Father through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We express our consent to the prayer, and our willingness to enter the mystery that we are about to celebrate, by our “Amen!”
Entering the Mystery
Do I honestly acknowledge my need to be healed, my need for a Savior?
Do I join in the singing of the Gloria, lifting my voice in the praise of God?
At the time of the Collect, do I use the silence after the priest’s invitation to indeed pray?
Do I consciously join my prayer to what the priest offers on our behalf, so my Amen rings true?
When I pray at home (for example, at mealtime), do I use the pattern of prayer that the Church gives to us in the Collects, e.g. you (name), who (attribute or past action of God’s), do (petition), through (conclusion)? Might this be a way that I can help connect life and liturgy?
The Ars Celebrandi
Do the liturgical practices of our parish, and the objects that we use, reflect the values of authenticity and honesty? Do we refuse to let efficiency become a driving force in our liturgical life?
Do we routinely sing the Gloria in my community?
As priest-presider, do I leave a space for intentional silence after the invitation, and then model what I am asking the people to do: pray? Do I remain silent as the people respond, Amen?