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Gathering rite

The Church will celebrate The Solemnity of Corpus Christi on Thursday. This is part four of five, of a reflection on the Eucharist by Fr Gabriel Julien.

In the church the focus is the sanctuary, the altar and the tabernacle. The altar is like the dining table. Jesus loved meals. He ate at the home of Matthew and Zaccheus. He often describes heaven as a big feast, a wedding and as a very special event. His first miracle was performed at the wedding feast. Because the Mass is a celebration, singing is an integral part.

The Eucharist can be described as a coming together of the various people to become one. It is a response to God’s call that: “They may be one.”  It is also a call that echoes in villages and cities with the peals of bells that should be a cause of great joy and hope.

Thus the ringing of the bells summons not only those who gather physically but it also invites those who cannot come to be united in prayer. Furthermore, it is a tangible reminder to everyone that they are called by God to worship the Him in spirit and in truth.

Calling people together is also a potent medium of informing them that they have dignity and that they are loved, appreciated and wanted by God. The bells also call the faithful to have faith and to gather and to recognise and experience their place in the Eucharist.

As the faithful enter the church they dip their finger in holy water and bless themselves and renew the graces they received at Baptism. We were baptised with water and signed with the cross. Therefore, at every Mass, we renew and sustain the promises of our Baptism. It is Baptism that brings us into the church. We then genuflect to reverence the altar and more importantly, to honour the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle.

Thus, the Mass begins with a call or a gathering to bring the faithful together into one body ready to listen, respond and break bread. It is a call and a response not only to fulfill a duty but to experience the graces of the Lord and the fraternity of the communal worship.

The entrance procession, which includes the celebrant, ministers and readers, reminds us that we are a gathering people. The procession should be done with dignity, splendour and solemnity. The procession must speak to the people and initiate them to get involved in the worship.

It is important to note that the entrance procession is Christ gathering all into one through the Eucharist. The faithful must recollect themselves together so that they could offer worship with their whole mind, heart, soul and strength. All stand for the procession. This gesture shows that we are attentive to the word of God and we are ready to put it into practice.

The celebrant begins with the sign of the cross to remind us of our own Baptism, and greets the faithful by saying: “The Lord be with you.” This is a very profound greeting. It is both a wish may the Lord be with you and a profound statement that as the faithful assemble the Lord is with you.

The faithful gather with their fears, worries, hopes and desires and the Eucharistic celebration pulls our dispersed thoughts, desires and energies together. Thus, the Sacramental rite invites us to begin to open ourselves to accept all the graces and blessings that God has for us because we belong to God’s family.

Our first need is to humble ourselves before God and to be purged. Thus, the Eucharist begins with a penitential rite that involves purification and conversion.  This is done by calling to mind sins, and sincerely praying the I Confess and Lord Have Mercy.

After that the priest says the words of absolution. The absolution given is a Sacramental or a petition for pardon that takes away only venial sins.

When Jesus was born, the heavenly armies sang: “Glory to God in the highest and peace to people of good will.” If we have made a sincere repentance and have changed our hearts during the penitential rite, we become people of good will and we can now sit and listen attentively and thoughtfully to the word of