The Angelus


About the Liturgy: Entrance Rite

I get questions from time to time about the shape of the Entrance Rite in the Mass.  This is the first part of the Eucharistic celebration, from the opening chant through the collect of the day.  In the Prayer Book tradition this part of the service is not really separated from what is usually called "the Liturgy of the Word" - the first Lesson through the Peace.  Yet the Entrance Rite evolves as a separate and later element to what we might call the original shape of the Eucharist.

Some Background: When it was illegal for Christians to be Christians, in the first centuries after Christ's death, Christians usually met in homes.  An "Entrance Rite" wasn't needed.  The Eucharist began with a greeting, a prayer, and the reading of Scripture.  A sermon was preached.  There was no Creed.  Those preparing for Baptism were then dismissed.  Those already baptized then offered what we would call the Prayers of the People.  The peace was then exchanged either here or before the reception of Communion, as in the early church in the city of Rome.  (A Confession of Sin does not appear in the Eucharist until the Reformation.)  The people brought forward to the deacons of the community (and communities almost always had deacons in addition to priests or bishops) gifts of bread, wine and money.  The gifts were placed on a table.  A bishop or priest gave thanks.  Documentary evidence suggests that from the earliest days the giving of thanks began with some form of greeting (The Lord be with you) and invitation to prayer (Lift up your hearts).  The Lord's Prayer is an ancient element of the rite as is the gesture of the Breaking of Bread.  The Eucharist was then shared by all the baptized, all persons, all who are present, all ages.  It was taken to any members of the community who could not be present by family members or friends (not by ordained "ministers").  In some places members took home the consecrated bread and wine for daily Communion at home.  Throughout the Christian world through the centuries there has been great diversity in specific practices, but there has also been a great unity.  The Eucharist was and in some places, still is celebrated unfailingly by Christians who risk imprisonment and death to make present Easter life.

Things changed when it became legal (indeed, fashionable and "politically correct") to be a Christian.  From this point on, lots of people are baptized without formation.  Basilicas built by Constantine had enormous detached baptisteries in order to accommodate the huge numbers of people wanting baptism.  (And in that era people bathed and dined in different rooms.)  The Church builds or acquires buildings and Entrance Rites become necessary.  Lots of experiments are made over the centuries.  We are left with examples of these experiments even today.

I think it is correct to say that over the centuries three purposes have evolved for the Entrance Rite: (1) to cover the ceremonial entrance of the servants of the assembly, (2) to offer an opening hymn of worship and praise, and (3) to collect the assembly in prayer.  At Saint Mary's, the historic Latin psalm chants are sung by the choir at the entrance of the ministers of the assembly.  (This is an ancient practice dating at least from the fourth century.)  Following the opening acclamation (a late twentieth century innovation), a hymn of praise is sung by the choir or congregation.  The prayer of the day is offered.  Entrance is accomplished.

At Saint Mary's we are generally faithful to "Western" liturgical traditions.  This means that the opening hymn of praise will be Gloria in excelsis, the hymn "Glory to God in the highest," on all Sundays outside of the seasons of preparation, Advent and Lent.  In Advent and Lent the hymn of praise (and it is still "praise") is Kyrie eleison, "Lord have mercy."  Kyrie eleison is a wonderful illustration of the complexity of the evolution of the Entrance Rite.  In the pre-Vatican II Roman Rite it was sung every Sunday of the year, followed by Gloria in excelsis (except in Advent and Lent).  In the 1928 Prayer Book a form of it was used every Sunday at the beginning of the Eucharist and Gloria in excelsis was used as a hymn of praise following the ministration of Holy Communion.

The use of Kyrie eleison at the beginning of Mass dates from an experiment by a pope to use the Prayers of the People as a cover for the Entrance Rite.  When the liturgy of the church in Rome moved from Greek to Latin the familiar petition Kyrie eleison continued to be used with the petitions of the Litany (which was sung in Latin).  Somehow, Kyrie eleison survives at the beginning of Mass and instead of being experienced as intercessory prayer becomes a penitential rite.  Gloria in excelsis is in origin a hymn for Easter Day Morning Prayer for the pope's church in Rome.  It comes to be widely copied (people were visiting Rome) and finally imposed on the whole church as the normative opening hymn of praise.

At Saint Mary's the opening rites are pretty straightforward but we have our own local variations.  Although Anglo-catholics at the beginning of this century introduced the ceremony of sprinkling Holy Water at the beginning of Mass in imitation of then contemporary Roman Catholic practice, when Rome discontinued this practice in the 1960s Father Garfield decided to keep it as a ceremony instead of a rite.  (When it was a rite, it came with its own chant in addition to the opening chant of the Mass.)  It is something of a neat solution for retaining a ceremonial action that was beloved.  The practice of having the choir sing the entrance chant and the opening hymn is something of a problem from the standpoint of the best thinking about the liturgy today.  [When I say "best liturgical thinking" I refer to the documents that were produced by Episcopal, Roman Catholic and Lutheran scholars and authorities during the post-Vatican II reforms and the work of those few persons who write and teach about catholic liturgy and whose credibility in this area comes from their practice and prayer of many years.]  Liturgical thinkers and writers remind us that the assembly itself is the primary minister of the liturgy.  The choir is a servant of the assembly, as are bishops, priests, deacons, readers and acolytes.  The primary texts of worship belong to the assembly not its servants.


PRAYER LIST…Your prayers are asked for Harold who is gravely ill and for Mark, Beatrice, Jack, Olga, Helen, Mary, Lucille, Frances, Carl, Frank, Eleanor, Jane, John, Kersten, Nolan, Barbara, Rick, Judy, Roy, Peter, Phillip, Harold, Charles, priest, and Rodney, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 21: 1992 Frances Elizabeth (Betty) Sharer, 1977 Edward Parker Amos, January 23: 1964 Walter R. Noe, Jr., 1990 Mary Grantham Adams, January 25: 1995 Giselle Klopstock, January 26: 1964 Bertha Eugenia Doty Miller.


LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Nehemiah 8:2-10, Psalm 13, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Luke 4:14-21 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, January 20 by Father Garrison and on January 27 by Father Gerth.


I PUBLISH THE BANNS of Marriage between David Ray Copeland New York City and Kimberly Danette Coleman of New York City.  If any of you know just cause why they may not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, you are bidden to declare it.  This is the third time of asking.  S.G.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . The Catechesis Formation Course meets on Saturday, January 27, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM . . . Altar flowers are needed for January 28, February 11, 18 and 25 until the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.  If you are interested, please telephone the parish office at 212-869-5830 . . . Saint Mary's Guild will meet on Saturday, January 27 from 10:30 AM until 3 to continue vestment care projects . . . The Wednesday evening series, "Life Together," continues on January 24 in Saint Benedict's Study.  The series is lead by Father Briedenthal and meets from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM. . . . Please note a schedule change for February:  the midweek Christian Formation series, "Vocation and Spirituality" will be on Thursday evenings, February 8 through February 22 . . . Attendance last Sunday: 161.


ACTIONS OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES, JANUARY 16, 2001, MEETING . . . At the January 16, 2001, meeting the Board of Trustees: 1. Elected two parishioners, Mr. Terrance O’Dwyer and Mr. Fred Peelen, as new members of the Board of Trustees.  2.  Approved the new budget for St. Mary’s for 2001.  3.  Learned that there are 92 pledges totaling $188,156.80 for 2001.  4.  Learned that the Music Search Committee will be meeting shortly to begin its decision making process, regarding the selection of a new Music Director.  5.  Heard that the Annual Parish Meeting will be on Sunday January 28, 2001, following the Solemn Mass that day.  Leroy Sharer, Secretary


The Calendar of the Week


Sunday           The Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Monday                      Vincent, deacon & martyr

Tuesday                      Phillips Brooks, bishop

Wednesday                 Weekday

Thursday                     The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends today.

Friday                         Timothy & Titus, companions of Paul                       Abstinence

Saturday                    John Chrysostom, bishop

                                    2:00 PM Holy Matrimony, Lady Chapel

                                    David Ray Copeland & Kimberly Danette Coleman


The Parish Clergy

The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,

The Reverend Allen Shin, curate, The Reverend Thomas Breidenthal, assistant,

The Reverend Arthur Wolsoncroft, The Reverend Canon Maurice Garrison, The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa, The Reverend J. Barrington Bates, assisting priests, The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.