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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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A prescribed antiphon (Introit) may be said or sung at the beginning of Mass.  If the priest recites it then it is moved to after the sign of the cross and greeting. On Sundays a religious hymn is frequently substituted to accompany an Entrance Procession. There is an antiphon for Holy Communion that can similarly be replaced by a sung hymn. Although not in the Roman Missal, an antiphon might be chanted during the Offertory; but usually it is either omitted or replaced with a hymn. While not strictly mandated by the rubrics, solemn Masses as on Holy Days and Sundays, most often in practice conclude with a recessional hymn.

After the Last Supper the Scriptures tell us that the apostles go singing to the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:30).  That which was celebrated in Passover celebration is now to be realized in time.  The time of their redemption is at hand.  They joyfully sing hymns of thanksgiving.  What do they sing?  No doubt they chant the great “Hallel” psalms of praise (113-118). The Lord would bring light from the darkness. Our Lord would endure betrayal by Judas and his arrest by the high priest’s guard. He enters into his prophesied passion and death. The Mass begins.  

The hymn can induce an atmosphere conducive to worship, unifying in song the congregated people of faith. Too often the lyrics of religious songs stray from the parameters of sacred music.  I often thought this was the case with much of the folk song (but not all) that we regularly sang in the days immediately after the transition to Mass in the vernacular.  All secular songs and many religious compositions work better on the radio and around the campfire than in the church.  The old Mass faced a similar dilemma, albeit when classical pieces became so elaborate that they overwhelmed the worship itself.  Pope Pius X favored a restoration of simplified Gregorian chant over the polyphony and orchestration that would be more at home in a concert hall. Somewhat in contradiction, I read Pope Benedict XVI lamented that the works of Mozart, Bach and others fell from use in the liturgy given that the compositions so powerfully raised hearts and minds to God and represented the highest expressions of human genius and creativity to honor almighty God in music. Nevertheless, liturgical music should find its home in the Mass, not as a disjointed entertainment but as an integrated prayer. Appropriate liturgical song reflects its particular placement and functionality in the liturgy as well as the theme (in the readings) or season in the liturgical calendar.  

When the processional reaches the altar, the priest and servers bow. Given that the tabernacle may be situated behind the main altar, they might genuflect instead.  There are many genuflections during Mass, directed to either the altar or tabernacle.  Sometimes it is wondered why some priests only bow. Most of the time this deviation from the norm simply has to do with aging ministers with bad knees and aching backs.  But the clergy do what they can, trusting that both God and the Church understand accommodations for age and fragility. (A traveling female friend tells me of a priest who is pushed in a wheelchair to a small table in front of the main altar of his church. Two men assist him at Mass by raising his arms and manipulating his frail hands. The parish is poor and lacks professional musicians but as soon as he begins to sing with his weak and wavering voice he is immediately accompanied by the congregation. My friend shares with a congregant after Mass, “It is too bad you do not have a healthy priest.” The parishioner sharply responds, “What do you mean?  We have our priest and the Mass, what more could we want?” The solidarity with the old sick priest and the underlying truth of what she says brings me to tears.  At  a time when the liturgy wars in the Church fight over accidentals, here is a community that knows what it is really all about.) Returning to the procession, if there is a deacon he may carry the Book of the Gospels, placing it on the altar.  At the time for the Gospel he will process with it from the Altar to the Ambo, visually illustrating the link between the table of the Eucharist and the table of the Word.  The priest (and the deacon) venerate the altar with a kiss. The altar is symbolic of Christ.  A server places the processional cross in its holder, facing the people.  Today it is mandated that there is a crucifix on the altar facing the priest.  Incense may be offered toward the altar.  If so it will later be used at the Ambo prior to the proclamation of the Gospel.  Later it will be offered over the gifts upon the altar and may include an incensing of the priest, other ministers and the assembled worshippers.  The meaning is always the same.  We desire our prayers to rise like the smoke of the incense to almighty God (see Psalm 141:2). 

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