VATICAN CITY — Don't be late for Mass believing the introductory rites don't 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 at 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 in the introductory rites "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.
Everyone gathers around the altar, "not to look at each other. No. But to look at Christ," who is at the center of the community — not far away.
With the sign of the cross, the priest and assembly recognize the liturgy is carried out "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." It is a sign of the mystery of the Trinity, of Christ's loving sacrifice and resurrection, and of each person's baptism, he said.
Pope Francis again urged parents and grandparents to teach children from a very young age how to make the sign of the cross properly and what it means. He said so often it looks like kids are just gesturing "a picture of something" that is definitely not a cross. "Explain to them that they will have Jesus' cross as protection," he added.
The celebrant will then greet the assembly, for example, with "The Lord be with you," and the assembly's response, "And with your spirit," shows the community of God in dialogue, he said.
The penitential act following the greeting invites all those gathered to recognize their sins and ask for forgiveness.
It is more than a moment of self-reflection, he said; it is "an invitation to admit that one is a sinner before God and before the community of brothers and sisters with humility and sincerity, like the publican at the temple."
Pope: Coldest hearts can be warmed by Christmas cheer
VATICAN CITY — Christmas joy expressed through music brings a message of peace and brotherhood for those most in need, Pope Francis said.
Meeting with organizers and artists participating in a benefit Christmas concert at the Vatican, the pope said the talents of musicians and artists during the festive season "is a formidable way to open the doors of the mind and heart to the true meaning of Christmas."
"Christmas is a heartfelt feast, participatory, capable of warming the coldest hearts, of removing the walls of indifference toward one's neighbor, of encouraging openness toward the other and giving freely," he said Dec. 15.
The proceeds of the Dec. 16 concert, which is sponsored by the Pontifical Congregation for Catholic Education, will be donated to two organizations — Scholas Occurrentes and the "Don Bosco in the World" Foundation — to benefit children's programs in Argentina and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The pope thanked the artists and the event organizers for donating their time and talents to "the needs of the needy and disadvantaged who beg for help and solidarity" and for promoting peace and compassion through music.
Pope Francis said he hoped the concert would be "an occasion to sow tenderness — this word that is often forgotten today. Violence, war, no! Tenderness! That it may sow tenderness, peace and hospitality which flows from the grotto in Bethlehem," the pope said.
— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service