Fr. Gavin - The Sacrifice of the Mass - Introit, Kyrie, & Gloria
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AFTER kissing the altar and saying the last- mentioned prayer, the priest proceeds to the Epistle side of the altar, and with the sign of the Cross, begins the Introit.


Over the Introit in the Roman Missal on all Ember days, on the Sundays in Advent, and on all ferial Masses from Septuagesima to Low Sunday, we find such inscriptions as Statio ad S. Mariam Majorem Station at the Church of St. Mary Major; Statio ad S. Crucem in Jerusalem Station at the Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, &c. These words indicate the church where Holy Mass was said after a solemn procession in which the Pope, clergy, and laity joined. The church where the procession halted and Mass was celebrated was called the Station Church [static, a halting-place]. The Station with full solemnity consisted of three things. First, the assembling in a certain church; next, the procession to the Station Church; and thirdly, the Mass said there. The preparatory assemblage of people was called collecta; because clergy and people collected together previous to the solemn procession to the Station Church. The banner of the Cross headed the procession; Psalms were chanted, indeed and the Litany of the Saints, as the procession drew near to the Church. In the Station Church, before the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice, a homily was often delivered by the Pope.


The Stations were usually penitential, though we find them also on joyful festivals, as in Easter Week, on the Ascension and Pentecost. The Catholic Dictionary [Sixth Edition, p. 857], quoting from Fleury, says that Gregory the Great marked these Stations, as we now have them in the Roman Missal. In the Office for that Saint on March lath, in the sixth lesson we find the following reference to the Stations: "Litanias, Stationes, et Ecclesiasticum officium auxit." [Dr. Gihr, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. English translation, pp. 377 379.])


The Introit (introitus) is, as the word indicates, the "entrance" to the Mass. Here the Mass may be said to begin. The prayers at the foot of the altar may be considered the introduction to the Mass. There are two introductions to the Mass, general and special. The prayers before the Introit are the general, while the Preface forms the special introduction to the Canon, the fixed and more solemn portion of the Mass.


Since the Introit begins the Mass, the priest makes as he recites it the sign of the Cross. In Masses for the Dead the sign of the Cross is made over the Missal; it forms thus a suitable accompaniment to the Church’sprayer for rest and light for the souls in Purgatory.


The Introit consists nearly always of a passage from Holy Scripture with a verse of a Psalm and the Gloria Patri, after which the introductory passage is repeated. The Scripture passage forms an antiphon to the Psalm, which was formerly said entire. When the prayers of the Mass were shortened the first verse of the Psalm was retained often as an epitome of the whole.


Le Brun and Benedict XIV. attribute the introduction of Introits to Pope Gregory the Great, 590, others attribute the Introit to Pope Celestine L, 420.


The Introit gives the key to the Mass. The character of the Mass is known by the Introit. Joy, sorrow, hope, desire, fear, gratitude, contrition, in short, every feeling of the heart finds its expression in the Introit. Let us take a few examples:


In Masses for the Dead, the Church says: Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. Ps. A Hymn, O God, becometh Thee in Sion; and a vow shall be paid to Thee in Jerusalem. O hear my prayer; all flesh shall come to Thee. The Gloria Patri is omitted, as its tone is joyful.


For the great feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Church selects Isaias, ch. Ixi.: Rejoicing I will rejoice in the Lord and my soul shall exult in my God, because He has clad me with the garments of salvation, and has surrounded me with the vesture of gladness, like a bride adorned by her jewels.


Ps. xxix: I will extol Thee, O Lord, for Thou hast upheld me: and hast not made my enemies to rejoice over me. Our Lady, into whose mouth these words are put by the Church, rejoices because she has always been free from stain of original sin and her enemies never had power over her.


The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete, Sunday, from the first word of the Introit: Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice (Philip. iv.), because the Church rejoices at the near coming of Jesus Christ.


The Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday, from the first word of the Introit. The Church is again rejoicing because she draws nearer to the day of her deliverance through the Passion, and above all, through the Resurrection of her Founder from the Tomb.


Saints have special Introits which point to their characteristic virtues thus, St. Francis of Assisi, who was distinguished by his love of the Cross, has for his Introit the words of St. Paul: God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, while to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the singular honour belongs of having in the Introit an allusion to the name of his Order, the Society of Jesus: In the name of Jesus let every knee bow of those that are in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth: and let every tongue confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father (Philip, ii.), followed by the Psalm: All they that love Thy name shall glory in Thee, for Thou wilt bless the just. (Ps. v.)


Enough has been said to show that the Introit is a part of the Mass which gives it a character according to the day or season.




Originally the Kyrie was said at the Epistle side: the custom survives at High Mass.


The Kyrie eleison, "Lord have mercy on us," is said at every Mass without exception at Low Mass beneath the crucifix, at High Mass on the Epistle side after the Introit.


Kyrie Eleison is said thrice in honour of the Father; thrice in honour of the Son; thrice in honour of the Holy Ghost. We pray for mercy in the three-fold misery of ignorance, sin, and punishment. (S. Th. Hi. q. 3. ad 4.) The cry for mercy and forgiveness is most appropriately introduced at the beginning of the Sacrifice; the cry is repeated again and again, that we may offer the spotless Sacrifice with pure hands.




As we have already observed, the inscription on the Cross, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, was written in three languages Hebrew, Greek, and Latin so in the Mass, which is a re-presentation, a re-enactment of the Sacrifice on Calvary, the Church still uses these three languages. The revelation of God has been given to the world in the three languages found upon the Cross.




After the Kyrie comes the Gloria in excelsis. This hymn is sometimes called the greater Doxology to distinguish it from the lesser, the Gloria Patri. The author of the Church’sgreatest hymn of praise is unknown. The first verse, Glory be to God on high and on earth peace to men of good-will, was sung by the Angel and the heavenly host on Christmas night, as recorded by St. Luke. (ii. 14.) The Gloria was introduced into the Mass in the Roman Church first of all on Christmas Day, when it was sung in the first Mass in Greek, in the second in Latin. Up to the end of the eleventh century the Gloria was said by Bishops at Mass on Sundays and festivals, by priests only on Easter Sunday. At the close of the twelfth century this privilege gradually extended to priests. Since the revision of the Missal by Pius V., in 1570, the rule is to say the Gloria at Mass whenever the Te Deum is said at Matins that is, when the Mass conforms to the Office.


Glória in excélsis Deo. Et in terra pax homínibus bonæ voluntátis. Laudámus te. Benedícimus te. Adorámus te. Glorificámus te. Grátias ágimus tibi propter magnam glóriam tuam. Dómine Deus, Rex cæléstis, Deus Pater omnípotens. Dómine Fili unigénite, Jesu Christe. Dómine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris, Qui tollis peccáta mundi, miserére nobis. Qui tollis peccáta mundi, súscipe deprecatiónem nostram. Qui sedes ad déxteram Patris, miserére nobis. Quóniam tu solus Sanctus. Tu solus Dóminus. To solus Altíssimus, Jesu Christe. Cum Sancto Spíritu in glória Dei Patris. Amen.


Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace to people of good will. We praise You. We bless You. We worship You. We glorify You. Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father almighty. Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son. Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father. You, who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. You, who take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. You, who sit at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For You alone are holy. You alone are Lord. You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the Glory of God the Father. Amen.



Let me offer a brief and simple explanation of this hymn of praise.


Glory be to God on high, that is, may God be glorified, be honoured, and praised in Heaven, and on earth peace to men of good-will, and on earth may peace, the calm ever found where order reigns, belong to men who are the objects of God’sgood-will and special love who have pleased God. Now we enter on the creature’spraise of God we praise Thee; we wish in words to acknowledge Thy excellence, we bless Thee; as our Lord and God from whom all good things come. We adore Thee, we pay Thee that supreme homage of mind and will which God alone can claim; we glorify Thee, that through our words, however poor, the clear knowledge of Thee may spread abroad; Thy glory we wish to seek, not our own. We give Thee thanks for Thy great glory. These words express the very highest form of gratitude which human nature can reach. We thank Him, not for His goodness to us, but for the great glory which He has possessed from all eternity and will possess by the works of His hands.


O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty. The word Lord means owner and Supreme Master of Heaven and earth and all therein; and God is the fullness of every conceivable perfection. As heavenly King He rules over the Blessed choirs of Heaven. As Father He summons everything into being Almighty is the epithet most often applied to God in Scripture comprising all wisdom, knowledge, power to whom alone in token of supreme dominion Mass is offered.


We now come to the second portion of the hymn. The supplication is addressed to Jesus Christ.


O Lord Jesus Christ is our Saviour’s full title; as Lord He is Master of Heaven and earth, to whom as Man all power is given. Jesus (Saviour) comprises the whole work of redemption; Christ the anointed one hears us with the Father and deigns to pray for us to the Father. Christ is Man and God; He prays as Man, as God He grants what He prays for. (St. Augustine.) Lord God are the titles of omnipotence: Lamb of God refers to the Passion and to the mystical slaying at the Mass: who takest away the sins of the world these words were first used by St. John the Baptist, "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sin of the world " (St. John i. 29) on His Cross by complete redemption and satisfaction; have mercy on us is the Church’sprayer for pardon repeated again and again in her Offices and public prayers. Thou who sittest at the right hand of the Father; as Man Christ occupies the highest place in Heaven above angels and men, and as God is infinitely merciful: receive our petitions; these words do not perfectly render the original Latin suscipe deprecationem nostram; suscipe in Scriptural language means hear and mercifully grant, as in Gen. xix. 21. Etiain in hoc suscepi preces tuas "Behold in this also I have heard thy prayers not to destroy the city for which thou hast spoken." Suscipe has constantly this sense in the Mass.


Have mercy on us, says the Church, and forgive us our sins qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis; and forgive us also the evils that follow sin in the punishment we have deserved, suscipe deprecationem nostram; precatio, says St. Augustine, means a petition that good things be granted, deprecatio that evil things be averted.


The hymn concludes with these words of praise: For Thou alone art holy, holy by nature and by essence; holiness is Thy being, and all creatures borrow their holiness from Thee: Thou alone art Lord, absolute Master of Heaven and earth; man is but the steward of the few things he owns, Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, Thou alone, O Jesus Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high, because Thy Sacred Humanity is elevated and glorified above all created things, that Sacred Humanity is in the glory of God the Father. Amen.


A few ceremonies are prescribed to the priest in saying the Gloria. As he says or intones Gloria in excelsis he extends his hands and lifts them to his shoulders to show his ardent desire to praise God. At Deo he joins his hands and bows to the cross or to the Blessed Sacrament if exposed, and he bows at the words, we adore Thee, we give Thee thanks, receive our petitions, and twice on mentioning the name of Jesus.

  • CHAPTER THE FIRST. The Doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass 
  • CHAPTER THE SECOND. The Essence of the Mass 
  • CHAPTER THE THIRD. The Consecration of the Altar 
  • CHAPTER THE FOURTH. The Vestments 
  • CHAPTER THE FIFTH. The Asperges
  • CHAPTER THE SIXTH. The Ordinary of the Mass. Part the First: From the Beginning to the Offertory                                    
  • CHAPTER THE SEVENTH. The Introit, Kyrie, and Gloria in excelsis
  • CHAPTER THE EIGHTH. The Dominus vobiscum, Collect, Epistle                                   
  • CHAPTER THE NINTH. The Gradual, Alleluia, Tract, and Sequence   
  • CHAPTER THE TENTH. The Gospel and the Creed                               
  • CHAPTER THE ELEVENTH. Part the Second: The Offertory to the Canon                                   
  • CHAPTER THE TWELFTH. Part the Third: The Canon of the Mass                                   
  • CHAPTER THE THIRTEENTH. Part the Fourth: From the Pater Noster to the end of Mass                                    
  • CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH. The Ceremonies of High Mass                                   
  • CHAPTER THE FIFTEENTH. Mass for the Dead                                    
  • APPENDIX: The Language of the Mass