Entrance Rite (Part 1)
The first major rite of the liturgy-proper is the Entrance Rite. The intent of this portion of the liturgy is to corporately prepare to enter into the throne room of God. This rite includes several elements:
Procession and Hymn of Ascent
The opening hymn is intended to unite our hearts in focused attention towards where we are headed in our worship. We are preparing to enter the throne room of God; we are preparing for Christ descend to us and for us to ascend to Him. As a result, the hymn tends to be focused on some aspect of corporate rejoicing and adoration.
As this hymn is sung, the procession to the altar takes place. In its fullest expression, the procession consists of the cross/crucifix, symbolizing that Christ goes before us in life and worship and that we enter into His presence only through His shed blood and sacrifice. Next comes two lucifers/torch bearers; their lights reminding us of the light of Christ to the world. Next comes the choir, which includes both the vocal "choir" as well as those who are to "sit in choir," including any lectors or laity participating in the liturgy. The final people to enter are the sacred ministers, which typically consists of the deacon, carrying the Gospel book, followed by the celebrant. Notice that even if there are those who are in a higher office that are processing, it is the sacred ministers that come last because they are involved specifically with the ministry of the altar, with the celebrant of the Mass as the one who is the representative of the people in the throne room of God and before the heavenly altar.
Prayers at the Foot of the Altar & the Collect for Purity
Once the procession reaches the chancel and the various participants transition to their appropriate positions, the sacred ministers approach the foot of the altar. This is a time of final preparation for those serving at the altar. To aid in this preparation, the celebrant and others in the altar party kneel before the altar to pray a prayer of confession, not only give a general confession to God but also confess to one another and to the the church, both militant (on earth) and expectant (in heaven).
This act of preparation concludes with a prayer of preparation for the entire congregation gathered for the liturgy, known as the Collect for Purity:
ALMIGHTY God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Through this prayer, the celebrant proclaims on behalf of all who have gathered the desire to have hearts that are cleansed and laid open so that the worship of the people be acceptable unto God. Following this prayer, the people, with the priest as a representative of them, are prepared to take a step into the sanctuary of God. It is only at this point that the celebrant transitions from standing at the foot of the altar to ascend into the sanctuary.
(As published in St. Luke's bulletin, 5/6/18)