Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Introit: Yearning For The Messiah

September 5th, 2013, Promulgated by Bernie

Introit to the Mass for Christmas Day_1395 1

At the church I attend the troublesome1 (to me) entrance or ‘gathering’ hymn has been dropped, replaced by the chanting of the traditional Introit. This reintroduction of the traditional Introit offers us the opportunity to rediscover an analogical interpretation of the rite that better communicates the sense of the unfolding of salvation history.

The Introit is a chant made up of an antiphon followed by a Psalm verse, and then the Glory Be to the Father. The antiphon is then repeated, thus concluding the Introit. The text of the Introit varies from day to day.

The Psalms of course are Old Testament and are understood by Christians as symbolic of the praises, prayers, and “sighs”2 of the Jewish people – a “yearning”3 for the coming of the Messiah. The Introit was interpreted by one medieval writer as representing “the praise of the Church of the Jews”4. The same author associated the “Introit antiphon with the praise offered by the patriarchs (e.g. Abraham), the Psalm verse with the praises of the prophets (e.g. Isaiah), and the Glory Be to the praises of the apostles.”5

For centuries, the Introit was chanted as the priest exited the sacristy and processed to the foot of the altar. How wonderful to contemplate the Jewish yearning for the coming of the Messiah expressed in an Old Testament Psalm while the priest –in the person of the Messiah—comes forth from the Father and approaches the altar of our salvation.

What do we think about during a ‘gathering’ hymn? Whatever it is I doubt that it holds as much depth of meaning as the traditional Introit especially considering that, in the Mass, a drama of cosmic proportions unfolds.


1 In my opinion, the usual entrance hymn and gathering ‘rite’ has deteriorated in many churches into something mundane and even, in some places, inappropriate. It is often followed by the banal “Good morning everyone! Thank you for coming! What a gorgeous morning.” There is almost always a comment on the weather and a list of names of people celebrating this or that or who did something needing recognition. We were visiting a church one Sunday where the priest, following the entrance song and silly greeting took a survey of where everyone was from to discover who had traveled the farthest. We were absolutely thrilled to be the winners as we don’t ever want to forget and stumble into that church again. I don’t wish to suggest that the contemporary entrance rite is somehow deficient as originally designed, just that it often seems subject to all kinds of abuses and triviality, including lousy music, that communicates nothing about the cosmic reason as to why we are, in fact, there. Incidentally, the entrance rite is often where we are treated to shoeless prancing of liturgical dancers worshiping bowls of incense (the universal reaction to which is congregational embarrassment). Oh yeah, that will bring in the crowds and fatten the plate.

2 James Monti, A  Sense of the Sacred, (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2012) p.31

3 Monti, 31

4 Monti,31

5 Monti, 31

Photo Credit: Illuminated Choir Book, 1395, by Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci; Introit to the Mass for Christmas Day. The picture represents the Nativity and the Annunciation to the Shepherds.



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