Once the Church began to celebrate the Eucharist within large buildings, it was natural to utilize the space these structures provided. Since the sacristy (preparation room) was located close to the entrance of the major churches in Rome, the pope accompanied by a large retinue of ministers entered the church and solemnly processed from its door to the altar. The precise period when this solemn entrance developed is not known: it is attested for the papal Mass shortly after 701 A.D. Outside Rome, where there were fewer ministers, the procession was more modest. but as the Mass was gradually linked to the Liturgy of the Hours for which the clergy were already assembled, sacristies came to be located in proximity to the sanctuary. Consequently, the procession was generally abbreviated or fell into complete disuse. Today, it has been restored, usually with the priest and ministers processing from the rear of the church.
General Introduction of the Roman Missal (The Church’s Textbook)
No. 82 The priest and the ministers put on their vestments and when the people have assembled, go to the altar in this order:
a) a minister with lighted censer or thurible, if incense is used;
b) ministers with lighted candles, according to circumstances; between them, if the occasion demands, a minister with the cross; then other ministers who are present;
c) a reader, who may carry the gospel book or a deacon with the Book of the Gospels
d) a priest
If incense is used, the priest puts some in the incenser before the procession begins.
The entrance procession is not only a solemn introduction of the priest and other ministries to the sanctuary, but is also a visual expression of the people becoming a liturgical community. The assembly manifests the presence of Christ and the very nature of the Church whose members possess distinct offices and ministries.
Questions for Reflection:
1. Is it always desirable to have an entrance procession?
2. How do I use my time to get ready to come to Mass?
Scripture: “Come withing his gates giving thanks,
Enter his courts with songs of praise,
Give thanks to him and bless his name!” (Ps. 100:4)