Understanding the Eucharist

Issue 26

The Mass Series:


As the people of God, gathered by God, we have entered the life of the Trinity with the sign of the Cross and the greeting.

But, having entered the presence of God, we stand before the truth of ourselves and we acknowledge, all of us, that we have sinned.  That’s really what the Penitential Act does, but it’s not all that it does.

Because the first thing we say is ‘I have sinned’ but the second thing we say to God, whose presence we have entered, is that you are an infinite mercy far, far greater than any of our sins.  So the acknowledgement of our sins gives way to the acclaim of God’s mercy and that combination is crucial.

To say we have sinned means we are very, very small in the presence of God, which is true.  But when we acclaim God’s mercy we recognise that this God stoops down to pick us up and make the little ones great.  So the truth of God and the truth of ourselves that we acknowledge, once we’ve entered the divine presence is that we are very small but we’re not nothing.  We are very small but the mercy of God makes us unbelievably great.

We don’t become God but we become human beings possessed of a unique and magnificent dignity because of the mercy of God.

So the Penitential Act has those two aspects but, in the end, it’s all about the truth that we discover and acknowledge only once we enter the presence of God, once we enter the sacred space and the sacred time of the Trinity.

And, then, once we have acknowledged and acclaimed the mercy of God, the cry that breaks forth, particularly on more solemn feast days, more important feasts, is the Gloria, where we take up the song of the angels.

“Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to his people on earth.”

Peace will only come to me and to us – all of us – if we discover that truth that I have sinned but there is mercy.  In a world that denies that there is sin and denies the possibility of mercy there can be no peace.

We save our high praise of the Gloria for the seasons that are not penitential.  Therefore the Gloria falls silent in Lent and Advent, not because we don’t understand the mercy, but we’re focusing upon sin more than the mercy that provokes the great praise of the angels and the Church in the Gloria.

So the cry of the angels: Glory to God, Father, Son and Spirit – for this gift of infinite mercy which is the life that is bigger than death and the power that heals every wound of sin.

So the acknowledgement of sin, the acclamation of mercy  and entering into the great song of the angels are all part of a single dynamic  that leads us more deeply into the mystery of God.

Information can be accessed at: click on this link 


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