Those of us who are over fifty years old remember when there was no opening
procession to begin Mass. The priest and a couple ofservers simply walked out
into the sanctuary, this area around the altar from the sacristy, the place where
the priest puts on his vestments.
The only exception occurred when the bishop came to a parish. Then there was
always a procession, just as there always was when the Pope celebrated Mass.
In 1963 The Vatican Council published the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,
and many things began to change. What many of us don’t know is that some of
the changes were not new. They were attempts to reintroduce some very old
ways of celebrating Mass, including the opening procession. For instance, as
long ago as the year 701AD there is record of a procession to begin Mass in

This procession isn’t just a way to get the priest to the altar. Its purpose is to
gather everyone together – to begin with something unifying – a procession and
singing – bringing a sense of joy and setting the theme for the celebration.
Our music director always carefully selects a processional hymn to fit the
occasion, and we should sing it to the end or at least to some thematic
conclusion, not just end it when the celebrant gets to the altar. A server carries
a cross bearing the likeness of Christ. It leads the altar servers, deacon, and
priest to the sanctuary. At the steps of the sanctuary each person genuflects or
bows their head as a sign of reverence for the altar and the crucifix, and the
presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle. Next week we will talk about the altar,
another rich symbol of the Catholic Eucharist.
Johnson, Lawrence J., the Mystery of Faith: A Study of the Structural Elements of the Order of the Mass, p. 5.