Sacraments of Initiation
Part 2 History

Chapter i20 Summary History of  Christian Initiation


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r4102 Greeting
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r4102 Greeting
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r4102 Greeting
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r4102 Greeting
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The Reconciliation of Penitents
Part One:  Gathering

Chapter 2 Greeting

Historical Survey

Documentation

Pastoral Reflection

Suggested Questions for Discussion

Historical Survey

We would expect to find that the greeting of the assembly by the presiding minister is one of the oldest elements of the gathering rite. It is "natural" for the one presiding to greet and welcome those assembling for the celebration. In the period of canonical penance the traditional greeting in Rome was "The Lord be with you."  We find this greeting already in the book of Ruth. When Ruth was gleaning ears of grain in the field of Boaz, "Boaz himself came from Bethlehem and said to the harvesters, ‘The Lord be with you!' and they replied, ‘The Lord bless you!'" (Ruth 2:4).

Tariff penance began in a non-ritual context and there were no ritual greetings. Evidently there were some first words between the penitent and the monk, but they were not in the form of a ritual greeting.

As the sacrament evolved to the modern period we find rituals directing the penitent to come to the priest and ask: "Reverend Father, your blessing please." The priest replies: "May the Lord be in your heart and on your lips that you may correctly confess all your sins. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The penitent then began the Confiteor, "I confess to almighty God, to blessed Mary, ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the saints and to you, Father, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, (here the penitent would mention the specific sins, and then continue) through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech blessed Mary, ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the saints, and you, Father, to pray to the Lord our God for me."

As confessions became more frequent, and especially during the peak of the reign of Pope Pius XII, this greeting and formula were found to be too long -- especially when there were many people waiting in line to go to confession. In the actual practice of the period, confession usually began in a rather confused way. The penitent and priest could not see one another because of the confessional screen. Upon hearing the penitent enter (or upon opening the slide blocking the screen in the two sided confessionals popular in the United States before the Council) the priest let the penitent know that he was there and ready by saying "May the Lord bless you" and then made the sign of the cross in the direction of the penitent. The penitent would then say: "Bless me, father, for I have sinned" and make the sign of the cross. And penitent continued: "My last confession was . . . These are my sins . . ." The prayer book I used during those years suggested that "it is well to say the Confiteor just before going into the confessional."

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Documentation

Rite of Penance

1 cont. On the day of Pentecost Peter preached the forgiveness of sins by baptism: "Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Since then the Church has never failed to call people from sin to conversion and through the celebration of penance to show the victory of Christ over sin.

2. This victory is first brought to light in baptism where our fallen nature is crucified with Christ so that the body of sin may be destroyed and we may no longer be slaves to sin, but rise with Christ and live for God. For this reason the Church proclaims its faith in "one baptism for the forgiveness of sins."

23. When the faithful have gathered, a suitable hymn may be sung. Then the priest greets them and, if necessary, he or another minister gives a brief introduction to the celebration and explains the order of service. 49. After the song the priest greets the congregation:

Grace, mercy, and peace be with you
from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Savior.
R. And also with you.

or:

Grace and peace be with you
from God the Father
and from Jesus Christ
who loved us
and washed away our sins in his blood.
R. Glory to him for ever. Amen.

Other forms of greeting may be chosen from nos. 94-96.

96. The greetings from the introductory rites of Mass may also be used.

49 cont. Then the priest or another minister speaks briefly about the importance and purpose of the celebration and the order of the service.

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Pastoral Reflection

Greetings are worded to fit the occasion: informal situations call for informal greetings whereas formal situations call for formal greetings. Liturgical occasions call for a liturgical greeting.

The greeting is expressed in the form of a "wish" or a "desire" on the part of the presiding minister for the assembly. It is much like saying "Good day"; it is not a statement of fact or a weather report (e.g. "Today is a good day") but communicates a desire: "I hope that you are having a good day." What do the greetings given in the Rite of Penance "desire" for the assembly? Grace, mercy, peace, openness, restoration to God's friendship.

The rite states that the greetings from the introductory rites of the Mass may also be used. The sign of the cross, with which we were marked at our baptism, is a fitting way to begin the sacrament of penance which the early Church writers often called "second baptism."

The Sacramentary suggests that Sunday Mass might begin with a rite in which water is blessed and used to remind us of our baptism. The sacrament of reconciliation might also begin with a water rite which would indicate the intimate connection between the sacraments of baptism, eucharist, and penance. The symbolic use of water would be especially appropriate when the opening prayer speaks of water, for example (50 B): "Lord, send your Spirit among us to cleanse us in the waters of repentance." A water rite might be appropriate during Advent when the readings speak of John the Baptist at the banks of the Jordan river calling for repentance, or when the readings speak of Jesus' own baptism. A water rite would be less appropriate during Lent when we are longing for and looking forward to the blessing of water and the baptism of the catechumens and the renewal of our own baptism during the Paschal Vigil.

After the greeting the presiding minister (or someone else) might introduce the theme of this particular celebration or announce any special motives for reconciliation at this time. Any directions or needed information for the ordering of the service can be given to the assembly at this time so that they can pray and worship without being overly distracted by worrying about "what comes next". Too many surprises seldom foster liturgical prayer.

As the rite is still "new" for many people, a word of explanation may be given concerning this form of the sacrament. However, as with all "explanations" during worship, "care should be taken to keep them brief and not too wordy, for otherwise they become tedious." (CDW April 27, 1973).

How does the celebration of the sacrament usually begin in your parish?

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Suggested Questions for Discussion

Do you think that most greetings by the presiding minister are sincere? Should the greeting be read from a book?

When is it appropriate for the presiding minister to extend an informal greeting?

In your parish is an explanation of the service given as the rite begins? Is this helpful?

When would the symbolic use of water be appropriate to begin the service? Are there other symbols which could be used to gather the people into a worshiping community and to aid them to begin their prayer?

Is it the liturgical role of the presiding minister to do the greeting, or is it appropriate for the members of the assembly to greet one another, or both?

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© Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 03/20/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at tomrichs@psci.net.