"Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Baptism is the gateway of life in the Spirit, the Church, and the other Sacraments. It makes sense that it be conveyed as early as possible. While a child obviously can't consciously choose Baptism, her parents can choose for her. In so doing, they accept for her the priceless gift of becoming a child of God.
Bless themselves when they enter and leave church?
Old Testament Jews washed with water before entering the Temple precincts. Building on a ritual familiar to the Jews, John the Baptist used water to represent repentance of sin and purification. So when we cross ourselves with holy water entering and leaving the church, we recall that history. We also invoke our Baptism when the priest used water to symbolically wash away our sin and protect us from evil.
Adopt different postures during the Mass?
Prayers are not limited to minds, hearts, and voices. God gave us our bodies not only to physically express ourselves in the world, but also to worship Him. When our bodies participate, we tend to pray with greater attention. That's one of the reasons we stand, kneel, and sit during Mass, we say the responses, we smell the incense, we eat and drink the Body of Christ. We are also invited to use gestures, for example, during the Confiteor we strike our breasts at the words "through my own fault" as a penance. Striking one's breast is an ancient symbol of repentance and sorrow.
Make the sign of the Cross?
Back in the second century when this practice began, it was common to honor a ruler with a gesture of respect. Whether bowing down on one knee or touching the forehead, such gestures were ritual ways to show humility before a person of great power. The Sign of the Cross became one such devotion to the Holy Trinity, and acted as a sign of recognition between early Christians who were sometimes forced to worship in secret. Now a prayer in itself, each time we make the Sign of the Cross, we express respect for God and call down his blessings on ourselves.
Pray the Rosary?
In the early Church, monks led services with Latin recitation of the Psalms called, "The Psalter." But most people couldn't read or write Latin, so the "Our Father" prayer was substituted so that people could easily pray together. Tradition holds that St. Dominic combined the Our Father and Hail Mary prayers with meditations on the mysteries of our faith into the rosary we know today. So the rosary makes it easy for us to pray together and to focus on the events of Jesus' life and glory.
Sometimes use incense in the Mass?
Today's incense is made from Frankincense, which is derived from the sap of desert trees. It has been prized in the Middle East for centuries, and became associated with Jesus since the Magi offered it as a gift. The sweet smell of incense is intended to please God and its smoke is like our prayers rising up to Heaven. Incense can be used during Mass to show reverence for the altar, the Gospels, the bread and wine, the assembly, and the body of the deceased during a funeral.
Go to Confession?
Disobeying God damages our friendship with him, so we need his forgiveness to heal it. That's why Jesus initiated the Sacrament of Reconciliation. "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19). This brings us back to God. In Confession, we admit what we did, say that we're sorry, and resolve never to do it again. Penance helps us make up for it. When the priest conveys Christ's forgiveness to us, our friendship is restored.
Offer Masses on Saturday night?
In the Jewish calendar, days are measured from sundown to sundown and celebrations begin the night before. Following this practice, the Church allows solemn liturgical celebrations to begin after 4:00 pm of the prior evening. Therefore, you can fulfill your obligation for Mass on Saturday evening because it is really a Sunday celebration. Such Masses of anticipation have been of special assistance to workers, caregivers, or others for whom attending Sunday Mass may be difficult or impossible.
Genuflect in church?
In medieval Europe, one demonstrated respect for a king or noble by going down on one knee. Building on that tradition, we bend on the right knee to show reverence for the Lord in the Eucharist when it is on the altar, in the tabernacle, or in the monstrance. (We also genuflect before the cross from Good Friday through Easter vigil.) Note: While the right knee is reserved for Jesus, we genuflect on the left knee before the pope, cardinals, or bishops.
Say "Amen" at the end of some prayers?
In Hebrew, the work "Amen" shares the same root as the word "believe." This root also expresses trustworthiness and faithfulness. When you read the gospels, you'll see that Jesus sometimes used the word "Amen" twice in a row to emphasize the trustworthiness of his teaching. He wanted his listeners to pay special attention. So when we say "Amen" at the end of a prayer, we reinforce our faith in what we just said. We also express our confidence that God will hear our prayers.
Light votive prayer candles in church?
A person can only pray for so long. Lighting a candle serves to prolong that prayer beyond our presence in the church. The candle remains behind and symbolizes the desire for the prayer to continue. So when we light candles in prayer, our intentions remain present even when we are gone. Next time you pass a candle rack, help prolong others' prayers by offering one for the intentions of the people who lit them.
Give the Sign of Peace during Mass?
The first words Jesus said to his apostles after his Resurrection were, "Peace be with you" (John 20:21). After that their fear disappeared. By offering each other the Sign of Peace at Mass, we share that peace with the entire Body of Christ. Jesus also told us to reconcile with one another before approaching the altar of God (Matthew 5:23). Thus, the Sign of Peace is a gesture of Reconciliation with those around us before continuing to the altar to receive Holy Communion.
Sacred Heart Parish 1110 14th Street, Bellingham, WA 98225 360.734.2850 Sacred Heart Parish is a Roman Catholic Parish and part of the Archdiocese of Seattle.