Last week, I pointed out how the traditional design of Catholic Churches goes back to the way the Israelites camped in the desert before the covenant of Sinai. There are other descriptions of the Israelite camp in the book of Numbers, but that one is after the covenant with the arc present. Why did the Apostles and Church Fathers choose the earlier configuration as the model for our worship? I have two ideas: first they were traveling at this moment directly toward the Holy Land and hadn’t yet doubted God’s providence nor fallen into idolatry, second, this motivates us, having been cleansed in Baptism to move directly toward God, and our promised land of heaven, thereby, avoiding sin and idolatry.
Making our procession into the sanctuary of the church, we carry the crucifix, candles, and on solemn occasions, incense. In Exodus 13:21- 22, it says that God led the Israelites through the wilderness with a column of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. So we have the candles and incense to evoke that history but also the Crucifix since Jesus, by his passion, death, and resurrection, leads us to Heaven and opens its gate for us.
After reverencing the altar and starting the Mass with the greeting, we pass on to the “confiteor” known as the penitential rite in English. We remember that we are sinful creatures before our perfect creator, just as Moses did on Mt. Horeb when he looked down at the ground and God told him to remove his sandals. (Exodus 3:1-4, 17). Thus, humbling ourselves before God and recognizing our sinfulness we endear ourselves to Him. We then recite the “Gloria” which marks the end of the Old Covenant (Testament) and the beginning of the New, as it marks the moment of Jesus’ birth. That is why we don’t recite it during Lent but do so in a special and solemn way during the Christmas Masses. (to be continued)