RCIA 296: Opening Prayer for the Penitential Rite

img_6803I don’t want to gloss over the important aspects of this rite. I’ll take it slow and you may find interesting insights in the rite. These opening prayers certainly reveal something of the intent of the rite, the connection between penance and baptism, and the expectations and hopes for children who are celebrating.

After the entrance song, the priest has an option of one of two prayers. I presume that a ritual greeting (The Lord be with you, etc.) would not be out of place, but remember that the rubrics for RCIA 295 state the place for explanations or introductions is before the song, not after. This would be in keeping with the important liturgical principle of singing the Mass, not singing at the Mass, even when the music in question is a song or hymn.

My sense is that after the people have gathered, I would use the ritual greeting, offer very brief remarks if needed, sing the song, then offer the prayer. There are two choices in the ritual, but not “other words,” as we’ve often seen.

Option A of RCIA 296 is brief and to the point:

God of pardon and mercy,
you reveal yourself in your readiness to forgive
and manifest your glory by making us holy.

Grant that we who repent
may be cleansed from sin
and restored to your life of grace.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Option B is even shorter:

grant us your pardon and peace,
so that, cleansed of our sins,
we may serve you with untroubled hearts.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

It’s easy to skip over small prayers like this. But they serve a great instructional purpose for students of the liturgy. Notice the focus on God–that’s obvious. Notice the definition of divine glory: God’s agency in making people holy. Notice the presumption that people come to the penitential rite in a posture of repentance, and yet we still ask for sin to be cleansed. And in option B, notice the related qualities of peace and being “untroubled.” These teach children some vital qualities of penance: that being truly contrite means an awareness of the inner brokenness of sin, and that we freely ask God to intercede, and to forgive and restore us. The Church’s sacramental structure give a ritualization to our feelings of sorrow and our petition for God’s agency. And it does so in direct language that teaches us a lot in just a few sentences.

Other comments?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in post-conciliar liturgy documents, RCIA, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

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