Today we begin a long section of the GIRM (numbered sections 46 through 90) that reviews and legislates for the individual parts of the Mass. It’s important to remember these sections do not exhaust what the Church teaches on the Mass–to get the full Roman Missal picture, one also must look at the rubrics.
Sections 46-54 cover the introductory rites, and today we get a brief overview:
46. The rites that precede the Liturgy of the Word, namely, the Entrance, the Greeting, the Penitential Act, the Kyrie, the Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) and Collect, have the character of a beginning, an introduction, and a preparation.
Their purpose is to ensure that the faithful, who come together as one, establish communion and dispose themselves properly to listen to the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily.
In certain celebrations that are combined with Mass according to the norms of the liturgical books, the Introductory Rites are omitted or take place in a particular way.
If the time before Mass is less a time of preparation, then clearly the introductory rites themselves must shoulder some of that burden, including the provision for silence.
A pastor’s and liturgist’s concern in the big picture is to judge how to “establish communion,” which is not only done by the actual rites, but the manner of celebration itself. The presider of a particular celebration has a responsibility, too. How does the style of a priest facilitate or alas, sometimes get in the way of these three tasks in 46b?
46c is important for the times when sacramental celebrations, the funeral rites, or the Liturgy of the Hours are appended to the Mass.