Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 20 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Why does Mass begin with a procession?


Pascal Deloche | Godong

Philip Kosloski - published on 02/15/20

The entrance procession is highly symbolic, reminding us that our life is a pilgrimage to the heights of Heaven.

In the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, Mass typically starts with a procession, whether it starts from the entrance of the church or the sacristy. While it may appear to be a practical consideration, the procession does have a spiritual aspect to it.

During the first few centuries after Christianity was legalized in Rome, the pope would frequently gather with his little flock at various points in the city and then process to a different “stational” church. The Catholic Encyclopediaoffers a brief description of this early version of the procession.

The pontiff, the clergy, and the people assembled in the appointed church, where the clergy vested and the office was begun…As the procession moved along to the stational church where the Mass was to be offered the Kyrie Eleison and the litanies were sung, from which the procession itself was often called litania.

It was often called a “penitential procession,” and was used as a way to prepare the hearts of those who were to participate in Mass. The physical act of moving from one place to another gave the faithful a chance to get away from the world and enter into something very solemn and moving.

While this action was shortened over the centuries, Mass was always preceded by a smaller procession within the church building. It still retained many of the same features and also became a symbolic gesture that reminded the faithful of their procession or “pilgrimage” to Heaven.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the spiritual symbolism of a pilgrimage.

Pilgrimages evoke our earthly journey toward heaven and are traditionally very special occasions for renewal in prayer. (CCC 2691)

The sanctuary of the church is naturally a place that symbolize heaven, with the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Furthermore, often the sanctuary is elevated by a number of steps. This too has symbolism, lifting up our eyes (and hearts) to God, but also reminding us of Jesus’ ascent to Mount Calvary. The priest assumes this role and ascends to a “mystical” Mount Calvary to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, participating in the one sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

The next time you attend Mass, try to internalize the entrance procession and use it as an opportunity to prepare your heart for what is about to happen, transporting yourself from this world into the mystical “Supper of the Lamb,” where we hope to be fully united with God for all eternity.


Read more:
Why is the Gospel led by candles and incense at Mass?


Read more:
Why do priests drop a piece of host into the chalice?

Devotions and FeastsMass

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
Visalia CHURCH
J-P Mauro
The largest Catholic parish church in the US will soon be in Cali...
Zelda Caldwell
A pilgrimage to Paris’ Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.