On the Divine Liturgy I: I will go unto the altar of God, the God who gives joy to my youth.
Before we begin, we call ourselves to attention. My headline is from the Mass of my childhood, and was the beginning of the penitential rite in thoes days, and, though the words have changed, what we do is the same. We are called to attention, and prepare ourselves, by begging the forgiveness of our sins. We place to one side for this time all the distractions and troubles and trials in order to do this timeless work. All liturgy is the work of the faithful --- that is what the very word "liturgy" means.
Knowing our weakness and faults, but knowing also the faithfulness and the mercy of God, we draw near, both because we love and because we are commanded to do so. As our bishop or our priest ascends those three steps that separate the altar from everywhere else, to reverence the altar; as we beg each other for prayers in the Confiteor and plead for the Lord's mercy; we prepare ourselves to participate in this great offering with the entire Church in all times, and outside of time in the eternal present.