Liturgy of the Catholic Church

Liturgy and Para-Liturgical Celebrations

Archive for August, 2008

Veneration of Altar at End of Mass


And More on Concelebrants From Different Rites

ROME, JULY 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: What is the procedure for the veneration of the altar by concelebrants at the end of Mass? Do all concelebrants venerate the altar, or is this only reserved for the main celebrant? When concelebrating, I merely bow to the altar, but have noticed that many others kiss the altar. — M.C., Durban, South Africa

A: This topic is dealt with succinctly in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 251: “Before leaving the altar, the concelebrants make a profound bow to the altar. For his part the principal celebrant, along with the deacon, venerates the altar with a kiss in the usual way.”

Thus the principal celebrant kisses the altar, and simultaneously all concelebrants bow deeply. This norm presupposes that the concelebrants remain standing at their seats.

After making this bow, the concelebrants may leave the sanctuary in several ways, depending on the numbers involved and the logistics of the movements.

If there are many concelebrants, and the tabernacle is not present in the sanctuary, the bow they made as the principal celebrant kissed the altar may be considered as sufficient, and they begin at once to leave their places in an orderly way, following the acolytes.

If the tabernacle is present in the sanctuary, then, after kissing the altar, the main celebrant goes to the front of the altar and all the concelebrants, remaining at their places, may genuflect along with him before beginning the exit procession. If this is likely to cause logistical difficulties, or if there is no space in which to genuflect, then it is sufficient for the principal concelebrant to make the genuflection.

If there are few concelebrants, then they line up with the principal celebrant and servers in front of the altar and all bow or genuflect together as the case may be.

Monsignor Peter J. Elliott describes some other particular cases in his ceremonies guide, in Nos. 449-450. He states:

“If a long recessional hymn is being sung, the concelebrants may come before the altar in twos and bow or genuflect in pairs. In this case, the servers leading them to the sacristy should move slowly, so as to avoid breaking up the procession. If there are many concelebrants, and they are arranged in positions away from the sanctuary area, they may remain in their places until the principal celebrant and other concelebrants and servers have left the sanctuary and follow in a separate procession. However this is not ideal as it diminishes their role.

“On arriving in the sacristy, if there is room for them, the concelebrants should line up facing the crucifix or image or the processional cross, held by the cross bearer, and so as to allow the principal celebrant to come to the center of the room. All make the customary reverence together and then proceed quietly to the designated place or vesting room where each concelebrant un-vests, in a spirit of recollection and peace.”

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Follow-up: Concelebrants From Different Rites

Along with the recent question on priests of different rites concelebrating (June 26), other queries have asked about the concelebration itself.

One priest asked for a clarification as to the concept “principal celebrant.” He wrote: “To me it seems that one is either a celebrant or not. This is particularly annoying in vesture. To distinguish between the celebrants seems to confuse the idea of a hierarchical liturgy. I understand the practicality of the distinction, but it seems that with the frequency of concelebration, concelebrants seem like ‘secondary’ ministers not equal in dignity to the celebrant — the bishop being a different matter altogether is understood.”

Of course, except in the case of a bishop, all priest concelebrants have the same dignity and all equally celebrate. This is emphasized by such details as the priest who reads the Gospel not asking for a blessing from another priest as he would from a bishop.

However, when the Church restored the practice of concelebration it decided that the model for all concelebrations would be the Mass presided over by the bishop.

This principle, as well as the need to preserve the unity and dignity of the celebration, resulted in the decision not to divide the principal rites and prayers among several priests. Rather, only one of them would carry them out, except for some parts of the Eucharistic Prayer.

This priest, who is called the principal celebrant, also establishes the basic rhythm of the celebration to which the other priests adjust.

Since it is he who presides over the assembly, it is congruous, but not strictly necessary, that he wear a different chasuble if all celebrants are fully vested. If the other concelebrants are wearing just an alb and stole, then he must wear a chasuble over the alb and stole.

This brings us to another related question from the Philippines: “Does the rule of wearing a proper vestment (alb, chasuble and stole) during concelebration apply to a Mass celebrated at a private chapel of the residence of priests? Will it be proper for a priest just to participate in the Mass without concelebrating?”

The Mass, even if celebrated in a private chapel, is always a public action of the Church and therefore the same rules apply everywhere.

The Church highly recommends daily Mass to all priests even if no congregation can be present, but it does not oblige the priest to celebrate. In this way a priest may simply attend a Mass.

Nevertheless, unless the priest has another Eucharistic celebration the same day, it is much better that he concelebrate rather than merely assist. In this way he can obtain more graces for souls in need, and thus more fully exercise his pastoral charity.

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When Words Over the Host Are Repeated

And More on Litanies at Weddings

ROME, JULY 3, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: My parish priest recited the words of consecrating the host twice: first over the host and then over the chalice. He did not appear to notice — although a number of parishioners did. Certainly he did not go back and recite the correct prayer. Was the consecration of the chalice valid? Was the Mass valid? There was a deacon at that Mass, but he did not intervene. He was as startled as any of us and before we realized what had happened the priest was continuing with the next part of the Eucharistic Prayer. Should the deacon have intervened at once, even to the point of interrupting the Eucharistic Prayer? Should anyone have intervened at once, even if that means calling out from the pews? — F.T., England

A: This question highlights the importance of us priests being attentive during the celebration, above all at the essential moments of Mass.

It is advisable not to trust too much to memory and to read these prayers directly from the missal. Many of us have perhaps fallen into some error by excessive trust in automatic pilot.

The question is rather delicate, but I will try to answer succinctly. The consecration of the host was valid. The consecration of the chalice was not, for the priest’s intention to consecrate cannot supply for the lack of proper sacramental form.

As a consequence the Mass, which requires the consecration of both species, was not valid. Those who received the host at communion were in the same state as those who receive Communion outside of Mass.

What should the deacon or the faithful have done? As a priest is as human as everyone else, and can also get tired and distracted, they should comprehend that such mishaps may occur. The mishaps should, however, be remedied as soon as possible.

In the case at hand the deacon should have immediately, albeit quietly, interrupted the priest as soon as he realized that he was using the mistaken formula. If no deacon is present, then one of the faithful may approach the altar and inform him.

The priest, as soon as he has realized his mistake, should then recite the proper formula. If he had just initiated the second part of the Eucharistic Prayer he may repeat it. If the Eucharistic Prayer was already near the end or completed, then he should interrupt the Mass at that point, quietly recite the formula of consecration, and then continue the Mass from where he left off.

If he were informed of his error just after Mass ended, then he should immediately consecrate and consume the species of wine in order to complete the Sacrifice, even, if necessary, in the sacristy.

If he becomes aware of his error after some time has elapsed, then nothing remains to be done but seek forgiveness and commit himself to be more attentive in the future. If a stipend were attached to the celebration of the Mass in question, another Mass must be celebrated to fulfill the obligation.

A moment of slight priestly embarrassment is a small price to pay for assuring the validity of the celebration. Likewise, a priest’s meekness and humility in recognizing his error will be a source of edification to the faithful and serve to temper any harsh judgments.

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Follow-up: Why No Litanies at a Wedding

Several readers commented on the prospects of using the litany of saints during a wedding (see June 19).

One priest wrote: “I just thought I would share with you an interesting use of the litany that I saw at a wedding Mass I attended while I was a seminarian. The litany was used as the gathering song during the entrance. I found it to be an interesting way to include the Litany of the Saints in the wedding Mass. I should add that the procession was an actual procession, and not just a fancy entrance of the bride.”

This described use of the litany as a gathering or entrance song is quite appropriate.

Another reader informed me that a couple of bishops’ conferences either have already approved or are in process of approving and submitting to the Holy See for confirmation, revised rituals for weddings which foresee the possibility of substituting the Litany of the Saints for the prayer of the faithful.

There were some other questions related to weddings. A reader from Ottawa asked: “After discussing wedding ideas with my significant other, I have realized that we together know about four priests! What is the appropriate role in the wedding service for ‘extra’ priests? Are they merely guests? Do they ‘concelebrate’ (an inaccurate term, but a better one eludes me) the marriage?”

There is no difficulty in priests concelebrating at a wedding Mass. Only one priest, however, usually the pastor or the priest duly delegated to receive the vows, may officiate at the specific matrimonial rites which may not be divided among several ministers. For serious reasons, however, another priest may preach the homily.

A correspondent from Vietnam mentioned a rather unusual novelty: “At our parish, sometimes two readers share the same reading in the Mass, especially in the wedding Mass where the bride and the bridegroom read the first reading, each takes over a half. I wonder if this practice is allowed.”

As it is impossible for liturgical norms to cover all that the imagination can concoct, it is not explicitly forbidden. But it does go against sound liturgical practice. If both bride and groom wish to read, then one can do the reading and the other one the psalm. The lectionary for ritual Masses also allows the possibility of adding a second reading.

Finally, a reader from Michigan consulted: “In July a wedding is scheduled to take place in our parish at our usual 6 p.m. Mass. Some few parishioners are upset about this and claim that weddings must be done at a separate Mass. Would you please explain if this is permissible. I should tell you that we are in a semi-rural community and our pastor, as with so many priests, must take care of two parishes.”

There is no rule that weddings should be celebrated at a separate Mass. And it is even recommendable that, at least occasionally, some sacraments, such as baptism and even matrimony, be celebrated within a Sunday Mass.

This serves to highlight the community sense of these sacraments. Marriage “in the Lord” is not just a private affair but a source of joy for the whole ecclesial community. Such a celebration should also help remind the couple that their commitment is not just to themselves but to God and the Church.

Since a wedding at a regular Sunday Mass can lead to some practical difficulties, the pastor needs to take the needs of regular churchgoers into account. By notifying well in advance, the pastor has assured that those who do not wish to attend have plenty of time to establish alternative plans.

There are also some specific norms regarding the situations when it is possible to celebrate the ritual Mass of Matrimony on a Sunday and in what circumstances the regular Sunday readings may be changed. If the readings and prayers are to be taken from the ritual Mass at a parish which habitually provides missalettes to the faithful, then sufficient booklets should be prepared for all who attend.