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“Brothers” or “Sisters”

And More on Breast-Beating

ROME, JAN. 10, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q1: During the celebration of the Eucharist, when the Confiteor is said, I have been observing in formation houses and religious communities that if the congregation consists only of males they say, “I confess …, and to you my brothers,” and if females only they say, “I confess …, and to you my sisters.” Is this practice correct? — T. P. Shillong, India

Q2: At Mass, at the penitential rite, I have seen priests, when saying, “May Almighty God have mercy … ever-lasting life” raise their hands as a kind of blessing or absolution. Is that proper? — A.P., Margate, Florida

A: The first question involves the particularities of the English language. In many languages, the masculine form does double duty and can refer to just males or to a mixed group. Thus, for example, in Latin, Spanish and Italian it is only necessary to use the equivalent of “brothers” to refer to the whole assembly.

In English “brethren” can serve this purpose and in fact may be used to introduce the penitential rite. However, perhaps for stylistic reasons, it was not included as part of the “I confess.” Thus in the English translation we say “brothers and sisters.”

Some contextual adaptation is foreseen in the rubrics, when Mass is celebrated with only one acolyte. In this case priest and acolyte say “to you my brother” in the singular. Therefore, I think it is theoretically possible for a male community to use simply “brothers” when no women are present.

Another question is whether it is pastorally advisable to do so given that liturgical expressions are habit-forming. If, on some occasion, there are men or women from outside the community present at the celebration, then the change could easily lead to confusion.

The case is different for a female community because at Mass at least one brother will always be present, the celebrating priest. Therefore the standard formula should be used. Nor, as a general rule, should the priest change the gender of the liturgical greetings if celebrating for a women’s community.

With regards to the second question, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 51, reminds us: “Then the priest invites those present to take part in the Act of Penitence, which, after a brief pause for silence, the entire community carries out through a formula of general confession. The rite concludes with the priest’s absolution, which, however, lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance.”

No gesture is prescribed in the rubrics, and it is presumed that the priest will remain with hands joined. Any gesture which might imply that the words grant absolution should be avoided so as not to confuse the faithful.

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Follow-up: Breast-Beating During the Confiteor

In the wake of our opinion (see Dec. 13) that the new translation of the Confiteor (“I confess”) would allow for a triple striking of the breast, several readers pointed out an official reply from the Holy See on this topic which I had overlooked.

As one California reader pointed out: “Not that I like this responsum, but it is the final word that I know of on this. Gerunds, etc., are speculative; this is direct and clear.”

The text, published in Notitiae 14 (1978), 534-535, says:

“n. 10. In pronouncing certain formulas as in, e.g., the Confiteor, the Agnus Dei, and the Domine non sum dignus, whether on the part of priests or on the part of the faithful, the gestures accompanying the words are not always performed the same. Some strike their breast with a triple strike when saying the aforementioned formulas, others once. Which practice seems that it should legitimately be retained?

“Resp.

“In this case it will help to remember these things:

“1) Gestures and words often tend to give significance to one another.

“2) In this matter, as in others, the liturgical restoration has pursued truth and simplicity according to the passage of Sacrosanctum Concilium: «The rites should be resplendent in their noble simplicity …» (SC, 34).

“While in the Roman Missal promulgated by the authority of the Council of Trent the words were very frequently also accompanied by minute gestures, the rubrics of the Roman Missal restored by the authority of the Second Vatican Council are noteworthy for their discretion with regard to gestures.

“Having said this:

“a) The words mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa which are found in the Confiteor are introduced in the restored Roman Missal by a rubric of this sort: All likewise … striking their breast, say … (OM, n. 3). In the former Missal, in the same place, the rubric read like this: He strikes his breast three times. It does not seem, therefore, that anyone has to strike his breast three times in pronouncing those words in Latin or in another language, even if mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa is said. It suffices that there be a striking of the breast.

“It is obvious also that only one gesture suffices in those languages in which the words for showing one’s fault have been rendered in a more simple manner, as, for example, in English, «I have sinned through my own fault», or in French, «Oui, j’ai vraiment peche».

“b) The discretion of the restored Roman Missal is shown to be noteworthy also in the other texts mentioned, namely the Agnus Dei and the Domine, non sum dignus which by words of penitence and humility in one way or another accompany the breaking of the bread and the invitation to the faithful to receive the Eucharist.

“As it was said in response n. 2 of the Commentary «Notitiae» 1978, p. 301: where the rubrics of the Missal of Paul VI say nothing, it must not therefore be inferred that it is necessary to observe the old rubrics. The restored Missal does not supplement the old one but has replaced it. In reality, the Missal formerly indicated at the Agnus Dei, striking the breast three times, and in pronouncing the triple Domine, non sum dignus, striking the breast … says three times. Since, however, the new Missal says nothing about this (OM 131 and 133), there is no reason to suppose that any gesture should be added to these invocations.”

I had already mentioned in my earlier reply that a single striking was a valid interpretation, and this official response confirms this.

At the same time, I think this official pronouncement fails the reality test. More than 33 years have gone by since the response was issued and practically everybody using Latin, Spanish and Italian strike their breasts three times at the Confiteor, no matter what the rubric says or fails to say.

I think that the same is going to happen in English now that the triple form is restored, and it would be an exercise in futility on behalf of bishops and priests to attempt to oblige the faithful to do otherwise.

Nor would I consider the attempt a good thing in itself. People will naturally do this, and I believe it makes the sign of striking the breast more meaningful.

The present rubrics are clear about not striking of the breast during the Lamb of God, and the practice is now uncommon. The fact that the Agnus Dei is often sung makes it less natural to strike the breast than in the staccato beat of the Confiteor.

At the same time, there are very good arguments to defend the practice. The then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, for example, wrote the following in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy: “During the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), we look upon him who is the Shepherd and for us became the Lamb and as Lamb, bore our iniquities. At this moment it is only right and proper that we should strike our breasts and remind ourselves, even physically, that our iniquities lay on his shoulder, that ‘with his stripes we are healed'” (page 207).

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“Cup” Instead of “Chalice”

And More on Crucifixes

ROME, JAN. 17, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Why does the second response to the celebrant’s invitation, “The mystery of faith” retain the term “cup” instead of “chalice” as contained in the words of consecration? Is this an error in translation or is it correct? — T.A., Makurdi, Nigeria

A: I was not involved in the translation so, to be quite honest, anything I say will be speculative at best.

The text says: “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”

It is unlikely to have been a simple oversight or a cut-and-paste job because the acclamation has been changed. The former translation said: “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.”

The new translation of this text is generally more accurate even though in this case the Latin calicem is translated “cup” instead of “chalice” as is done elsewhere in the missal.

By keeping the word “cup,” it is probable that the translator wanted to follow as close as possible the original inspiration for this acclamation in 1 Corinthians 11:23-28:

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup.”

Practically all English-language Bibles translate the Greek poterion as “cup” rather than chalice, as current English attributes a technical meaning to this word which it did not have in the original. In a similar vein the word calicem in Latin can refer to many drinking and cooking vessels and not just those reserved for liturgical use.

These memorial acclamations constitute a novelty within the Latin rite, and they were only introduced with the liturgical reform. With the removal of the acclamation “Christ has died …,” which was found only in the English missal, the remaining three are basically scriptural quotes.

For this reason I think the translator is justified in following here the commonly accepted biblical translation while translating the same word as “chalice” in the texts that manifest the Church’s 2,000-year development of her liturgical traditions.

Although respecting the biblical text is probably the principal reason for retaining “cup,” the translator may also have been influenced by a desire to allow continued use of melodies already well-known by the faithful who often sing this part of the Mass. The addition of an extra syllable would likely make this particular text a bit more difficult to manage.

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Follow-up: Covering the Crucifix

There were several inquiries regarding the crucifix (see Dec. 20). A reader from Zambia asked which direction the figure of Christ should face when the cross is placed upon the altar itself or when the processional cross is used as the altar cross. Answer: In both cases the figure of Christ should face toward the celebrant. This is the current practice for papal Masses in Rome.

When there is a large crucifix present behind or suspended above the altar, there is no need for other crosses to be placed upon or near the altar itself.

A figure of the Risen Lord or any other similar image of Christ does not substitute the crucifix.

The crucifix, however, may adopt any of several historical styles. As well as the more common form of a dying or deceased Christ, it is possible to use an image of the Regal Christ. This image has the Savior with arms outstretched on the cross but alive, fully robed and sometimes wearing a kingly crown as the one who reigns from the cross. According to art historians, this form of representing Christ crucified was quite common until the Middle Ages, when the more dramatic images of the dying Christ became more popular in art and devotion.

This question arose with the beginning of Mass facing the people. Beforehand, both people and celebrant always faced toward the crucifix. The source for the answer is a clarification published in Latin in the review Notitiae in 1966. Although Notitiae is hard to find, the website www.ipsissima-verba.org has performed an invaluable service in publishing the most important responses and clarifications issued by this review which is the official organ of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Not all of the replies have the same legal force, and some are outdated, but the fact that the material is available on the web saves a lot time in the library.

Mentioning the Mass Intention

And More on Multiple Chalices

ROME, OCT. 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Unlike our present pastor, our former priest always would mention the intention for the Mass. Is this up to the individual priest? It gets printed in our bulletin, but I would hope the priest would mention who the Mass is for at some point, even though I know God knows who it is for. — L.S., St. Louis, Missouri

A: While there are no universal laws regarding this topic, some dioceses have published norms with common-sense indications that all priests may take into account.

My reply is inspired by the norms issued by the Diocese of Rome.

There is no requirement to mention the priest’s intention at the Mass. Thus, a mention in the bulletin or some other public notification is a legitimate option, especially when the pastor is aware that the person who requested the Mass will not be present at the celebration.

If the person or family who requested the intention wishes to be present, then it is good that the celebrant mention the name of the person for whom the Mass is being offered.

This may best be done either after the greeting at the beginning of Mass or as an intention of the prayer of the faithful.

The name should not normally be mentioned during the Eucharistic prayer. This naming is best left for funeral Masses, Masses at the notification of death, and significant anniversaries. The special formulas for funerals, especially in Eucharistic Prayers 2 and 3, were specifically composed with such occasions in mind and were not conceived for daily recitation.

It should be remembered that the Mass intention refers above all to the intention of the celebrating priest who took upon himself the commitment to celebrate for a specific intention when he accepted a stipend.

Since the Mass is infinite the priest may also have other personal intentions that may or may not be reflected in the Mass formula used.

For example, a priest may offer the Mass for a deceased soul while at the same time using the Mass formula “For Vocations,” with the personal intention of asking God to bless the Church with abundant vocations.

Likewise, while any person assisting at Mass is free to associate his prayer with the intention of the priest celebrant, he or she is also free to offer up participation at the Mass for any number of personal intentions.

We also have dealt amply with the topic of intentions and stipends in our columns of Feb. 22 and March 8 in 2005.
Follow-up: Using Multiple Ciboria and Chalices

In the wake of our comments on multiple vessels (Sept. 25) a reader asked: “When several chalices are prepared for a concelebrated Mass, my understanding is that it is correct to add water to the wine only in the ‘main’ chalice, and that it is not necessary to add water to the wine in all the chalices. Is there any official document in which this is specified?”

This point has been discussed by liturgists, but no consensus has been found. Nor am I aware of any official norms on this particular subject.

Some liturgists hold the position that it is sufficient to add water to the chalice of the principal chalice, which thus forms a moral unity with the other chalices for the purpose of consecration.

This argument is fairly solid from the theological standpoint, and there would certainly be no doubt that the consecration would be valid and licit.

It also solves the problem of the rather ungainly sight of a deacon or priest pouring a drop of water into several chalices already arrayed upon the altar.

It is not, however, universal liturgical practice. Many celebrants prefer to place water in all chalices, along with wine, so that all communicants can receive from wine that has been mixed with water according to ancient Church tradition.

This may be done in two ways. If there are only a couple of extra chalices, then wine and water, or just water (if the extra chalices are already prepared) may be placed in all of them during the preparation of the gifts.

If there are many chalices, then water and wine may be placed in all but the principal chalice when the chalices are prepared before Mass begins.

This latter solution is generally practiced by the Vatican sacristans for large concelebrations at St. Peter’s.



Altar Cloths

And More on Media at Homilies

ROME, SEPT. 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Could you clarify why three cloths are used on the altar? We have a discussion ongoing in our parish where there are two schools of thought: Either this has a symbolic reference to the Trinity or, alternatively, has a symbolism linked to the shroud cloths of Christ. — A.F., Sheffield, England

A: The question of cloths on the altar is dealt with in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 304, which states:

“Out of reverence for the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and for the banquet in which the Body and Blood of the Lord are offered on an altar where this memorial is celebrated, there should be at least one white cloth, its shape, size, and decoration in keeping with the altar’s design. When, in the dioceses of the United States of America, other cloths are used in addition to the altar cloth, then those cloths may be of other colors possessing Christian honorific or festive significance according to longstanding local usage, provided that the uppermost cloth covering the mensa (i.e., the altar cloth itself) is always white in color.”

Therefore, only one white cloth is obligatory in the present rite unlike the extraordinary form of the Roman rite (the Missal of John XXIII) which specifies three cloths, one of which covers the entire altar table and hangs down the sides almost to the floor. The other two cover at least the table or the stone containing the sacred relic.

The attribution of possible symbolic references for these cloths is not uniform and their history is often entangled. Sometimes in liturgy an object is first used for one reason, for example, covering a sacred object with a cloth as a sign of respect and care.

This was a fairly common practice in the ancient world and is not exclusive to Christianity or even to the specifically religious sphere. It was sometimes applied to civil objects such as symbols of authority or formal copies of imperial decrees.

During the Middle Ages many well-established liturgical customs were interpreted allegorically as bearing on some doctrinal aspect or representing some moment of the Redemption.

In this way some authors interpreted objects such as the altar cloths as representing the Lord’s shroud, others as the Trinity. Finally, the allegorical interpretation was sometimes reinforced by being incorporated into the design and decoration of the object itself.

The Church itself has usually refrained from granting official sanction to these allegorical interpretations. In some cases more than one interpretation might be legitimate and even useful for illustrating some particular doctrinal point. In other cases excessive use of allegory can even lead us to miss the main theological point, for example, in explaining the essentially sacrificial nature of the Mass.

Another cloth which may be used on the altar is the antependium, or frontal, which hangs down in front of the altar, usually reaching the ground.

In the Western tradition, it is white or some similar color although in some countries it follows the seasonal liturgical color. It may be adorned or embroidered according to local custom and culture. An antependium enhances the dignity of the altar and helps to clearly define the liturgical season.

Other practical cloths may also be placed on the altar such as an under-cloth and a dust cover which is placed over the altar cloth when not in use so as to keep it clean at all times.

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Follow-up: Slide Shows at Homilies

In response to our piece on slide shows during homilies (Sept. 4) a reader from Evansville, Indiana, mentioned a case which went beyond a presentation: “Once, our parish priest replaced the homily with a film. As you noted that images may remind people of television, this action by our priest reminded me of a movie theater. It was as if I were watching a movie that did not interest me. While the lights in the church were dimmed, I am sure others felt the same way and some of them may have even taken a short nap in the darkness.”

While the homily may not be the place for the use of such media as DVD’s and presentations, they can be most useful evangelization tools in other contexts such as catechesis and the continual Christian formation of adults. As another reader pointed out, such modern means are “easy to use, pleasant to view, and draw wonderfully focused lessons and applications. They are often prepared by religious sisters and are the fruit of a lifetime of professional communication in the classroom.”

If truly useful, it is even possible to use such means in the church, as it is not always possible or practical to convoke the people at other times or venues. For example, with adequate foresight the pastor could invite the faithful to remain a few minutes after Mass to view a video or presentation on some topic of pastoral or spiritual concern.

 



Spanish Homilies Read by a Layman

 

And More on Devotions During Mass

ROME, SEPT. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Our parish has one Mass in Spanish. None of the priests and deacons is a native Hispanic, but the priests make every effort on their part to say Mass in Spanish. They are improving. I am one of the deacons and am fluent in Spanish, having lived in Spanish-speaking countries for several years. The pastor has his English homilies translated into Spanish. I read the Gospel in Spanish and sit down while a native Spanish-speaking layman reads the homily. Another priest has his English homily translated also, but he reads it himself. Is it permitted for the layperson to read the homily? — R.M., Huntersville, North Carolina

A: In first place, one must duly recognize the zeal and effort made by many English-speaking priests in the United States to meet the pastoral needs of the growing Spanish-speaking population.

Learning a new language is never easy, and doing so when one is already advanced in life is yet more daunting.

That said, I do not believe that having a layperson read out a translation of a homily is a viable solution. It is likely to cause confusion and leave the impression that the layperson is actually giving the homily itself, a practice which has been repeatedly prohibited.

Also, a homily is more that just a text that is read; it is closer to a conversation, a personal communication in which the ordained minister explains God’s word and exhorts the faithful to live in accordance with what they have heard. Therefore the personal element is very relevant to the efficacy of the communication itself.

With this in mind the best solution is always that the priest read his prepared text. My experience with Spanish speakers is that they are almost universally grateful and edified when the minister makes the effort to speak in their language. They are also very tolerant and forgiving of errors and slip-ups.

While having the deacon read the text avoids the problem of confusing ministerial roles, it is still an imperfect solution from the personal communicative point of view.

Since the deacon may also give the homily, it would probably be better that the pastor entrust him with this task until he acquires a sufficient dominion of the language. Of course, the pastor could indicate to the deacon the principal ideas that he would like the deacon to develop in the homily he delivers.

Another, less perfect, but legitimate, solution would be to deliver the homily in English while someone else, either the deacon or a layperson, either simultaneously translates the homily or reads a prepared text afterward. This kind of solution is more common when the Mass is celebrated by a foreign ecclesiastical dignitary who preaches in a language unknown to most of the hearers.

There might, however, be some extraordinary cases when the homily may be simply read by someone else due to some impediment on the part of the celebrant. This was the case in the final years of Pope John Paul II when his ability to speak clearly was increasingly impaired by illness.

There are many useful pastoral resources available on the Internet for priests and deacons. One of these, ePriest, has a special section offering Spanish-language homilies in text and audio.

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Follow-up: Novenas and Devotions During Mass

In the wake of our column on mixing devotions and Mass (Aug. 28) a priest from Conway Springs, Kansas, asked for a clarification.

I had written: “[I]t is incorrect to mingle any devotional exercise such as a novena or non-liturgical litanies within the context of the Mass.” Our correspondent asked: “Could you clarify the difference between ‘non-liturgical litanies’ and ‘liturgical litanies’? Are the only ‘liturgical litanies’ those in the sacramentary (e.g., at the Easter Vigil or an ordination)? I was taught that certain litanies, such as of the Sacred Heart, were approved for use within a liturgy of the Church.”

By “liturgical litanies” I referred to the various litanies specifically found in the liturgical books for the celebration of Mass as well as other sacraments (such as baptism, ordination and anointing of the sick) and sacramentals, such as the crowning of an image of Our Lady.

These would be the only litanies used as a specific rite within Mass, although some other forms of prayer, such as the prayer of the faithful and the Kyrie, are also technically litanies.

As our correspondent says, there are other approved litanies that may be used in public worship, such as during exposition (if consonant with the aims of adoration) and other public devotions and novenas. The principal approved litanies are found in the Roman Ritual and are also listed in the Enchiridion of Indulgences (concession 22.2 partial indulgence).

The litanies (liturgical and devotional) thus universally approved are the litanies of the Holy Name, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Precious Blood, Blessed Virgin Mary (those of Loreto and the Queenship, which is used as part of the order of crowning an image), St. Joseph and All Saints.

Many other litanies have been approved either for private use of the faithful or in some cases for particular groups.

Among such litanies are the litany of Jesus Christ Priest and Victim, much beloved by Pope John Paul II, and the litany of Divine Mercy, both of which are often prayed in common. Others, usually prayed privately by individuals, include the litany of the Holy Spirit, of the Infant Jesus, of the Blessed Sacrament, of the Passion, and for the souls in purgatory.

The distinction between private and public use derives above all from the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Canon 1259.2). It forbade the public recitation of litanies that had not been approved by the Holy See. This prohibition included not only the public recitation of unapproved litanies by priests but extended to particular groups of the faithful who prayed in common without an ordained minister present.

This canon has not been retained in the present code. And while the law today is somewhat more flexible, it does not necessarily mean that all litanies formally approved for private use can now be publicly used.

There were and are good reasons for not multiplying the number of public litanies. Canon 839.2 of the 1983 Code directs the local ordinary to assure that “the prayers and pious and sacred exercises of the Christian people are fully in keeping with the norms of the Church.”



Novenas and Devotions During Mass

And More on “Sin” and “Sins”

ROME, AUG. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I have seen novenas prayed together by the congregation, led by the priest directly after the Gospel of a weekday Mass. Is this correct? — C.H., Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Q: I was wondering if it is appropriate to insert the Chaplet of Divine Mercy into the liturgy? Our parish recited this after the homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, led by our pastor. It seemed as if a beautiful, but optional, devotion was forced on a captive congregation. — L.S., Hutchinson, Kansas

A: This topic referred to in these two questions is dealt with in the December 2001 document “Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy,” published by the Congregation for Divine Worship.

No. 13 of this document states: “The objective difference between pious exercises and devotional practices should always be clear in expressions of worship. Hence, the formulae proper to pious exercises should not be commingled with the liturgical actions. Acts of devotion and piety are external to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and of the other sacraments.

“On the one hand, a superimposing of pious and devotional practices on the Liturgy so as to differentiate their language, rhythm, course, and theological emphasis from those of the corresponding liturgical action, must be avoided, while any form of competition with or opposition to the liturgical actions, where such exists, must also be resolved. Thus, precedence must always be given to Sunday, Solemnities, and to the liturgical seasons and days.

“Since, on the other [hand], pious practices must conserve their proper style, simplicity and language, attempts to impose forms of ‘liturgical celebration’ on them are always to be avoided.”

Therefore it is incorrect to mingle any devotional exercise such as a novena or non-liturgical litanies within the context of the Mass; this mixing respects neither the nature of the Eucharistic celebration nor the essence of the pious exercise. Novenas or non-liturgical litanies may, however, be recited immediately before or after Mass.

Some readers ask if devotions may be carried out during Eucharistic adoration. The above-mentioned directory suggests in No. 165: “Gradually, the faithful should be encouraged not to do other devotional exercises during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.” It adds, however: “Given the close relationship between Christ and Our Lady, the rosary can always be of assistance in giving prayer a Christological orientation, since it contains meditation of the Incarnation and the Redemption.”

Although the rosary is the only devotion specifically mentioned, it is possible that other devotions that can likewise be given a Christological orientation. These include novenas in preparation for Christmas and other feasts, which could be used as vocal prayers and acclamations immediately before Benediction.

This would not be the case for a novena or devotion to a particular saint.

* * *

Follow-up: Gloria’s “Sin” and Agnus Dei’s “Sins”

Pursuant to our debate (July 24) on whether the Latin “peccata mundi” should be translated “sin” or “sins” of the world, an Indian priest from Mumbai sent in the following reflection (excerpted here) which I gladly share:

“There has always been confusion among quite a few on the singular and the plural aspect of sin. The English text of Scripture, which is faithful to the original, always uses the singular aspect of sin when it talks of the role of Agnus Dei (John 1:29,36).

“There is a sin which is referred to in the singular sense and there are sins which plurally mean the many areas of sins we as human beings commit. The singular normally refers to the original sin committed by our first parents and now through conception passed on to us.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to destroy this work of the devil (1 John 3:8), that is,

1) The darkness of evil that prevents us to have a right knowledge of God. Jesus repairs this flaw by revealing to us God as Abba Father and giving us his Spirit that bears witness with our spirit, even calling God Abba Father.

2) His shedding of blood and death is that ransom taking us out from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of his beloved. This for us is the beginning of a new life sealed with Christ’s life in baptism that has to now struggle against the concupiscence of sin.

“The proclamation of the Gospel is an invitation to faith and reconciliation and is made complete through baptism. The sacraments, especially of reconciliation, are primarily our constant struggle against the concupiscence of sin. This is where the dividing line of sin and sins diminishes, where ultimately they are one reality.”

* * *

Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.




A Sacristan’s Duties

And More on the Corporal

ROME, AUG. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I am interested in the ministry of sacristan but can find no information in any detail as to what a sacristan does. It seems that each parish is different. The only thing I find is in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) at No. 105. Can you say more about this? — R.S., Fargo, North Dakota

A: The aforementioned text of GIRM, No. 105, says: “The following also exercise a liturgical function: The sacristan, who carefully arranges the liturgical books, the vestments, and other things necessary in the celebration of Mass.”

This is further developed in the Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 37.

This book spells out that the sacristan, always under the general direction of the clergy, undertakes the overall preparation of liturgical celebrations, including all that is needed for special days such as Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday.

The sacristan thus arranges the books needed for the celebration, marking all of the divisions. He or she lays out the vestments and anything else needed for the celebration, such as cruets, chalices, ciboria, linens, oils, processional crosses, candles and torches.

He or she also takes care of the ringing of bells that announce the celebrations. The sacristan should ensure the observance of silence in the sacristy.

The sacristan in harmony with the pastor also makes sure that the vestments, church furnishings, liturgical vessels and decorative objects are kept in good condition and, if necessary, sent for gilding or repair.

Other practical indications apart from these official recommendations are that the sacristan ensures that the things necessary for worship are always available. There should be a ready supply of fresh hosts and of duly authorized wine, sufficient clean purificators, corporals, hand towels, incense and coals.

In this context the sacristan is responsible for making sure that those who wash the altar linens do so according to the indications of the missal and that the water for the first wash is poured down the sacrarium or to the earth. The sacristan also takes care of burning old linens and other objects that are no longer suitable for liturgical use.

He or she also makes sure that the sanctuary lamp has sufficient oil, that the altar cloths are changed regularly, and that the holy water stoups are clean and replenished frequently.

The pastor may also decide to entrust other responsibilities to the sacristan. This might include coordinating others who help with the general decor of the church, such as cleaners and flower arrangers. The sacristan might also maintain the practical dealings with external agents such as funeral directors and photographers so that proper decorum is maintained at all times.

In order to carry out these duties, the sacristan needs to have a fairly good idea of the content and norms of the principal liturgical books and an understanding of the intricacies of the liturgical calendar.

A good sacristan is a boon to any parish and, as the GIRM says, the post fulfills a true liturgical function. As the Ceremonial of Bishops states: “The adornment and decor of a church should be such as to make the church a visible sign of love and reverence toward God” (No. 38).

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Follow-up: On Changing the Corporal

Several readers wrote for further clarifications regarding the proper use of the corporal (July 17).

A deacon commented: “I often find particles remaining on the corporal after Mass. This is a concern to me, because the corporal is left on the altar, and then the book of the Gospels is placed on top of the corporal … so I always clear any particles, some which can be substantial in size, from the corporal before or after Mass. Your response to the initial question on corporals indicates that the corporal may be folded up, and set aside to be reused at a later Mass. Presumably, the corporal would thus sit in a cabinet in the sacristy until the next Mass. But, if, in fact, particles are remaining in the folded-up corporal, as is often the case, it does not seem that a cabinet or other storage drawer is the proper place to leave the Eucharist. Of course, it is better than leaving the corporal on the altar … but if the purpose of a corporal is to ‘catch’ particles of the host, then why would we not treat those particles with the same care as we do the particles which remain in the vessels we purify?”

Any visible fragments remaining on the corporal should be removed and placed in the chalice for purification. Yet, liturgical practice has generally considered that the careful folding and opening of the corporal is sufficient and that no disrespect is shown by carefully keeping the corporal in the sacristy.

Until recently, however, between Masses the corporal used at the Eucharistic celebration was enclosed in a special holder called a burse out of respect and this custom may be maintained.

With respect to its care, Trimeloni’s preconciliar 1,000-page compendium of practical liturgical norms recommended a monthly wash for corporals — and that at a time when hosts were placed directly upon the corporal itself.

Another reader asked about the correct way of folding a corporal. Here I defer to the indications provided by Monsignor (now Bishop) Peter J. Elliott in his practical ceremonies manual:

“a. Take the corporal (from the burse, if used) with your right hand, and place it flat at the center of the altar, still folded, approximately 15 cm. (5 inches) from the edge of the altar, or further if a large corporal is being unfolded.

“b. Unfold it, first to your left, then to your right, thus revealing three squares.

“c. Unfold the section farthest from you, away from yourself, thus making six squares visible.

“d. Finally, unfold the crease that is nearest to you, towards yourself, thus making all nine squares visible. Adjust the corporal so that it is about 3 cm. (an inch) from the edge of the altar.

“If there is a cross embroidered on one of the outer center squares, move the corporal around so that the cross is nearest to you.

“Although Hosts no longer rest directly on the corporal, it is still useful in the event that fragments may fall on it at the fraction or during the purifications, etc. Therefore, never flick a corporal open or shake it open in midair. Such an action would also show a lack of respect for the most sacred altar linen, which must always be used wherever a Mass is celebrated.

“To fold a corporal, reverse the above steps. Therefore fold the front three squares away from you, then fold the back three squares towards you and finally bring the right square and the left square onto the remaining central square to complete the process.

“If the corporal is brought to the altar in a burse, this may be placed flat, traditionally on the left of the corporal, away from the place where the missal rests. But it may be more conveniently placed on the right of the corporal, or a server may take it back to the credence table. When Mass is celebrated facing the altar, the empty burse traditionally rests upright against a candlestick or gradine (altar shelf), to the left of the corporal.”