Liturgy of the Catholic Church

Liturgy and Para-Liturgical Celebrations

Archive for Altar

“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.

What a Deacon Can Do

And More on Altar Cloths

ROME, OCT. 2, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: In our parish we have a temporary overseas priest and a married deacon. During Benediction our married deacon consistently wears the full vestments that a priest wears for Benediction; says the Divine Praises; and elevates the monstrance while the overseas priest either sits watching in the pew or acts as an acolyte, swinging the thurible. The priest only wears an alb or even just plain clothes with no vestments, and remains kneeling. Several parishioners are much disturbed and have said so. I have asked the deacon why he wears the priest’s vestments. His answer: “I’m an ordained minister.” My reply was, “But you are not a priest.” I asked, “Who has given you authority to do this?” He stated that the bishop has. There are other irregularities which he persists in during the Mass. He stands throughout the prayers; takes the host from the ciborium given to him by the overseas priest; mouths the doxology; and even holds the paten containing the host. — R.I., state of New South Wales, Australia

A: Some distinctions should be made. Although the deacon is an ordained minister, he is of a lower grade than a priest and therefore he should not preside over the community if a priest is present.

Therefore in normal cases a deacon may not give a blessing, and even less so Benediction, if a priest is present and available.

He may do so if the priest is legitimately impeded, for example, if the priest were hearing confessions during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and could not leave the confessional to impart Benediction.

In those cases where the deacon legitimately imparts Benediction, either because there is no priest or the priest is impeded, the deacon may wear the same vestments as the priest: the stole albeit worn in the manner of a deacon, the cope and the humeral veil. He may also recite or sing the same prayers as the priest. He does not need any special permission from the bishop to wear these vestments as the rubrics already foresee it.

The other actions that our correspondent describes are aptly termed irregularities. The deacon should usually kneel for the consecration, silently hold up the chalice (not the paten) for the doxology, and should always receive Communion from the priest and not self-communicate.

Rather than any special permission or dispensation from the bishop (who is unlikely to dispense from basic liturgical law for no reason), such errors are more probably due to bad habits and imperfect liturgical formation. The person responsible for correcting them is the pastor, the priest celebrant, or even the bishop if the local priest is unwilling.

When a deacon is ordained he promises the bishop and the Church that he is willing to carry out the diaconal service with humility and love as a cooperator of the priestly order and for the good of the Christian people. If he lives up to his promise, then he will gladly correct any errors that might have crept in.

The Web site of the U.S. bishops’ conference has a useful document “The Deacon at Mass,” based on the latest norms from the Holy See.

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Follow-up: Altar Cloths

A priest reader from British Columbia sent in some more information regarding cloths that may be placed upon the altar (see Sept. 18 column).

He wrote: “There is the practice, not universal, of placing a cerecloth, a cloth made waterproof by being soaked in wax. It was placed immediately under the altar cloth to prevent, in the case of accident, any spilled Precious Blood seeping through to other cloths or coverings. Apparently this type of cloth was also used in wrapping a corpse. Hence, the mind might allow for a connection between the Bloody Sacrifice of Calvary and the Un-bloody Sacrifice of the Holy Mass.”

A reader from Israel asked: “Is there or was there a rite or prayers to prepare an altar that hasn’t been used recently for Mass and hasn’t had the Blessed Sacrament present for a while? Perhaps called ‘dressing the altar’?”

In most cases an altar that has been unused for some time does not lose its original dedication and there is no need to be dedicated or blessed anew.

A suitable way of underlining the return to use is with a new set of liturgical objects, such as a new altar cloth and other linens. These may be blessed at the beginning of Mass using the appropriate rites and formulas described in the Book of Blessings.

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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.



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.

 



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.