FAQ on celebration of Liturgy-2

question1Frequently Asked Questions on Sacred Liturgy and its Celebration-2

This is the second part of the series of questions and answers.

Bells, When to Ring

Our parish has bells which ring three times daily. We wanted information on when they should ring otherwise. Any rules on ringing for funerals, etc?

The only rule concerning bell ringing that I know of is that the church bells are to be rung during the gloria at Mass on Holy Thursday and then not rung again until the Easter Vigil. (This can be found in the Sacramentary in the rubrics for Holy Thursday.)

The 1917 Code of Canon Law stated that bells were not to be rung for profane purposes unless absolutely necessary, with the Ordinaries permission, or in accord with legitimate custom. It was also forbidden to ring funeral bells on days when funeral Masses were forbidden and on days when a High Mass was forbidden.

There are no such restrictions in the 1983 Code of Canon Law but the principles are still sound.

Traditionally bells are rung three times a day for the Angelus and prior to Mass.

A ruling in 1958 by the Congregation of Rites said that it is forbidden “to use in place of blessed bells any kind of mechanical means to imitate or amplify their sound.” This statement was reaffirmed in 1967 and has not been changed.

Orientation of the Priest at Mass

Is there any mandate that Holy Mass must be offered, according to the Rite of Paul VI (Novus Ordo), with the priest versus populum for the entire duration of the Mass? Is it licit for the priest to face the same way as the congregation during the Eucharistic Prayer?

The priest may face versus deum or versus populum at his own preference. There is not any rubrics that insists he face one way or the other. There are certain parts of the Mass where the priest is supposed to face the congregation, such as during the Gospel, during various responsorials, and at the showing of the Precious Host. A complete listing can be found in the Missal. It is interesting to note that both the Rite of Mass as issued in 1970 and the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal, chp. IV part Ia assume that the priest is facing versus deum for most of the Mass because they list specific times that the priest is supposed to turn and face the congregation.

Update 3/17/2001 On September 25, 2000 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments reafirmed that the priest may decide which direction to face to celebrate Mass. (On the Orientation of the Priest at Mass)

While not having any bearing on the rubrical correctness of orientation, it is interesting to note that the Holy Father says Mass versus deum in his private chapel.

Unity Candles, use of during Mass

Can a unity candle be used at a Catholic wedding?

The following reply was a clarification sent to Liturgical Library by the Congregation for Divine Worship:

At the discretion of the Conference of Bishops and at the time of their approval of the Rite of Marriage for their territory, certain rites having roots in the tradition of a particular people, and which authentically express Gospel values pertaining to marriage, may be inserted at appropriate points in the Rite of Marriage. Such gestures should not be included within the celebration of the rite if they do not appear at least as an option within the Rite of Marriage for which is approved by the Bishops and published with the recognitio of the Holy See for the territory in which the marriage is celebrated. It is possible that other gestures might be carried out after the completion of the Rite and the final blessing, or at a non-liturgical ceremony, such as a reception. To insert into the Rite gestures which are not approved by the Conference of Bishops with the recognitio of the Holy See, constitutes an abuse, even if perhaps well-intentioned.”

The approved Rite of Marriage for the United States does not include this custom as an option so it must be done outside of the actual wedding ceremony.

While not having any bearing on the rubrical correctness of orientation, it is interesting to note that the Holy Father says Mass versus deum in his private chapel.

Ad-libbing

What parts of the Mass is a priest allowed to ad-lib?

According to the Sacramentary, the priest may use a prayer similar to those found in the Sacramentary at the introduction to the Penitential Rite. The priest may introduce the Prayers of the Faithful in his own words. Any place where the priest says “pray brethren”, he may substitute another appropriate phrase.

Candles, When to Light

Is it appropriate for the candles at the altar to be lit when the altar is prepared for the Eucharist instead of before Mass?

According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 79 concerning preparations to be made before Mass: “The altar is to be covered with at least one cloth. On or near it are placed a cross and at least two lighted candles.”

Therefore, candles at the altar are to be lit before Mass and not while it is being prepared. Doing so gives an even greater impression that the Eucharist is just meal.

Chrism Oil Vessels

As Chair of of the Environment Committee, I have been tasked with securing chrism oil vessels for our Holy Week Chrism Mass. The vessel(s) required are to handle approximately 20 liters (about 4.5 gallons). I was considering commissioning an artist to produce the vessels but I’m short on information related to the vessels themselves. Could you please direct me to where specification information may be found?

There are not any specific guidelines for the construction of Chrism Oil vessels. I would suggest looking at the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, found at the front of all 1975 Sacramentaries. Chapter 6, Section 3 gives guidelines for the construction of sacred vessels and I believe the same principles should be used for these jars: The vessels should be solid, non-absorbent, fitting for Mass and suited for their purpose. I would also suggest that the vessels be in a form easily recognizable to the faithful and befitting such a solemn occasion. Since they will be used during Holy Week the vessels should be of a subdued color and style, to match the liturgical season. 

Commentary, use of before the readings

 Our priest makes commentaries on each reading before it is read including a commentary between the gospel acclamation and the Gospel. He seems to just be giving more homilies and often makes comments so basic as to almost be insulting. He also rarely, if ever, mentions the readings when he gives his actual homily. Is this proper?

According to The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n.11, “[The priest] may also very briefly introduce the Mass of the day (before the celebration begins). the liturgy of the word (before the readings), and the eucharistic prayer (before the preface); he may make concluding comments before the dismissal.”

In the letter Eucharistiae participationem, issued by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship in 1973, the nature of these introductions was explained: “They are ways of leading the faithful to a more thorough grasp of the meaning of the sacred rites or certain of their parts and to an inner participation in them . . . But the way any of these introductions is presented must respect the character proper to each and not turn into a sermon or homily. There must be a concern for brevity and the avoidance of wordiness that would bore the participants . . . [The homily] is a part of the liturgy by which the word of God proclaimed in the liturgical assembly is explained to help the community present.”

The The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n.41 also comments that “[The homily] should develop some point of the readings or of another text from the Ordinary or the Mass of the day.”

Judging from these statements, the priest should only make remarks before the readings begin and not in between each one. He should also avoid giving mini homilies. As to the contentof these statements, hopefully the priest can be respectfully told that he is talking down to his congregation and that he should be giving homilies that have something to do with the readings or the parts of the Mass.

English, use of in the 1962 Missal

Can the Tridentine Mass be offered in the vernacular?

According to Quattuor abhinc annos issued in 1984, “The celebration is to follow the Roman Missal of 1962 and must be in Latin.”. While many of the restrictions placed on the practice of the Tridentine Mass have been lifted, there has been no permission given to vernacularize the Mass.

Personally, I am very glad. The ICEL English versions of Latin texts for the sacraments are devoid of beauty and often mistate the official Latin text.

Orientation of the Priest at Mass

Is there any mandate that Holy Mass must be offered, according to the Rite of Paul VI (Novus Ordo), with the priest versus populum for the entire duration of the Mass? Is it licit for the priest to face the same way as the congregation during the Eucharistic Prayer?

The priest may face versus deum or versus populum at his own preference. There is not any rubrics that insists he face one way or the other. There are certain parts of the Mass where the priest is supposed to face the congregation, such as during the Gospel, during various responsorials, and at the showing of the Precious Host. A complete listing can be found in the Missal. It is interesting to note that both the Rite of Mass as issued in 1970 and the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal, chp. IV part Ia assume that the priest is facing versus deum for most of the Mass because they list specific times that the priest is supposed to turn and face the congregation.

Update 3/17/2001 On September 25, 2000 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments reafirmed that the priest may decide which direction to face to celebrate Mass. (On the Orientation of the Priest at Mass)

While not having any bearing on the rubrical correctness of orientation, it is interesting to note that the Holy Father says Mass versus deum in his private chapel.

Responsorial Psalm, omission of

My pastor always cuts out the psalm at daily Mass. It is included at the weekend (Sunday) celebration. Is this liturgically acceptable? Is the removal of the Psalm an option under any circumstances?

The Responsorial Psalm is not an optional part of the Mass on Sundays. Omitting it is an abuse. According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal “After the reading, the cantor of the psalm, or the reader, sings or recites the psalm, and the people make the response.” n.90 Also: “The psalm is an integral part of the liturgy of the word . . .” n.36 However, on days when there is only one reading:
“a)during the time when the Alleluia is sung, either the alleluia psalm, or the psalm and alleluia with its verse, or only the psalm or alleluia may be used;

b)during the time when the alleluia is not sung, either the psalm or the verse before the gospel may be used.” n.38

“The psalm when sung may be either the psalm assigned in the Lectionary or the gradual from the Graduale Romanum or the responsorial psalm or the psalm with Alleluia as the response from The Simple Gradual in the form they have in those books.” n.36

There is not an option for replacing the responsory with a hymn.

Self-Communication From the Chalice

Can extraordinary ministers or the faithful pick up the chalice and give themselves Holy Communion?

Inaestimabile donum, issued in 1980 states that:

9.Communion is a gift of the Lord, given to the faithful through the minister appointed for the purpose. It is not permitted that the faithful should themselves pick up the consecrated bread and the sacred chalice; still less that they should hand them from one to another.

10.The faithful, whether religious or lay, who are authorized as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist can distribute Communion only when there is no priest, deacon or acolyte, when the priest is impeded by illness or advanced age, or when the number of the faithful going to communion is so large as to make the celebration of Mass excessively long. Accordingly, a reprehensible attitude is shown by those priests who, though present at the celebration, refrain from distributing Communion and leave this task to the laity.

When the U.S. bishops issued the directives for the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds in the document This Holy and Living Sacrifice, they reaffirmed this statement:

46. The chalice may never be left on the altar or another place to be picked up by the communicant for self-communication (except in the case of concelebrating bishops or priests), nor may the chalice be passed from one communicant to another. There shall always be a minister of the cup.

Sign of Peace

Is it permissible for the priest and deacon to leave the altar during the sign of peace to go and shake hands with some of the congregation?

According to the Sacramentary:

The priest, extending and joining his hands, adds:

The peace of the Lord be with you always.

The people answer:

And also with you.

Then the deacon (or the priest) may add:

Let us offer each other the sign of peace.

All make an appropriate sign of peace, according to local custom.
The priest gives the sign of peace to the deacon or minister.

Therefore, the priest and deacon do not leave the altar. To do so is an addition to the Mass not allowed for in the rubrics.

Also, the priest has just given a sign of peace (through his words “The peace of the Lord be with you always.”) To do so again would be redundant.

Washing Feet on Holy Thursday

Can the priest wash women’s feet on Holy Thursday?

According to the sacramentary, “The men [vir] who have been chosen are led by the ministers to chairs prepared in a suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary) goes to each man. With the help of the ministers, he pours water over each one’s feet and dries them.”In 1988 the Congregation for Divine Worship reaffirmed that only men’s feet are supposed to be washed: “The washing of the feet of chosen men [vir] which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came ‘not to be served, but to serve’ (Matt. 20:28). This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.”–Paschales Solemnitatis, 51

In both cases the latin word vir is used which means that men is not referring to mankind but only to males. Therefore, only men may have their feet washed on Holy Thursday. The practice of having the congregation wash each other’s feet is also not allowed as the instruction refers only to the priest as the washer of feet.

Wine, composition of

What are the requirements for the wine used at Mass?

Canon 924 §3 states that:

The wine must be natural, made from grapes of the vine, and not corrupt.

The comments on this canon say that the same principals concerning the bread apply to the wine. (It should be all natural and not have any additives.)

Inaestimabile donum (1980) states that “The wine for the Eucharistic celebration must be of “the fruit of the vine” (Lk 22:18) and be natural and genuine, that is to say not mixed with other substances.” (n. 8)

Altar Cloth, Rubrics Concerning

What color must the altar cloth be? I noticed one parish with green and heard that another parish was considering changing the color with the liturgical seasons? Is there any binding document concerning this?

According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n.268, “At least one cloth should be placed on the altar out of reverence for the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and the banquet that gives us his body and blood. The shape, size, and decoration of the altar cloth should be in keeping with the design of the altar.”

While the color is not mentioned, the traditional color has been white as a sign of the faithful’s purity and devotion “For the fine linen are the justifications of saints” (Apoc., xix, 8), as a memory of the shroud, and as a sign God’s faithful who surround Christ. White is also the easiest color to clean.

Chalice, Rubrics

 Are there any requirements for the creation of a chalice to be used in the Roman Catholic Mass. Does it have to be made of certain materials, does it have to be a certain height?

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal and Inaestimabile donum both speak about the proper construction of the chalice:

From the GIRM:
290:”Vessels should be made from materials that are solid and that in the particular region are regarded as noble. The conference of bishops will be the judge in this matter. But preference is to be given to materials that do not break easily or become unstable.”

291:”Chalices and other vessels that serve as receptacles for the blood of the Lord are to have a cup of nonabsorbent material. The base may be of any other solid and worthy material.”

294:”Vessels made from metal should ordinarily be gilded on the inside if the metal is one that rusts; gilding is not necessary if the metal is more precious than gold and does not rust.”

295:”The artist may fashion the sacred vessels in a shape that is in keeping with the culture of each region, provided each type of vessel is suited to the intended liturgical use.”

From Inaestimabile donum, n. 16:
“Particular respect and care are due to the sacred vessels, both the chalice and paten for the celebration of the Eucharist, and the ciboria for the Communion of the faithful. The form of the vessels must be appropriate for the liturgical use for which they are meant. The material must be noble, durable and in every case adapted to sacred use. In this sphere judgement belongs to the Episcopal Conference of the individual regions.

Use is not to be made of simple baskets or other receptacles meant for ordinary use outside the sacred celebrations, nor are the sacred vessels to be of poor quality or lacking any artistic style.

Based on these instructions, the chalice cannot be made out of glass or ceramic, two substances that are not durable. The cup of the chalice must not be made out of wood as this is an absorbant material or any other material which deteriorates easily. The exact form of the chalice is up to the individual artist but it must be suited to holding the Precious Blood. Therefore it needs a wide enough base to prevent tipping and a deep enough cup to prevent the liquid from spilling as the chalice is moved. I would also recomend, practicaly speaking, that the chalice should have a node in the middle of the stem to allow for easy handling.

Crucifix, Requirement to Use

Is a crucifix with the figure of the crucified Lord required at all Masses? Can it be replaced by a crucifix with the risen Lord on it?

Can a plain cross be used in place of a crucifix on Good Friday?

 According to the Book of Blessings, n. 1235 “The image of the cross should preferably be a crucifix, that is, have the corpus attached, especially in the case of a cross that is erected in a place of honor inside a church.”

According to the General Instruction, n. 79 “There is also to be a cross on or near the altar. The candles and cross may be carried in the entrance procession.” The Ceremonial of Bishops comments that the image on the cross is to face forward. (N. 128) In the Latin version, which is the authoritative version, “cross”, is “crux” meaning a crucifix. This has always meant a crucifix. The same word is used in documents before and after the Second Vatican Council. Had a new interpretation of this word been intended, mention would have been made somewhere. A risen Christ crucifix is an oxymoron and does not fulfill the requirement for a crucifix since a risen Christ is not a crucified Christ. There is nothing wrong with having an image of a risen Christ or a plain cross elsewhere in the Church or even behind the altar as long as during Mass a crucifix is “on or near the altar.”

On Good Friday, the primary focus of the entire Church is on the crucifixion. On this day, more than any other, the practice of venerating the crucifix should be encouraged. I can think of no logical argument to use a plain cross instead of a crucifix. This matter was discussed with Mr. Dennis McManus, Associate Director of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy and he could not think of any rational to replace the crucifix with a risen Christ.

Statues, proper use of

 Is there a limit as to the number of statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, etc. that should be in the worship area of the church building?

According to Sacrosanctum Concilium, art. 125, “The practice of placing sacred images in churches so that they may be venerated by the faithful is to be maintained. Nevertheless there is to be restraint regarding their number and prominence so that they do not create confusion among the Christian people or foster religious practices of doubtful orthodoxy.”

According to the GIRM, n. 278, In keeping with the Church’s very ancient tradition, it is lawful to set up in places of worship images of Christ, Mary, and the saints for veneration by the faithful. But there is need both to limit their number and to situate them in such a way that they do not distract the people’s attention from the celebration. There is to be only one image of any one saint. In general, the devotion of the entire community is to be the criterion regarding images in the adornment and arrangement of a church.””

Based on these instructions, the number of statues should not be excessive and the numbers of statues of each saint are limited to one each.

It seems to me that the limits of one image of each saint do not apply to Jesus. If so, the requirement of a crucifix in all churches would prevent any other image, such as the Sacred Heart or the Infant of Prague, from being placed in churches

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