Who Goes First in a Procession

And More on Consecrating a 2nd Batch of Hosts

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ROME, MAY 31, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.



Q: I am an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, which in the Archdiocese of Manila is limited to men. My question involves the order in which the servers enter during the processional. There is confusion on who would enter first -- the reader carrying the lectionary, or the extraordinary minister of holy Communion. The woman who carries the lectionary is under the impression that she should enter before the priest because she carries the Word of God, and therefore is more important than someone whose role is merely to dispense the holy Communion. Is she correct? -- A.P., Manila, Philippines

A: There are really several questions involved. One regards whether the reader should carry in the lectionary; the other, concerns the order of procession.

Regarding these questions the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), No. 120, states:

"Once the people have gathered, the priest and ministers, clad in the sacred vestments, go in procession to the altar in this order:

"The thurifer carrying a thurible with burning incense, if incense is used;
"The ministers who carry lighted candles, and between them an acolyte or other minister with the cross;
"The acolytes and the other ministers;
"A lector, who may carry the Book of the Gospels (though not the Lectionary), which should be slightly elevated;
"The priest who is to celebrate the Mass.

"If incense is used, before the procession begins, the priest puts some in the thurible and blesses it with the Sign of the Cross without saying anything."

This would be the plan in a parish Mass without a deacon. If a deacon is present he should carry the Book of the Gospels.

Note that the norm above is quite clear: Only the Book of the Gospels is carried in procession, not the lectionary.

The Book of the Gospels is either an elegant book containing the official liturgical text of the Gospels, or a book in which the Gospel texts used in the liturgy are already divided up and ordered according to the times and seasons of the year.

These books are also frequently decorated with elaborate covers in metal, cloth or leather. They are usually quite expensive and not all parishes have them. Indeed, some countries have yet to print them in the local tongue and have recourse to Gospels in Latin or another language into which they insert a copy of the Gospel of the day.

Although the whole Bible is God's word, all liturgical traditions accord special treatment to the Gospels --it is placed upon the altar before use, carried between candles, its reading or singing is reserved to the ordained, and all stand while it is being read.

If the parish uses only the lectionary (the book containing all of the readings) then it is placed at the ambo before Mass and no book is carried during the entrance procession.

As mentioned above, the Gospels are usually carried by the deacon or, if lacking, an instituted lector.

It does not appear that the liturgical norms, as written, foresee that the Book of the Gospels be carried by a lay person, male or female, who acts as a substitute reader for an instituted lector as the norms mention only that the lector may be substituted for the readings and omit any mention of carrying the Gospels.

However, since this practice is in fact quite widespread and has not been expressly forbidden, perhaps a fairly good case could be made that it has gained the force of custom.

Therefore if the lector, or on the presupposition that it is permitted, the substitute reader, carries the Gospels, his or her position is right in front of the priest.

If the Gospels are not used, then the reader(s) may follow after the acolytes and other ministers (including extraordinary ministers of holy Communion) mentioned above.

However, there is no obligation for extraordinary ministers of Communion (or readers for that matter) to take part in the entrance procession at all. They may be in their places from before Mass if the logistics of the church building and the sanctuary space augur against complicated processions.

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Follow-up: 2nd Batch of Hosts

Several questions have matured from our discussion on the consecration of a second batch of hosts during Mass (see May 17).

Priests from India and Indonesia suggested that a possible solution to a shortage of consecrated hosts would be to dip unconsecrated hosts in the chalice as a means of distributing Communion only under the species of Blood.

While this suggestion was made in obvious good faith, it is not viable as this practice has been explicitly rejected in No. 104 of the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum":

"The communicant must not be permitted to intinct the host himself in the chalice, nor to receive the intincted host in the hand. As for the host to be used for the intinction, it should be made of valid matter, also consecrated; it is altogether forbidden to use non-consecrated bread or other matter."

A seminarian from Manila asked for a clarification regarding the principle to be applied if a priest is informed after Mass that he forgot to consecrate the chalice.

The principle was that of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 324, in which the priest should place wine and water in the chalice and, in order to complete the sacrifice, reverently recite only that part of the consecration pertaining to the chalice, and immediately consume it. If necessary, he may perform this act privately, but should do so without any delay whatsoever.

This situation is different from one illustrated by a reader from the United Kingdom in which a priest forgot to receive from the chalice before distributing Communion and remembered only after the chalice had been emptied.

Technically this would be called an irregularity, as the priest is obliged to receive under both kinds. This error also occurs sometimes at large concelebrations at which, due to lack of careful planning, some priests are left by the wayside in the distribution of the chalice.

While it should not happen, it does not affect the validity of the Mass for either priest or faithful. The only thing to be done about it is to learn the lesson the hard way, ask forgiveness for any culpable negligence, and be more careful and attentive the next time.

A Hartford, Connecticut, reader asked about the following situation: "Before distribution of the consecrated elements, the celebrant requested a server to bring a large pitcher of water to the altar, and added more water to the already consecrated wine, presumably to ensure that there would be enough for the more than 300 people in attendance. This was quite surprising to me, and would seem to possibly compromise the integrity of the species of the Precious Blood of Christ. Was this Mass invalid because of the addition of water to the Precious Blood?"

Once more, this action, while very illicit, would not affect the validity of the Mass as such. It could however, depending on the quantity of water added to the Precious Blood, corrupt the integrity of the species so that it no longer contained the real presence of Christ.

This would be practically certain to have happened if the quantity of water were more than half. In such a case, those who received this mixture would have received only Christ's Body during Communion. The priest would be gravely responsible for having induced them into unknowingly committing a material act of idolatry in receiving a mixture that was not Christ's Precious Blood.

The corruption of the species would be more doubtful in the case of a lesser quantity of water. But this would never justify the lack of respect shown toward Our Lord by ever adding a non-consecrated substance (whether water or even more wine) to the Precious Blood out of utilitarian motives.

Besides, this process is never necessary, even if the amount of Precious Blood be deemed insufficient for those present. The option of administrating both species by intinction always remains open. And should even this be impracticable, there is never an obligation to distribute under both kinds.

As in the previous case of a shortage of hosts, a priestly apology is simply the best solution.

Another reader asked about the precise moment of the transformation of the bread and wine into Christ's Body and Blood. We have already touched upon this theme in our answer and corresponding follow-up of Nov. 25 and Dec. (9, 2003.

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