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Ordo Missae of the 1962 Missale Romanum

A Rubrical Guide For Altar Servers

By Louis J. Tofari

General Principles of Ceremonies (for inferior ministers): Various Conditions That Affect Reverences

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IN ACTU FUNCTIONIS (in the act of the function)
This describes when a liturgical function is occurring, namely:

  • During Mass.
  • During the Divine Office (said in choir).
  • During any other type of official ceremony.
  • All of Good Friday after the unveiling of the cross to the ceremonies of the Easter Vigil inclusive.

Where The Blessed Sacrament Is Reserved
Genuflections are observed as required.

At An Altar Where The Blessed Sacrament Is Not Reserved
Inferior ministers genuflect as usual, even though the celebrant only bows.

Where The Blessed Sacrament Is Exposed (in coram Sanctissimo)
All ministers observe the special rules of genuflecting for in coram Sanctissimo.

This occurs when performing sacristy work, making preparations in the sanctuary, or when lighting candles.

Where The Blessed Sacrament Is Reserved
Genuflections are observed as required under the usual circumstances.

At An Altar Where The Blessed Sacrament Is Not Reserved
Inferior ministers make a moderate bow where they would normally genuflect.

Where The Blessed Sacrament Is Exposed (in coram Sanctissimo)
A double knee genuflection is made where one would normally make a single knee genuflection.

When going to an outside point, or out of the view of the altar, a genuflection is required at the foot (or near it) before leaving from and upon returning to the foot.

These Items Are Not Considered To Be An Outside Point:

  • The credence
  • The sedilia
  • Either side of the altar (sanctuary) in plano.

These Items Are Considered To Be An Outside Point:

  • The Communion rail
  • The chancel
  • The sacristy
    • Therefore, when the Communion cloth needs to be turned, a genuflection must be at the foot before departing and upon returning.
    • Therefore, during the reading of the Epistle at a Solemn High Mass, a genuflection is made by the subdeacon and MC before departing and upon returning, even though they are not crossing the sanctuary[1].
    • Therefore, during Benediction, whenever a server or minister leaves the center of the foot to go to the credence, to the sedilia, or to one of the sides of the altar a moderate bow is not made before departing or upon returning.

IN CORAM SANCTISSIMO (in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament [exposed])
This condition of the Blessed Sacrament exists on these occasions[2]:

  • When It is in a monstrance.
  • When It is in a pyx.
  • When It is in a ciborium.
  • On Holy Thursday and Good Friday at the repository.
  • When Holy Communion is distributed (when the tabernacle is open, etc.).
  • At the Elevation.
  • When It is on the mensa from the Consecration until the tabernacle is closed after Communion, but not to the inferior ministers in plano except when they ascend to or descend from the predella.[3] It is exposed, however, to those who are on the predella.

When one is carrying or accompanying an image of Christ or Christ Himself, one does not make any sort of reverence (i.e., a bows, genuflections, or kneeling).[4] This rule encompasses these objects and persons at these times:

  1. Blessed Sacrament (i.e., during the Distribution of Communion): The celebrant and the accompanying server(s)[5].
  2. Processional cross: The crossbearer and the acolytes.[6]
  3. Evangeliarium[7]: The subdeacon (when the office of the Gospel is being performed or, that is, when the book is open) and the acolyte (when they are flanking it).
  4. Last Gospel card: The subdeacon (at a Solemn High Mass) or the MC (at a High Mass).
  5. Infant Child for the creche (on Christmas Eve): The celebrant.
  6. Veneration of the cross on Good Friday: The celebrant and the acolytes accompanying with candles.

The rule for this is as such:

If The Celebrant Is Reciting A Prayer:

  • Follow what the celebrant is saying and perform those reverences in unison with the celebrant as required.

If The Celebrant Is Not Reciting A Prayer (e.g., is at the foot or at the sedilia)

  • Follow what the choir is singing and perform those reverences in unison with the celebrant as required.

CUM RATIONE ACCOMMODATIONIS (with rational accommodation)
This is a principle of exception regarding the normal rules of when to make reverences and it is sometimes employed for the sake of unity of action. For the inferior minister, this will affect him at certain times when he is next to a sacred minister. One example of this is when the MC and thurifer are assisting the celebrant incensing the altar at a High Mass; they genuflect on the predella with the celebrant (who has the privilege of genuflecting on the predella), though by themselves, they would normally not be allowed to do so.

[1] This is done even when the subdeacon and MC do not go to an outside point. The reason for this is historical; at one time the Epistle was read at an ambo often located quite far from the altar, and so a genuflection was necessary. The rubrics have retained this reverence even where it is not necessary.

[2] These occasions are outlined by L. O’Connell, on page 38, footnote 18.

[3] L. O’Connell, pg. 38, ff. 18 & SRC 4135,3 and Callewaert, pg. 28.

[4] While this is not explicitly mentioned as a principle in any of the books, that it is, can nevertheless be easily deduced by a careful comparison of the various rubrics that describe all of the conditions listed immediately below.

[5] This includes the torchbearers who are directly accompanying the Blessed Sacrament. I.e., Tbs 1 & 2 when at the edges of the Communion Rail during the distribution of communion.

[6] L. O’Connell, pg. 43; Callewaert, p. 26; J.B. O’Connell, pg. 464. Even so, there is one exception to this general rule: When a metropolitan or an archbishop in his diocese gives a blessing, the crossbearer kneels with the figure of Our Lord facing the prelate. Most likely, this hearkens back to the practice when a corpus was not used on the special cross carried in front of the archbishop.

[7] Or when a Missale Romanum is used to serve as a replacement.

Copyright © 2007. Louis J. Tofari. All rights reserved.
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