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Ordo Missae of the 1962 Missale Romanum

A Rubrical Guide For Altar Servers

By Louis J. Tofari

 Low Mass for One Server

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It is assumed that the one who serves Low Mass solo is a Senior Acolyte and is therefore well acquainted with both positions of Ac1 and Ac2 at Low Mass.

The differences for one server at Low Mass as compared to that of two servers are minor. Low Mass is performed as normal with these exceptions:


  1. The Acolyte always kneels on the side of the Foot opposite of the missal [1]. Hence when the missal is on the Gospel side of the Altar, he kneels on the Epistle side of the Foot and vice versa.
  2. When on the Epistle side, the Acolyte kneels where Ac1 normally would, and on the Gospel side where Ac2 would.
  3. The Acolyte does not genuflect at the center of the Foot unless:
    1. He has to cross the Sanctuary.
    2. He has to leave the view of the Altar (i.e., to turn over the Communion Rail cloths).

In addition to the exceptions listed above, the Acolyte must keep these two other items in mind:

  1. If there is only one Altar step (i.e., the Predella), the Acolyte always kneels in plano except when he would kneel on the Predella (e.g., during the Consecration and when receiving Communion).
  2. If the Acolyte is serving a public Mass, he must take care that the responses are made at a moderate pace, clearly and in an audible voice.


  • The preparations are carried out in the same manner as for two servers with one exception:
    • The wine cruet is placed on the right side of the cruet tray and the water cruet on the left.


  • Follows the same general rules as for two servers with these differences:


    • Upon reaching the Foot, the Acolyte steps off to the left side to allow C to reach the center [2].
    • However, if C processes in wearing a biretta, the Acolyte steps off to C’s right, receives the biretta cum solita oscula, genuflects in unison with C, and after assisting with the alb, then takes the biretta to the Sedilia [3].
    • Then the Acolyte returns to the Foot, genuflects while crossing the center, and goes to the left side of the center (Ac2’s Confiteor position) and awaits C to descend from the Predella.


    • The Acolyte kneels slightly behind and on the left side of C during the Preparatory Prayers.
    • After the Preparatory Prayers, the Acolyte stands, and without genuflecting [4], goes to and kneels at his Gospel side position on the 1st Altar step.


    • After saying Deo Gratias to the Epistle , the Acolyte switches the missal to the Gospel side of the Altar in the same manner as described for Ac2.


    • During the reading of the Gospel, after the Acolyte has bowed at the Holy Name (if mentioned), he turns right, descends the Altar steps, proceeds per longiorem to the center of the Foot, genuflects and then takes his position standing and facing the missal (Gospel) in front of his Epistle side kneeling position.
    • Immediately after saying Laus tibi, Christe, the Acolyte kneels.


    • At the Offertory, when C removes the chalice veil, the Acolyte stands and proceeds to the Credence. He holds both cruets, the wine cruet in his right hand and the water cruet in his left hand. He then proceeds to the Epistle side of the Foot and immediately ascends to the Altar while remaining within the edges of the Altar.
    • When the Acolyte approaches, he bows, kisses the wine cruet first, presents it to C, then switches the water cruet to his right hand, and kisses the water cruet [5].
    • The Acolyte receives the wine cruet back into his left hand, presents the water cruet after the blessing and then switches the wine cruet back to his right hand and kisses it.
    • Then the Acolyte receives the water cruet in his left hand, kisses it first, [6] then bows to C, turns right and returns to the Credence.


    • The Acolyte holds the various items for the Lavabo as Ac2 would with this addition:
      • The Acolyte places the finger towel neatly over his left wrist [7] with the finger towel still folded [8]. If there is a cross on the towel, it should be arranged so that it is in the bottom corner and facing outwards (to the left of the Acolyte).
    • After the Lavabo , upon retrieving the bells at the Credence, the Acolyte returns to his former position on the Epistle side and kneels without making a genuflection at the Foot [9].

            AFTER THE CONSUMPTION OF THE SACRED HOST (returning the bells to the Credence)

    • After the Acolyte returns the bells to the Credence and picks up the communion plate, he goes to the center of the Foot, genuflects and then going to the Epistle side first, turns over the Communion Rail cloths, genuflecting upon crossing the center.
    • The Acolyte then returns to the center of the Foot, genuflects and then kneels towards the right side of the center of the Foot (i.e., off center to the right).


    • When Ac1 is holding the communion plate (in his right hand), he does not perform any actions with his hands (e.g., the sign of the Cross or the striking of the breast); however, he does make the usual bows.

            AFTER THE DISTRIBUTION OF HOLY COMMUNION (upon returning to the foot with C)

    • After the Distribution of Holy Communion, upon returning to the Foot with C, the Acolyte assists C with his alb, goes to the center of the Foot, genuflects in unison with C and then returns to his Epistle position [10].


    • The Ablutions are performed as Ac1 would, with these additions:
      • The Acolyte also holds the water cruet in his left hand by its handle.
      • After pouring the first portion of wine from the center of the Predella, he switches the wine cruet into his left hand momentarily, picks up the plate and puts it in front of the Lavabo Altar Card.
      • During the second portion, the Acolyte may switch the cruets to pour with his right hand, or he pours without switching hands.
      • After performing the Ablutions, the Acolyte switches the wine cruet to his left hand again, and holding both cruets in his left hand, picks up the plate with his right hand.

            LAST GOSPEL 

    • During the Last Gospel, after the Acolyte has signed himself with the crosses, he goes to the center, genuflects and stands at the Epistle side position, facing the Last Gospel Altar Card.
    • If a book or prayer card is needed for the Leonine Prayers, the Acolyte may go to the Credence to retrieve it after saying Deo gratias.


    • During the Leonine Prayers, the Acolyte kneels slightly behind and to the right of C.
    • After the Leonine Prayers, having assisted with the alb, the Acolyte returns the card to the Credence (if used), and retrieves the biretta (if used).
    • If neither item is used, the Acolyte simply remains at the Foot while C retrieves the Chalice.


    • After C retrieves the chalice, the Acolyte genuflects, turns inwards and recesses out.

[1] The server once switched the missal to the Gospel side after the Post Communion for the Last Gospel. The Last Gospel Altar Card now replaces the missal, hence the server is on the opposite side of the Card during the Last Gospel.

[2] Technically, in sanctuaries where one must enter from a side door, as opposed to the center aisle, C is supposed to process to the Foot (which usually entails going around the Foot) behind the Acolyte in a sweeping elliptical motion while the Acolyte steps off to the side to allow C to reach the center of the Foot.

[3] Or to the Credence according to the usual custom.

[4] L. O’Connell, pg. 158, J.B. O’Connell by omission on pg. 357 in the 1962 edition, but explicitly on pg. 429 in the 1956 edition. The reason for this is simple: the Acolyte is not considered to be leaving the center of the Altar, nor is he crossing it.

[5] Or he may slightly raise both cruets to the level of his lips, and kiss both cruets at the same time, from right to left.

[6] Or again he may kiss both cruets simultaneously.

[7] The Acolyte may have to slightly pull back the hem of his surplice to accomplish this. In any case, the towel should rest on his cassock and not on his surplice.

[8] It is also permissible to completely unfold the towel and lay this either over one’s forearm, or to hold it between the bowl and one’s left-hand palm. However, the method given above is the usual one performed in the United States.

[9] The Credence is not considered to be outside the view of the Altar. L. O’Connell, pg. 38.

[10] This genuflection is performed because the Acolyte must cross the center of the Altar after assisting C who is now on the Predella, while the Acolyte is in plano. Therefore the Acolyte is no longer accompanying Our Lord, and is now required to perform a reverence when crossing the center of the Altar. Cf. the General Principles of Ceremonies: III. Various Conditions That Affect Reverences; E. When Carrying Or Accompanying An Image Of Christ, for further details.

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