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Ordo Missae of the 1962 Missale Romanum

A Rubrical Guide For Altar Servers

By Louis J. Tofari

 Serving A Low Mass For A Bishop: Simple Form [1]

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The preparations are as usual for a Low Mass with these exceptions:

  • On the vesting table

    • To the right of the vestments, place on two silver salvers [2] the bishop’s skullcap and pectoral cross.
    • If the bishop wears a biretta, it will be purple [3], but will be set up as usual.
  • On the credence

    • A medium-sized ewer filled halfway with warm water and a basin (instead of the usual Lavabo bowl; the water cruet is still necessary though), and a large finger towel (this should be rather absorbent).
  • On the altar

    • Place a salver on the Epistle-side near the tabernacle [4] for the bishop’s skullcap [5].
    • Four candles instead of the usual two may be lighted.
  • In the center of the Foot

    • Place the maniple on the second Altar step in front of Ac2’s Confiteor position.


Serving a Low Mass for a bishop is performed in the same manner as for a priest with these differences:

  • Preparatory Prayers at the Foot

    • Upon reaching the Foot, Ac1 takes the bishop’s biretta, giving the solita oscula to the bishop’s ring instead of his hand. Then both Acolytes genuflect while the bishop bows.
    • After the Acolytes have said the Confiteor, the bishop will say the Misereatur and Indulgentiam prayers, which the servers both respond to with Amen, then Ac2 gives the maniple to the bishop, kissing first the bottom cross on the maniple and holding it so that the bishop may kiss the center cross easily [if necessary, Ac2 may stand to perform this action] [6].
    • If the Gloria is said, the bishop will turn for the Collect and say, Pax vobis, to which the Acolytes respond, Et cum spiritu tuo. If the Gloria is not said, the bishop says, Dominus vobiscum instead.
  • During the Lavabo

    • Upon returning to credence after the Offertory, Ac1 picks up the towel as usual, and Ac2 picks up the ewer and basin as he would with cruet and bowl, and both then proceed to the Epistle side steps.
    • When the bishop joins his hands in an arc-like motion for the Veni sanctificator, both ascend to the second Altar step and kneel, but do not bow (the reverence of kneeling replaces the bows).
    • When the bishop has finished drying his hands and has returned the towel to Ac1, the bishop will present his ring to each Acolyte to kiss (Ac1 first, then Ac2), then he will bless them silently with the sign of cross.
    • Both Acolytes then rise and return to credence.
  • The Second Lavabo

    • After the Acolytes have switched the missal and veil, they proceed to the center of the Foot per longiorem and then immediately to the credence. There they retrieve the Lavabo items, and proceed to the Foot of the steps on the Epistle side. When the bishop has placed the burse on the assembled chalice, both Acolytes ascend to the predella, and perform the Lavabo in the same manner as described for the first Lavabo.
    • Afterwards, they replace the Lavabo items and then turn over the Communion Rail cloth (having genuflected first at the center of the Foot before going to the rail). They then return to their normal positions.
  • The Last Blessing

    • After the bishop has said Ite, missa est, and then silently the Placeat tibi (for which he bows low), he will stand erect and facing the altar will say these responses with the Acolytes:
      • Bishop: Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini (the Acolytes do not sign themselves with cross for this response [7]).
      • Acolytes: Qui fecit caelum et terram.
      • Bishop: Sit nomen Domini benedictum in saecula.
      • Acolytes: Ex hoc nunc et usque in saeculum.
    • The bishop begins to pronounce the blessing (the Acolytes bowing at the word Deus as usual), then he will turn towards the nave and give the triple blessing [8] reserved for a bishop. The Acolytes sign themselves only once, and this should be done in conjunction with the cross the bishop makes in the center.
    • After the Leonine Prayers, Ac1 will retrieve the biretta, and after the Acolytes have genuflected while the bishop bows, Ac1 presents the biretta giving the solita oscula to the bishop’s ring instead of his hand.

[1] The full version of the Pontifical Low Mass is executed with four chaplains, bugia and Pontifical Canon. The version given here is the simplified form performed with just two Acolytes and is the more common form that is used.

[2] A salver is a small round or oval tray.

[3] It should be noted here that purple is strictly a prelatial color, i.e., the color worn by prelates (in this case a bishop), while violet is strictly a liturgical color (i.e., for vestments of the sacred ministers and of decorations for the altar and sanctuary). Both colors are made from a combination of red and blue, violet having more blue, and purple having more red. However, these colors symbolize completely opposite things: violet is a sign of penance and mourning (i.e., to be blue), while purple is a sign of joy and royalty (i.e., the royal purple). The Missale Romanum and Ceremoniale Episcoporum are very clear about the distinctions of these two types of colors and of their use as just described.

[4] If the altar mensa is not deep enough, this can be placed on the gradine.

[5] When he removes it after saying the Secret. He puts the skullcap back on after performing the first part of the Ablutions.

[6] Ac2 does not kiss the bishop’s ring in this instance; L. O’Connell, pg. 469.

[7] This follows the same principle that is used during the Divine Office for the little chapter at the hour of Prime: since it is immediately proceeding a blessing, the cross is not made for this response.

[8] I.e., from the bishop’s left, to his center, to his right.

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