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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 In Coram Sanctissimo

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While every Low Mass served has the condition of in coram sanctissimo [1] occurring for a short length of time [2], there are certain times when this special condition lasts until the end of Mass (partially), or for even the entire period of Low Mass (i.e., from the beginning until the end). These times occur:

  • After the distribution of Holy Communion until the end of Mass on these feast days [ partially ]:
    • Corpus Christi (for the Sanctissimo [hereafter SSMO] procession).
    • Christ the King (for the SSMO procession).
    • Holy Thursday (for the Translation of the SSMO to the Altar of Reposition).
  • During the Forty Hours Prayer [entirely].

During these times [3] the SSMO is either:

  • In a monstrance on the Altar.
  • In a pyx or luna on the Altar.
  • In a ciborium on the Altar (after the Tabernacle has been closed).


Solita oscula [4]

Out of respect for the SSMO, all extraneous reverences that are not considered necessary to the Mass are omitted. Hence, all solita oscula usually performed by the servers are omitted.


If there are two servers, they still continue to turn inwards when they are shoulder to shoulder. However, this action is slightly modified when descending the Altar steps. The servers turn slightly towards each other, and then almost sidestep their descent to the Foot. In this way they do not turn their backs to the SSMO when leaving the Predella or the Altar steps.


When standing, all prescribed bows for a word or phrase that regards a Person of the Holy Trinity [5], are directed to the SSMO and not to the Tabernacle or Altar Cross.


The special rules for genuflecting while the SSMO is exposed are as follows:

  • Single knee genuflection: A single knee genuflection is made:
    • When crossing the center of the Altar in actu functionis [6].
    • Upon arriving at or leaving from the center of the Foot.
    • Before an Acolyte ascends to the Predella (made at the Foot in plano)[7].
    • After an Acolyte descends from the Predella (made at the Foot in plano).
    • If the Acolyte is standing when a word or phrase is said that requires a genuflection, then he does so towards the SSMO.
  • Double knee genuflection: A double knee genuflection is only made:
    • When entering or leaving the Sanctuary [8].
    • When leaving the view of the Altar (e.g., when going to the Communion Rail to turn over the cloth) [9].


Low Mass is served as usual with these differences:


  • Upon arriving at the Foot, Ac1 does not give the solita oscula when taking the biretta from C.
  • The Acolytes then make a double knee genuflection in unison with C.
  • After depositing the biretta at the Sedilia (or the Credence), Ac1 does not genuflect again upon returning to the Foot.

Switching the Missal for the Gospel

  • After the Epistle, when Ac2 goes to switch the missal, he genuflects in the center as usual and goes to the Foot on the Epistle side of the Altar.
  • When C moves away from the missal, Ac1 turns towards the Altar, genuflects in plano, ascends and picks up the missal, goes per breviorem without turning his back to the SSMO (Ac2 almost sidesteps his way down), genuflects, ascends to the Gospel corner of Altar and puts the missal in position.
  • He then takes his usual position within the Altar edges. If the Holy Name is mentioned, Ac2 turns (and Ac1 too) in unison with C and bows towards the SSMO exposed. Ac2 then turns right, descends to the Foot in plano, turns towards the Altar, genuflects and returns to his position facing the Gospel as usual.

At the Offertory

  • The Acolytes proceed to the Credence and obtain their cruets as usual.
  • Before immediately ascending, both Acolytes genuflect in plano and then ascend to stand inside the edges of the Altar as usual. Bows are performed as usual, but the customary kisses to the cruets are omitted.
  • When the Acolytes have finished serving C for the Offertory, they bow to C, and then facing each other, descend to the floor, turn to face the edge of the Foot, genuflect in plano, turn inwards and then return to the Credence.

Lavabo Performed In Plano

  • The Lavabo is performed by C in plano at the Epistle side of the Foot, facing the people.
  • When the Acolytes have their Lavabo items ready, they proceed shoulder to shoulder to the Epistle edge of the Foot, but then swing around to turn and face the back Sanctuary wall (their backs are to people). When finished with this movement, the Acolytes must ensure there is sufficient room between the wall and them for C.
  • C then descends to the floor and the Lavabo is performed as usual with bows.
  • After the Lavabo is performed, the Acolytes return the Lavabo items to Credence. Ac1 picks up the bells at this time too. Both Acolytes lastly turn inwards and return to their normal positions as usual.

The Ringing of the Altar Bells and the Consecration Action

The bells are rung as usual, and the Consecration actions are the same as described for a regular Low Mass with this exception:

  • After ringing the bells for the Hanc igitur, Ac1 picks up the bells, both Acolytes stand, genuflect in plano from their positions (the Acolytes are not required to genuflect at the center) and then ascend to the Predella.


  • When the Tabernacle door has been closed, the Acolytes proceed to the Credence as usual, retrieve their cruets and proceed to the Foot.
  • When C tilts the chalice, both Acolytes genuflect in plano, ascend to the second Altar step (Ac1 to the Predella) and perform the Ablutions as usual with bows to C [10].
  • When the Ablutions have been finished, both bow to C and descend from the Predella facing each other, genuflect in plano at the Foot, turn inwards and return to the Credence.

Changing the Missal and Veil/Turning Over the Communion Rail Cloth

  • After returning their items to the Credence, both Acolytes turn inwards, proceed to the center of the Foot as usual, genuflect and then proceed per longiorem to their respective sides of the Foot.
  • When both Acolytes are facing each other, they genuflect in plano, ascend to the Predella, pick up the missal and the veil, descend per breviorem facing each other, genuflect [for descending and switching sides], and ascend to the Predella.
  • After both have deposited their items, they turn outwards and descend per longiorem as usual, but having reached the floor, both Acolytes turn to face each other across the Predella, genuflect in plano, then proceed to the center of the Foot, make a double-knee genuflection, and then go to turn over the Communion Rail Cloths as usual.
  • Upon returning to the Foot, both Acolytes make a double-knee genuflection again, switch sides and then return to their normal positions.

Leonine Prayers to the Recessional

  • After the Leonine Prayers, Ac1 (without genuflecting) retrieves the biretta.
  • When C has descended to the Foot with the Chalice, C and Acolytes make a double knee genuflection, Ac1 gives the biretta to C without the solita oscula and then all recess out as usual.

[1] I.e., in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (exposed); hereafter referred to as the SSMO.

[2] I.e., from the Consecration until the end of the Distribution of Holy Communion (which usually terminates with the closing of the Tabernacle). This is why the servers are required to follow the special rules of genuflecting in plano at every Low Mass when descending from the Predella immediately after the Consecration action and upon ascending and descending from the Predella before and after receiving Holy Communion.

[3] Cf. L. O’Connell, pg. 38, ff. 18, sections a, c and d.

[4] with the usual (or customary) kisses; solita = customary; oscula = kisses.

[5] E.g., the Holy Name or a Doxology.

[6] I.e., during or in the act of the function. Outside of the ceremonies, one always makes a double knee genuflection to the SSMO, as every approach is considered an accessus. Cf. L. O’Connell, pg. 38.

[7] This is the special rule for inferior ministers, as they do not have the privilege to genuflect on the Predella, as the Sacred Ministers do. This is also prescribed by SRC 39751 , SRC 41353 , and found in L. O’Connell, pg. 38, ff. 18, d, J.B. O’Connell, pg. 364; Callewaert, pg. 28 & 35. Cf. also the General Principles of Ceremonies sheets for more details.

[8] However, "if the place of genuflection and kneeling would be exactly the same, the genuflection would be omitted."23 L. O’Connell, pg. 40 with ff 23 citing: "Callewaert, p. 35." (emphasis in the original text). I.e., a server always genuflects on the floor, and so if he were to kneel immediately in plano for some reason instead of the first Altar step, he would omit the genuflection.

[9] "One is not said to leave the (sight of) altar when one goes to the credence table, to the sedilia…at such time a double genuflection is not required." L.. O’Connell, pg. 38.

[10] Be aware that C has the option to remain in the center for all parts of the Ablutions. If this is the case, Ac2 simply ascends to the Predella with Ac1 and performs his part of the Ablutions there.

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