Back in July, I wrote about some liturgical changes that effect our Readers when processing in with the Gospel Book at Mass. Changes that we are making are due to four things: A more thorough reading of the General Instructions to the Roman Missal (GIRM), the new Archdiocesan Liturgical Handbook (ALH), input by parishioners, and our present situation with the new church. So, let me offer some of the changes that you will be seeing or have already observed, as it relates to our Altar Servers.
Genuflecting and Bowing
At St. Anne, during the Introductory Rites, the procession will be lead by the two Altar Servers with lighted candles, between them a minister carrying the cross. Visually, they will be walking parallel to each other. This is only possible due to the width of the new center isle. This formation will be repeated at the Concluding Rites when the procession departs from the Altar. In the past, the Altar servers walked behind the cross and didn’t carry them again after the Gospel procession. We will be examining how these norms can be reflected at our mission churches. The Gospel procession will remain unchanged. When there are not enough Altar Servers in the procession, we will look to a Reader, Sacristan, or another minister to carry the cross. Adaptations must happen when we are short ministers. When the procession reaches the foot of the Sanctuary, either in the Introductory (cf. GIRM 274) or Concluding Rites (cf. GIRM 193), the group of ministers are to genuflect to the Tabernacle unless they are carrying an object (ex. cross, candles, incense) or who otherwise cannot genuflect, in which case they are to make a profound bow. Altar Servers, indeed all ministers, are not to genuflect during the celebration of Mass itself (GIRM 274) unless specifically prescribed (ex. the Priest genuflects three times during the Eucharistic Prayer). Instead, when they enter the Sanctuary, as their duties frequently require, they will bow to the Altar and then enter the Sanctuary to execute their prescribed ministry.
Bells & Incense
Upon the dedication of our new church, it was decided to re-introduce the use of bells at Mass. Altar Servers are to ring the bells at the elevation/showing of the species of bread and wine after they have been consecrated and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Bells are a sacramental of the Church. In general, the use of bells are optional, but are a long standing tradition in the Church (Introduced around 1100 and became common around the 13th cent.) that signals special moments in the liturgy. In this case, they alert and proclaim the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They are also used on Holy Thursday and Easter Vigil Saturday at the Gloria.
implemented are the ringing of bells at the elevation/showing of the species of bread and wine after they have been consecrated and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Bells are a sacramental of the Church. The use of bells are optional, but are a long standing tradition in the Church (Introduced around 1100 and became common around the 13th cent.) that signals special moments in the liturgy. In this case, they alert and proclaim the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
The use of incense is a very ancient tradition, being mentioned 147 times in the Bible (NABre). It was placed on an altar accompanying the Ark of the Covenant (cf. Exodus 30:1-10), referenced as a sign of prayer in Psalm 141, placed in the Temple in Jerusalem, and imaged in golden bowls in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 5:8). It’s use today is a more controversial sacramental since many people find it difficult to breathe when incense is being used, and some have allergic reactions when it is merely present. These issues extend to the use of parishioners wearing perfume at Mass (this is why all liturgical ministers are not to wear cologne or perfume). Incense can be included in the Introductory Rites (procession, blessing the Altar), the Gospel Procession, the Preparation of the Gifts, and the Concluding Rites (procession). We will continue to use incense for our most special solemnities in the year (Christmas and Easter) and when requested at a Funeral Mass. Altar Servers who have shown exemplary service will typically be chosen at Thurifers (one carrying the Thurible and Boat needed for incense) for this particular. Finally, we are considering the idea of choosing a few of these same Altar Servers to be further trained-up to become a Master of Ceremony who can guide, lead, and teach junior Altar Servers during the Mass.
Fr. William Holtzinger