How much of a rubricist (sp?) are you? Paragraph 75 says that, after all that was done in the last paragraph, “the bread and wine are then placed on the altar to the accompaniment of the prescribed formulas,” that is, the prayers in the book that you might sometimes hear: “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation . . .”
So imagine you are a typical American parish and you have a few hundred people in attendance meaning that you probably have a bevy of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. For them (and we can get into the discussion as to whether we rely to heavily on too many EMHC as some would put forth,) you will need multiple ciboria and chalices. Now, you could have a very large cereal bowl for the main ciborium and then at the Agnus Dei spend an exorbitant amount of time dividing hosts between six to twelve ciboria. Not so with the cups not so! For the practice of consecrating a flagon of wine and then dividing it up between the many cups is now forbidden. So at a minimum, you will have a very large cereal bowl and many chalices.
SOOOOO, when the rubric says, “the priest places the bread and wine on the altar”, does he have to place ALL of them on the altar? Or does this just refer to the gifts brought forward in the procession? Does this assume that all the bread and wine is brought forward in procession (I’m not keen on 6 cups full of wine being carried up) or one flagon that is then spilled into all of the cups at a painfully long offertory, or can we bring forward just a symbolic bread and wine? What if the deacon receives the ciborium and places it on the altar while handing the priest a patten with a “priest host” on it (which has not yet been set on the altar.) Does it matter that the wine is poured into the chalice by the deacon while it is sitting on the altar only to be given to the priest to be placed on the altar? (A former liturgist of the diocese was very much against this practice.)
These are the things that my priest friends and I love to debate while having a glass of - er - blueberry cool aid.
Here are some possible answers:
- You MUST allow the priest to place all of the gifts.
- You MUST allow the priest to place the symbolic gifts.
- The point is that some of the gifts are offered symbolically so that they are all, in fact. offered.
- God doesn’t care.
- You are entirely missing the point.
You might be inclined to ask yourself, “Why is this important?” I will give you a moment to ask yourself that question.
I’m glad you asked. When something is place on the altar, the altar representing Christ, it is assumed that it becomes part of the sacred action. It is to be made clear not only to the priest and his fellow ministers, but to the congregation as well (otherwise, why bother turning around the altar?) Remember, anything not prescribed directly by Christ probably came about because at one point there was some problem, abuse, or scandal that is trying to be corrected.
“What might these be?” you might ask yourself. I will give you a moment to ask yourself that question.
I’m s glad you asked. Here are just some examples (that did not happen at my current parish) that I have witnessed over the years:
- A priest is celebrating a Mass at which there are approximately 500 people in attendance. He is not paying attention to the fact that the servers did not bring over three of the six ciborium that he needed. He assumed there must be A LOT in the tabernacle. There was not. At Communion time, when he realized that he wont have enough hosts for everyone without breaking every host at least in half, can he decide that he intended to consecrate enough hosts and so include the ones that were sitting on the credence table that he did not even know existed as consecrated hosts? Will the people really receive the Body and Blood of Christ? (He decided to do this.)
- A priest leaves the water and wine cruets on the altar during the consecration. The new sacristan, left alone at the end of Mass, is concerned that the wine left in the cruet may have inadvertently been consecrated and is upset over what she should do.
- A sacristan is seen putting unconsecrated hosts in the tabernacle. Asking why he is doing such a thing he says that it makes things easier in the long run and (considering the logic of #1 above) they become consecrated anyway. Right?
So, my beloved brothers and sisters, rubrics are A LOT like manners. They may seem arbitrary at times but they are there for a reason. They are there to serve. They are there to make things run as smoothly as possible. They are there to put people at ease. They are there to try to avoid misunderstandings. Love your rubrics!