Notices on the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (1969-1981)
Sacred Congregation For Divine Worship And The Discipline Of The Sacraments
[The following official interpretations of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal have been published by the Sacred Congregation in its journal Notitiae [indicated by: Not., vol. (year) pages]. The numbers preceding the Query and Reply are those of the applicable paragraph in the General Instruction. The New Missal of 2001 includes and clarifies most of these notes.]
12. Query: An organ accompaniment for the recitation of the eucharistic prayer is a practice that has developed in some places. Is this acceptable?
Reply: The GIRM no. 12 clearly states: The nature of the presidential prayers demands that they be spoken in a loud and clear voice and that everyone present listen with attention. While the priest is reciting them there should be no other prayer and the organ or other instruments should not be played. This is a clear rule, leaving no room for doubt, since it is a reminder of wrong practices that have greatly impeded and diminished the people's participation in this central part of the Mass. Further, it is obvious that the organ's so-called background music often puts into the background what should be foremost and dominant. A background accompaniment of the priest's homily would be out of the question: but in the eucharistic prayer the word of the presider, Tou proestou in Justin's expression, reaches the peak of its meaning: Not 13 (1977) 94-95, no. 2.
21. Query 1: After communion should the faithful be seated or not?
Reply: After communion they may either kneel, stand, or sit. Accordingly the GIRM no. 21 gives this rule: The people sit. . .if this seems useful during the period of silence after communion. Thus it is a matter of option, not obligation. The GIRM no. 121, should, therefore, be interpreted to match no. 21: Not 10 (1974) 407.
Query 2: In liturgical assemblies there is a great variety of gestures and postures during a celebration. For example, should the people: a. stand during the prayer over the gifts; b. kneel after the Sanctus and during the entire eucharistic prayer; c. sit after communion?
Reply: As usual the GIRM gives simple rules to solve these questions (GIRM no. 21): a. The people stand while the presidential prayers are being said, therefore, during the prayer over the gifts. b. Thy also stand throughout the eucharistic prayer, except the consecration. The practice is for the faithful to remain kneeling from the epiclesis before the consecration until the memorial acclamation after it. c. The people may sit during the silence after communion. The points determined are in no way to be considered trivial, since their purpose is to ensure uniformity in posture in the assembly celebrating the eucharist as a manifestation of the community's unity in faith and worship. The people often give the impression immediately after the Sanctus and even more often after the consecration by their diverse postures that they are unmindful of being participants in the Church's liturgy, which is the supreme action of a community and not a time for individuals to isolate themselves in acts of private devotion: Not 14 (1978) 300-301, no. 1.
Query 3: In some places kneelers have been taken out of the churches. Thus, the people can only stand or sit and this detracts from the reverence and adoration due to the eucharist.
Reply: The appointments of a place of worship have some relationship to the customs of the particular locale. For example, in the East there are carpets; in the Roman basilicas, only since modern times, there are usually chairs without kneelers, so as to accommodate large crowds. There is nothing to prevent the faithful from kneeling on the floor to show their adoration, no matter how uncomfortable this may be. In cases where kneeling is not possible (see GIRM no. 21), a deep bow and a respectful bearing are signs of the reverence and adoration to be shown at the time of the consecration and communion: Not 14 (1978) 302-303, no. 4.
23. Query 1: Is it appropriate to meditate for a short time in silence after the homily? Reply: Very much so.
Query 2: May the organ be played softly during this interval of silence?
Reply: Yes, as long as it really is played softly and is not a distraction to meditation: Not 9 (1973) 192.
26. Query: In the GIRM no. 26 are the words actioni sacrae to be understood of the procession of the priest and ministers or of the entire eucharistic celebration?
Reply: The words are to be understood of the procession, because the context is about the entrance song. Nevertheless the norm takes on a general applicability; whatever the singing during Mass, it should fit the character of the season and of the part of the rite actually taking place: Not 6 (1970) 404, no. 42.
29. Query: Does the Asperges rite still exist?
Reply: Yes. For it is a rite that on Sunday helpfully calls to mind the baptismal washing. But this matter will be settled better in the new missal, in such a way that the Asperges will be coordinated with the penitential rite of the Mass: Not 5 (1969) 403, no. 11.
31. Query 1: What is to be understood by the phrase a special, more solemn celebration?
Reply: This occasion on which GIRM no. 31 calls for the singing of the Gloria is a celebration observed with solemnity or with a large number of people: Not 6 (1970) 263, no. 33.
Query 2: When the Gloria and Credo are not sung but just recited, sometimes the celebrant conducts the recitation in alternation with the congregation. But since a hymn and a profession of faith are at issue and these involve the assembly as a whole, does this practice seem to be keeping with the rubrics?
Reply: The rubrics of the Order of Mass, drawn up in a practical fashion, have only this on the Gloria: the hymn is sung or recited (no. 5) and on the Credo: the profession of faith. . .is made (no. 15). As is often the case, the GIRM shows progress of a spiritual order (nos. 31 and 43), by bringing out the community character proper to these texts and by stressing the dialogic style for their recitation. a. As to the Gloria, the GIRM no. 31, to preserve its character as a hymn, says: It is sung by the congregation, or by the congregation alternately with the choir, or by the choir alone. If not sung, it is to be recited either by all together or in alternation. By preference, therefore, the Gloria should be sung. Otherwise it is recited by all either together or in alternation. The celebrant should join with the assembly's singing or reciting of the Gloria together or with one sector of the assembly's dialogic recitation or else he should recite the hymn in alternation with the assembly. b. As to the Credo, the GIRM no. 44 says: Recitation of the profession of faith by the priest together with the people is obligatory on Sundays and solemnities. It may be said also at special, more solemn celebrations. If it is sung, as a rule all are to sing it together or in alternation. Therefore, whether sung or recited the Credo belongs to the entire liturgical assembly, which says it together (all) or sings it as two alternating choirs: Not 14 (1978) 538, no. 14.
42. Query: Is it advisable to invite the faithful to bless themselves before or after the homily, to address a salutation to them, for example, Praised be Jesus Christ, etc.?
Reply: It all depends on lawful local custom. But generally speaking it is inadvisable to continue such customs because they have their origin in preaching outside Mass. The homily is part of the liturgy; the people have already blessed themselves and received the greeting at the beginning of Mass. It is better, then, not to have a repetition before or after the homily: Not 9 (1973) 178.
44. Query: Is the Credo to be said during the Easter octave?
Reply: Not per se; still, it may be said even on these weekdays when there is a more solemn celebration: Not 7 (1971) 112, no. 2. See also no. 31, Query 2b above.
49. Query 1: What is the genuine meaning of the offertory rite? The description of the offertory of the Mass, it is pointed out, speaks only of the preparation of the gifts and placing them on the altar, of the people's offerings for the Church and for the poor, but nothing about the of offering of the sacrifice.
Reply: History teaches that the offertory rite is an action of preparation for the sacrifice in which priest and ministers accept the gifts offered by the people. These are the elements for the celebration (the bread and wine) and other gifts intended for the Church and the poor. This preparatory meaning has always been regarded as the identifying note of the offertory, even though the formularies did not adequately bring it out and were couched in sacrificial language. The new rite puts this specifying note in a clearer light by means both of the active part taken by the faithful in the presentation of the gifts and the formularies the celebrant says in placing the elements for the eucharistic celebration on the altar: Not 6 (1970) 37, no. 25.
Query 2: Does it not seem that the suppression of the prayers that accompanied the offering of the bread and wine has impoverished the offertory rite?
Reply: In no way. The former prayers: Suscipe, Sancte Pater. . . and Offerimus tibi, Domine. . . were not accurate expressions of the genuine meaning of the offertory rites but merely anticipated the meaning of the true and literal sacrificial offering that is present in the eucharistic prayer after the consecration, when Christ becomes present on the altar as victim. The new formularies for the gifts bring out the giving of glory to God, who is the source of all things and of all the gifts given to humanity. They state explicitly the meaning of the rite being carried out; they associate the value of human work, which embraces all human concerns, with the mystery of Christ. The offertory rite, then, has been restored through that explicit teaching and shines forth with new light: Not 6 (1970) 37-38, no. 26.
51. Query: In Mass with a congregation celebrated more solemnly, different ways of incensation are being used: one plain and simple; the other, the same as the rite for incensation prescribed in the former Roman Missal. Which usage should be followed?
Reply: It must never be forgotten that the Missal of Pope Paul VI has, since 1970, supplanted the one called improperly the Missal of St. Pius V, and completely so, in both texts and rubrics. When the rubrics of the Missal of Paul VI say nothing or say little on particulars in some places, it is not to be inferred that the former rite should be observed. Therefore, the multiple and complex gestures for incensation as prescribed in the former Missal (see Missale Romanum, Vatican Polyglot Press, 1962: Ritus servandus VIII and Ordo incensandi pp. LXXXLXXXIII) are not to be resumed. In incensation the celebrant (GIRM nos. 51 and 105) proceeds as follows: a. toward the gifts: he incenses with three swings, as the deacon does toward the Book of the Gospels; b. toward the cross: he incenses with three swings when he comes in front of it; c. toward the altar: he incenses continuously from the side as he passes around the altar, making no distinction between the altar table and the base: Not 14 (1978) 301-302, no. 2.
52. Query: May the rite of washing the hands be omitted from the celebration of Mass?
Reply: In no way. 1. Both the GIRM (nos. 52, 106, 222) and the Order of Mass (with a congregation, no. 24; without a congregation, no. 18) show the Lavabo to be one of the prescribed rites in the preparation of the gifts. A rite of major importance is clearly not at issue, but it is not to be dropped since its meaning is: an expression of the (priest's) desire to be cleansed within (GIRM no. 52). In the course of the Consilium's work on the Order of Mass, there were a number of debates on the value and the place to be assigned to the Lavabo, e.g., on whether it should be a rite in silence or with an accompanying text; there was, however, unanimity that it must be retained. Even though there has been no practical reason for the act of hand-washing since the beginning of the Middle Ages, its symbolism is obvious and understood by all (see SC art. 34). The rite is a usage in all liturgies of the West. 2. The Constitution on the Liturgy (SC art. 37-40) envisions ritual adaptations to be suggested by the conferences of bishops and submitted to the Holy See. Such adaptations must be based on serious reasons, for example, the specific culture and viewpoint of a people, contrary and unchangeable usages, the practical impossibility of adapting some new rite that is foreign to the genius of a people, and so on. 3. Apart from the envisioned exemptions from rubrics and differing translations of texts (see Consilium, Instr. 25 Jan. 1969), the Order of Mass is presented as a single unit whose general structure and individual components must be exactly respected. Arbitrary selectiveness on the part of an individual or a community would soon result in the ruin of a patiently and thoughtfully constructed work: Not 6 (1970) 38-39, no. 27.
55d. In certain vernacular versions of the text for consecrating the wine, the words pro multis are translated thus: English, for all; Spanish, por todos; Italian, per tutti.Query: a. Is there a sufficient reason for introducing in this variant and if so, what is it?
b. Is the pertinent traditional teaching in the Catechism of the Council of Trent to be considered superseded?
c. Are all other versions of the biblical passage in question to be regarded as less accurate?
d. Did something inaccurate and needing correction or emendation in fact slip in when the approval was given for such a version?
Reply: The variant involved is fully justified:
a. According to exegetes the Aramaic word translated in Latin by pro multis has as its meaning for all: the many for whom Christ died is without limit; it is equivalent to saying Christ has died for all. The words of St. Augustine are apposite: See what he gave and you will discover what he bought. The price is Christ's blood. What is it worth but the whole world? What, but all peoples? Those who say either that the price is so small that it has purchased only Africans are ungrateful for the price they cost; those who say that they are so important that it has been given for them alone are proud (Enarr. in Ps. 95, 5).
b. The teaching of the Catechism is in no way superseded: the distinction that Christ's death is sufficient for all but efficacious for many remains valid.
c. In the approval of this vernacular variant in the liturgical text nothing inaccurate has slipped in that requires correction or emendation: Not 6 (1970) 39-40, no. 28.
55g. Query: In the intercessions of Eucharistic Prayer III, this parenthesis appears (Saint N.—the saint of the day or the patron saint). How should these words be interpreted? Must the saint of the day or the patron saint be mentioned? And even on a Sunday or on more solemn days? May the blessed also be mentioned?
Reply: a. The words quoted, as is rightly noted, are in parenthesis; therefore, mention of the saint of the day or the patron saint is to be considered as optional. But it should not be omitted all the time, because mention of the saint adds something concretely relevant to the participants, the place, and the circumstances.
b. There may, therefore, always be a mention of the saint of the day or of the patron saint, even if celebration of a Mass in honor of the saint is impeded, and even on Sunday and more solemn days. Special conditions of people and places may sometimes favor omission, for example, if mention of a little-known saint may cause puzzlement. The celebrant should always guard against imposing his own personal devotion on the faithful.
c. What has been said about saints is applicable to the blessed, but only in keeping with places and ways established by law (see CIC can. 1277, 2): Not 14 (1978) 594-595, no. 17.
56e. Query 1: May the singing of Shalom replace the singing of the Agnus Dei?
Reply: No. The Ordinary of the Mass in all its parts must be followed as it appears in the Missal. Some slight adaptation is countenanced in the Directory for Masses with Children no. 31. What is established for children, however, is not transferable to other assemblies: Not 11 (1975) 205.
Query 2: How many times must the Agnus Dei be said or sung, according to the indications in the Order of Mass?
Reply: The point of the Agnus Dei is to accompany the breaking of the consecrated bread until a particle is dropped into the chalice (GIRM no. 56e). In practice two situations are to be considered: a. If there is only one celebrant presiding or if there are only a few concelebrants, the breaking of the bread is done quite quickly. Usually the Agnus Dei said or sung three times, as indicated in the Order of Mass no. 131, is enough to accompany the rite. b. In the case when there are many concelebrants or the breaking of the bread takes a long time, then the Agnus Dei may be repeated until the completion of the breaking of the bread, following the rubric in the Order of Mass no. 131: This may be repeated. . . and the directive of the GIRM no. 56e: This invocation may be repeated as often as necessary to accompany the breaking of the bread. The final reprise concludes with the words, grant us peace: Not 14 (1978) 306, no. 8.
57a. Query: What is the formulary a bishop is to use for the final blessing of Mass?
Reply: Although nothing is said on this point in the new Order of Mass, at the end of Mass bishops bless the people either with the more solemn formulary that will appear in the new Roman Missal or with the formulary that has been customary until now, namely: Blessed be the name of the Lord. . .; Our help is in the name of the Lord (they do not cross themselves); May almighty God bless you. . .; as he makes the triple sign of the cross: Not 5 (1969) 403, no. 14. See also no. 108 below.
62. Query: Are hand missals still needed?
Reply: Since reform of the liturgy the usefulness of hand missals for the faithful is often questioned. All now understand the words spoken at Mass; what is more, as far as the biblical readings are concerned, all ought to be listening attentively to the word of God. Nevertheless hand missals, it seems, remain necessary. People do not always hear well, especially in large churches, and what they do hear physically they do not always understand right away. They, therefore, often need to go back over the texts heard during a celebration. In addition, the liturgy, and the eucharistic celebration above all, is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fount from which all the Church's power flows (SC art. 10). All the concerns of the spiritual life must be brought to the liturgy and that happens if participation is truly actual and aware. This requires frequent meditation on the liturgical texts both before and after the celebration: Not 8 (1972) 195-196. See also the notes from Bp. R. Coffy, President of the Liturgical Commission of France, and the survey of vernacular missals available: ibid. 196-198.
79. See no. 269 below.
80c. Query: In a great many places the veil is hardly ever used to cover the chalice prepared at a side table before Mass. Have any recent norms been given to suppress use of the veil?
Reply: There is no norm, not even a recent one, to change the GIRM no. 80c, which reads: The chalice should be covered with a veil, which may always be white.: Not 14 (1978) 594, no. 16.
87. Query: During the recitation of certain formularies, for example, the Confiteor, Agnus Dei, Domine, non sum dignus, the accompanying gestures on the part of both priest and people are not always the same: some strike their breast three times; others, once during such formularies. What is the lawful practice to be followed?
Reply: In this case it is helpful to recall:1. gestures and words usually complement each other;2. in this matter as in others the liturgical reform has sought authenticity and simplicity, in keeping with SC art. 34: The rites should be marked by a noble simplicity. Whereas in the Roman Missal promulgated by authority of the Council of Trent meticulous gestures usually accompanied the words, the rubrics of the Roman Missal as reformed by authority of Vatican Council II are marked by their restraint with regard to gestures. This being said: a. The words, Through my own fault in the Confiteor are annotated in the reformed Roman Missal with the rubric: Thy strike their breast (Ordo Missae no. 3). In the former Missal at the same place the rubric read this way: He strikes his breast three times. Therefore, it seems that the breast is not to be struck three times by anyone in reciting the words, whether in Latin or another language, even if the tripled formulary is said (mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa). One striking of the breast is enough. Clearly, also, one gesture is enough in those languages in which the words expressing fault are translated in a simpler form, for example in English, I have sinned through my own fault; in French Oui, j'ai vraiment peche'. b. The special restraint of the reformed Roman Missal is also clear regarding the other texts mentioned, the Agnus Dei and Domine, non sum dignus, expressions of repentance and humility accompanying the breaking of the bread and the call of the faithful to communion. As noted in the Reply no. 2 of the comments in Not 14 (1978) 301, when the rubrics of the Missal of Paul VI say nothing, it is not to be thereby inferred that the former rubrics must be followed (see no. 51 above). The reformed Missal does not supplement but supplants the former Missal. The old Missal at the Agnus Dei had the directive striking his breast three times and the same for the Domine, non sum dignus. But because the new Missal says nothing on this point (Ordo Missae, nos. 131 and 133), there is no reason for requiring any gesture to be added to these invocations: Not 14 (1978) 534-535, no. 10.
89. Query: Before the biblical readings sometimes priests or lay readers announce subtitles for the selection or even the rubric: The first reading, The second reading, etc. Is it permissible to follow this practice?
Reply: Clearly not. As with all rubrics, the titles, The first reading, The second reading, are guides for the convenience of the reader. As to the captions, which consist either in a sentence drawn from the text or in a summary statement of the reading, they too are guides useful for choosing among different texts, especially in the Commons. The sole title to be announced is the one indicating the book of the Bible or, where applicable, its author. For example: A reading from the Letter of Paul to Timothy; A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark: Not 14 (1978) 303, no. 5.
97. Query: In the celebration of Mass may the bishop give the homily at the chair and seated?
Reply: By rule of the GIRM no. 97, in the celebration of Mass the homily is given at the chair or at the lectern. In keeping with custom, the bishop may certainly give the homily seated: Not 10 (1974) 80, no. 3. See also no. 42 above.
101. Query: At the presentation of gifts at a Mass with congregation, persons (lay or religious) bring to the altar the bread and wine which are to be consecrated. These gifts are received by the priest celebrant. All those participating in the Mass accompany this group procession in which the gifts are brought forward. They then stand around the altar until communion time. Is this procedure in conformity with the spirit of the law and of the Roman Missal?
Reply: Assuredly, the Eucharistic celebration is the act of the entire community, carried out by all the members of the liturgical assembly. Nevertheless, everyone must have and also must observe his or her own place and proper role: In liturgical celebrations each one, minister or layperson, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to that office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy. (SC art. 29). During the liturgy of the eucharist, only the presiding celebrant remains at the altar. The assembly of the faithful take their place in the Church outside the presbyterium, which is reserved for the celebrant or concelebrants and altar ministers: Not 17 (1981) 61.
102. Query: How are the presentation of the bread and wine by the faithful and the presentation of the paten with the bread in GIRM no. 102 compatible?
Reply: There is no problem. For the offerings that the priest receives from the people are put on a nearby table and the bread and wine are carried to the altar (see GIRM no. 101), then the offertory rites take place. If the celebrant takes the paten or ciborium with the bread from the faithful last, he may proceed directly to the altar and immediately recite the formulary for offering the bread: Not 6 (1970) 404, no. 43.
105. See no. 51 above.
108. Query: Some celebrants have the practice of raising then joining their hands during the dialogue before the preface and at the beginning of the final blessing. Others omit such gestures. What is right?
Reply: As is often the case, at issue is a habit having its source in the rubrics of the former Roman Missal. The current directives of the Order of Mass are to be followed, which are clear on the two points raised: a. As to the dialogue before the preface, no. 27 (MR p. 392) says precisely: With hands extended he sings or says: The Lord be with you; He lifts up his hands and continues: Lift up your hearts; With hands extended, he continues: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God; The priest continues the preface with hands extended. Therefore, the former rite is not to be continued; among other things it indicated at this point: He joins his hands before his breast and bows his head as he says: Let us give thanks.... b. As to the blessing at the end of Mass, the new Order of Mass says only: The priest blesses the people, with these words ... (no. 42). But the rubrics of the former Order of Mass, after the dismissal Ite, Missa est, prescribed a gesture for the blessing having five steps: Raising his eyes, extending, raising, and joining his hands, and bowing his head to the cross, he says: May almighty God bless you. . .and turning to the people . .continues: the Father. . . Now, however, only that gesture is required which is indicated by the revelant rubric, namely, the priest blesses the people, with the words: May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit: Not 14 (1978) 536-537, no. 12.
109 Query: Is a bell to be rung at Mass?
Reply: It all depends on the different circumstances of places and people, as is clear from GIRM no. 109: A little before the consecration, the server may ring a bell as a signal to the faithful. Depending on local custom, he also rings the bell at the showing of both the host and the chalice. From a long and attentive catechesis and education in liturgy, a particular liturgical assembly may be able to take part in the Mass with such attention and awareness that it has no need of this signal at the central part of the Mass. This may easily be the case, for example, with religious communities or with particular or small groups. The opposite may be presumed in a parish or public church, where there is a different level of liturgical and religious education and where often people who are visitors or are not regular churchgoers take part. In these cases the bell as a signal is entirely appropriate and is sometimes necessary. To conclude: usually a signal with the bell should be given, at least at the two elevations, in order to elicit joy and attention: Not 8 (1972) 343.
112. Query 1: In churches without an altar facing the people should the priest in the celebration of Mass turn toward the congregation as he says: The peace of the Lord be with you always and Let us offer each other a sign of peace?
Reply: Yes. The rubric in the Order of Mass with a congregation no. 128 directs that the priest speaks these words while facing the congregation: Not 6 (1970) 264, no. 39.
Query 2: In some places there is a current practice whereby those taking part in the Mass replace the giving of the sign of peace at the deacon's invitation by holding hands during the singing of the Lord's Prayer. Is this acceptable?
Reply: The prolonged holding of hands is of itself a sign of communion rather than of peace. Further, it is a liturgical gesture introduced spontaneously but on personal initiative; it is not in the rubrics. Nor is there any clear explanation of why the sign of peace at the invitation: Let us offer each other the sign of peace should be supplanted in order to bring a different gesture with less meaning into another part of the Mass: the sign of peace is filled with meaning, graciousness, and Christian inspiration. Any substitution for it must be repudiated: Not 11 (1975) 226.
113. See no. 56e above.
114. Query: After the commingling and during the prayer, Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the living God or Lord Jesus Christ, with faith, some celebrants place their joined hands on the altar and, with bowed head, say the text of the prayer softly. Is this procedure still to be followed?
Reply: Traces of the former rites are here again discernible. To resolve this query the norms of the Order of Mass have to be heeded, with care not to add anything and with attention once again to the principle so kindly stated by Pope John XXIII: Make complex and difficult matters simple; what is already simple leave alone. The former Ritus servandus regarding this prayer directed (no. X, 3): Then with joined hands placed on the altar, eyes foxed on the sacrament, and bowing over he says softly. . . The Order of Mass of Paul VI (no. 132) more precisely determines what the GIRM says in no. 114: Then the priest, with hands joined, says softly. . . Therefore, the celebrant stands upright with hands joined before his breast: Not 14 (1978) 537-538, no. 13.
115. See no. 87 above.
121. See no. 21 above.
124. Query 1: When at the end of Mass one of the solemn blessings or the prayer over the people is used, how is it to be integrated into the concluding rite?
Reply: The GIRM no. 124 indicates that on certain days and occasions another, more solemn form of blessing or the prayer over the people precedes this form of blessing as the rubrics direct. The rite in this case takes the following form. After the greeting, The Lord be with you, the deacon or the priest himself, if there is no deacon, says the invitation, Bow your heads and pray for God's blessing or something similar. Then the priest, with hands outstretched over the people, says the solemn blessing or the prayer over the people