Monday, 25 February 2013

Latin Mass Serving Role: The Torch Bearer

Latin Mass Serving: The Torch Bearer

Brief Statistics

Plays a Role in What Level Masses? High Mass/Missa Cantata and Higher Levels

How Many? Anywhere from 2 to 6 (though perhaps for a pontifical Mass, the maximum increases to 8)

What parts of the Mass? From the Sanctus till Communion time till after the tabernacle is closed. Also torches are part of benediction and processions of the Blessed Sacrament, as these servers are doing in the picture above. 

Relative time to master the role? Not much.

The Torch Bearer Role in Detail

WARNING!!! As with all my serving posts here at Servimus Unum Deum, I am not the be all and end all, or solo authority, in the Church for Latin Mass Serving, and I do not make myself to be (unlike others). I provide in these posts the "basic tool-kit" or majority of basic tips and advice from my home library/practical experience gained as an EF server, on the topic at hand, and try my best not to leave out "left overs" or "small things." If there are acceptable deviations that do not delve from the major rubrics, which your parish or lay organization/trainer specified, go with what the parish/he says.

Note: Torch Bearers are part of Eucharistic Processions, but I will not cover those in the section. I would rather stick that in the Missa Cantata/High Mass and Missa Solemnis postings, or even its own separate posting. If, however, by popular demand you want to know that, as infrequent as you will do that as a torch bearer, I'll add it by request.

Description and Background of the Role

The Torch Bearer is a role that occurs in the High Mass/Missa Cantata or higher level Masses. It is often used as an introductory role for servers new to the higher level Masses, as mastering the role and the quantity of actions overall done by the torch bearer are less than those of other roles. 

Liturgically speaking ...
One can understand the physical part of the role of the torch bearer through a tradition that was (is?) used in the Low Mass, the lighting of the Sanctus Lamp. Recall from my Part II No. 4 of the General Q and A on the Latin Mass, the details about the Sanctus:
  • Sometimes, there is a Sanctus candle that is lit on the epistle side of the Sanctuary after the Sanctus. This candle gives additional homage to Our Lord, Who a the Consecration will become present on the altar under the appearances of bread and wine. This candle is extinguised after the door of the tabernacle is closed following Holy Communion. (130, The Latin Mass Explained) 
  • In the same vein, and more commonly seen, at this point altar servers in the role of the torch bearer in High Masses (if present) and higher levels come out to surround the altar with their torches of light. They fulfil a similar function to this Sanctus candle ... 
Scripturally Speaking ... 

Scripturally speaking, much of the components of the Mass (including the Sanctus) owes itself to the Book of Revelation/ (Apocrypha/Apocalypse in your Latin Mass Missals). Torches are in fact present in the Book:

Revelation/Apocalypse 1:12-13 (NRSV-Catholic Edition): "12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I see seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lamp stands one like a Son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest;"

Revelation/Apocalypse 4:5 (NRSV-Catholic Edition): " .... From the throne issue flashes of lightning, and voices and peals of thunder, and before the throne burn seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God ..."

Despite that later in chapter 1 its revealed the seven lamp stands are revealed to be the 7 churches started at that time of writing Apocalypse, does one not see the analogy here in the Mass? When one considers how the servers with their smaller torches surround the priest, who elevates the Lord, consecrated in the species of the bread and wine, becoming Body and Blood? In the centre, now in the Mass, is our Lord, who has titles such as King of Kings and Christ the King (where a king sits on a throne)? See the analogy making sense here?

Symbolically Speaking ...
Interesting to note, prior to reforms made by Pope John Paul VI, but still existing in the Traditional orders that function in the Church today, there is a rite in the Ritus Ordinatorium that is used for ordination (of clerics in training) to what is the minor orders. Seminarians in the traditional orders such as the Fraternity of the Society of Saint Peter (FSSP) and the Institute of Christ the King today are ordained to these minor orders, of which those of acolyte and lector are commissioned to lay people in the Novus Ordo without an ordination rite. For the sake of understanding the torch bearer's role, let's look at the translation of the rite of ordination of an acolyte:

De Ordinatorium Acolythorum - The Ordination of Acolytes
[after the ordinandi are called by the bishop and kneel] .........
"Dearly beloved children who are about to receive the office of Acolyte, weigh well what you take upon yourselves. For it is the duty of the Acolyte to carry the candlestick, to light the lights of the church, and to minister wine and water for the Eucharist. Strive, therefore, worthily to fulfil the office once you have received it. For you shall not be able to please God, if, carrying in your hands a light before him, you serve the works of darkness, and thereby set an example of  faithfulness to others. But as Truth says: ``Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in Heaven.`` And as the Apostle Paul says: ``In the midst of a crooked and perverse generation shine as light in the world, holding forth the word of life.`` ``Therefore let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands, that you may be children of the light.`` ``Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.`` ``For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light.`` What that light is upon which the Apostle so much insists, he himself points out, adding: ``for the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth.`` Be, therefore, solicitous, in all justice and goodness and truth, to enlighten yourselves and others and the Church of God. For then will you worthily supply wine and water in the Divine Sacrifice, when, by a chaste life, and good works, you shall have offered yourselves as a sacrifice to God. Which may the Lord grant you through His mercy.

After this the Bishop takes a candlestick with an unlighted candle and presents it to all, each in turn touching it with his right hand, while the Bishop says:
"Receive the candlestick with the candle and know that you are bound to the lighting of the lights of the church, in the name of the Lord. R. Amen.
Then he takes an empty cruet ....
Afterwards, they remain kneeling and the Bishop standing, with his mitre on, turns towards them and says:
Dearly beloved brethen, let us humbly beseech God the Father Almighty, to vouchsafe to bless + these His servants for the Order of Acolyte, so that bearing before themselves a visible light in their hands, they may also show forth in their conduct a spiritual light. We beg this through the assistance of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who with Him and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth God, world without end. R. Amen.
(23-25, Ritus Ordinandi)

So if I were to summarize, in some basic point form, what your importance of the role of the torch bearer is in the Mass, its:

  • to physically surround, from the Sanctus, till after the Sacred Body of Christ is placed once again in the tabernacle, the consecrated species of the Body and Blood, our Lord Jesus. You could say you are one of the smaller lights, surrounding the Light of Lights, the King of Kings. 
  • One can see the Scriptural roots or image of the torch bearer role in the Book of Revelation
  • Symbolically, you are representing the laity as a server, and setting a spiritual example for them (as an acolyte, in the role of torch bearer) of faithfulness to others, a "spiritual light" so said in the ordination ritual for minor orders.  

Of course, you are probably screaming out loud to me through your computer screen "Alright I get it! Now teach me what you can about doing torch bearer!!!!" OK, calm down. deep breath now. Do it 3 times .... kay here we go.

The "What's" of the Role

To do the role of torch bearer, the following items/equipment you will work with at the Mass are:
  • Your serving robes (DUH!) of the surplice and cassock, which hopefully are at the parish or you remembered to bring them ... hopefully you did ....
  • Your torch
  • Candles for the torch: Round cylindrical candles if lantern style, or long candles if regular torch style
  • lighter
The Actual Torch
So, what exactly is a torch? "A torch is a short lighted candle affixed to a long staff." (18, A Handbook for the Sacristan). There are three main types that are mainly used commonly in Latin Masses. There aren't official names but I am assigning my own to these as a "descriptor"

Type 1 - "Traditional": These are your ones that look like the description in the Sacristan's Handbook. The one's below come off their base and do not have a candle in them.

Type 2 "Internally Affixed Candle" - These are the kind that have been used in past by St. Patrick's Gregorian Choir for their Solemn Masses in my Archdiocese. The torch is a long shaft not made of metal, but rather another material. You load the candle internally into a spring-loaded apparatus that can prop up the candle as needed (that is, as you burn through the wax). The candle is not visible as it is "Internally affixed" in the torch. Only its wick, the candle follower (the metal part around the "lip" of the candle,) and the light when it is lit would be seen. Some maintenance is required though, as wax might drip down and solidify in the spring-loaded apparatus, preventing the candle from being propped up

Type 3 "Lantern": These type of torches are more modern and look like a lantern affixed to the top of a shaft. They usually are a red or white cylinder affixed to the head of the shaft, that takes cylindrical candles in it. The lantern is not always in the shape of a straight cylinder. These type of torches might be used in Novus Ordo parishes as substitutes for acolyte candles. The Latin Mass will use these types of candles ONLY as torches in the EF, not as acolyte candles.

Holding the Torch
We covered this in the "Starter Points" postings under liturgical items at Mass, but I'll repost the stuff here as to how to hold the torch, with a couple of minor additions:

When one is holding a TORCH as a torch bearer
  • It is treated as a one handed object, though the rule varies. 
  • The hand that carries the torch, holds them at the middle. This hand is the outside hand. 
  • The other hand, is held open and flat against the breast. This is the inside hand. 
Also to note: 
  • In the Missa Cantata and higher, the two torch bearers who are farthest from the altar, might "flank" the farthest ends of the communion rails/pews/steps when the people receive communion. The torches are held depending on if a priest with communion is present:
    • Priest is handing communion: You hold the torch in your left hand (closest to the priest and the side of the Eucharist) while your right is flat and open on your chest.
    • Priest goes to get more hosts from the altar or tabernacle: You hold the torch in your right hand as any regular item with one hand is held, the left hand is flat and open on your chest. 
    • In other words, where the Eucharist is, the torch follows.  
However, if you are using the third type of torch pictured above, you might hold it with both hands, which makes your job a lot easier.

Doing the Role of Torch Bearer in the High Mass and Higher
On the bright side, the role of the torch bearer does not change between the High Mass and the Solemn Mass. They are needed at the same time, and leave at the same time. For the first half of the Mass and up to the Sanctus, you are in choir and can follow along with a missal and/or Propers handouts that are usually available in the Latin Masses.

You will also be doing the appropriate kneeling, standing, sitting, etc. with the other servers and your MC (unless he's needed). In addition, if your parish/lay organization allows for the altar servers to also say their responses at Mass that are not said by all persons present for the Latin Mass (e.g. prayers at the foot of the altar), then the torch bearers may say these as well.

As an additional note, two of the torch bearers, should there be a reduced quantity of regular servers to fill the role, OR there are no additional servers as torch bearers, can be the acolytes at the necessary points in the Mass. Clergy in the choir may also fulfil the role of torch bearer (119, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described).

Prior to Mass
In the sacristy, you will dress in your surplice and cassock (hopefully saying the vesting prayers before donning each item, see Starter points II part 3 for those prayers.) You will help out in whatever way you are asked to, or can, to set up the altar, and face the crucifix when it is the appropriate time to do so and receive the pre-mass prayer from the celebrant. You will then either process to the nave to go up the centre aisle, or line up near the door leading out to the left/right side of the main body of the church to begin processing.

Introduction to Mass/Asperges
You will be in a procession going up to the altar in the centre-most aisle. This is regardless if there is an Asperges or not before the Mass. If there is an Asperges before the Mass begins, then the order is as follows:

2nd Acolyte        Cross Bearer       1st/primary Acolyte
Torch bearers in pairs
[Clergy in Choir Walking in Pairs]
Thurifer     Priest in Cope     M.C.

As for the Solemn Mass, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Describes this for the Solemn Mass: "... if the celebrant [wears] the cope, then the ministers walk on either side of him, the deacon at his right, the subdeacon at his left, holding the cope. The sacred ministers are covered; those in choir carry their biretta when inside the church." (Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, 109). 

For the purposes of your roles, torch bearers only need to know where they are in their procession, and to do the appropriate genuflections as they would do in a non-Asperges Mass. The Asperges will be covered more in depth in the Thurifer and MC posts in future.  

Normally, you will process up the altar in the following order, as seen in this hand-written diagram from one of my religious notebooks:

Figure 1: Order of Procession in High/Solemn Latin Mass with guide from my Religious Notebook #1

Arrow - Direction of the procession train.
BB - Boat Bearer (if present)
Th - Thurifer with censer/thurible
Ac - Acolyte 1 and 2
Cb - Cross Bearer
Tb - Torch Bearers (in groups of two) 
MC - Master of Ceremonies
SD - Sub deacon
D - Deacon
P - Priest/Celebrant

The deacon and sub-deacon are not present in the procession for the High Mass.  As a torch bearer, seen here, you line up behind the trio of acolytes + cross bearer, in pairs. The pairs of torch bearers should ideally be close in, or equal in, height. There will never be an odd number of torches for the Mass, and the number will vary from two to six normally for High and Solemn Masses. 

You will process up the centre aisle. Since you will not have your torches in your hands, you will process at a reverent pace, with your hands joined in the orans prayer position. Should there be torch bearers of different heights, pairs of shorter height should process first, with taller pairs behind (84-85, How to Serve)

When you get to the foot of the altar, before the first step, should there be any clergy present in choir, you will bow (slight or moderately) to them. After, or if not present, you genuflect at the same time as a pair of torch bearers, to the front of the altar ahead of you, whether there is a tabernacle on it, behind it, or elsewhere in the sanctuary. (119, Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described)

You will then proceed to your place in the choir (sides of the altar). The choir area you will be placed in for the mass is usually that of the Gospel side, or the left side. There may be pews for you to sit, or chairs will be placed for you in your designated spot. 

If there is an Asperges, you will be kneeling at your spots and receive the holy water that is sprinkled upon you.

Mass of the Catechumens
During the Mass of the Catechumens, you will mainly be copying the MC/other servers for your cues to stand, sit, kneel, etc. and will perform all the customary actions that all people present do at the various parts of the EF liturgy. As mentioned before, if you have a missal/the ordo of the EF mass and/or the propers of the day, be they a handout or a whole booklet, you are in your rights to follow along with the aid (unless you have been instructed not to by your parish/MC/trainer). At the liturgies I have served torch bearer at, I have been encouraged to follow along with the aids for learning purposes as well as to actively participate in the liturgy. 

While there is no major role that the torch bearer plays in the first half on the mass (unlike, say for example, the thurifer who is needed at the incensation of the altar,) for your consideration, I will now go through briefly   what the torch bearer does at each part of the Mass, including the appropriate cues.

Prayers at the foot of the Altar
The torch bearers will be kneeling with the other servers in choir, at the foot. The primary respondents are those around the priest for the responses, but if the torch bearers can hear the responses at the foot of the altar, they are able to say those responses if they know of them or from their service at Low Masses. They may also pat their chests at the "Mea culpa ..." part of the servers' Confiteor during the prayers. This section will be obviously shortened if it is a All Souls' Day Requiem Mass.

When the celebrant goes up to the altar with the other ministers and MC, you will stand, as well as those in the congregation.

For everyone, when the priest says the "Indulgentiam" line, you will make the Sign of the Cross with him.

Incensation of the Altar, Introit, Kyrie 
No actions. You remain kneeling for the duration.

Gloria (If Said)
You will stand for its duration. When the priests sit down due to the length of time it takes the choir to sing it, you will sit as well. Upon standing again, you will do so with the priests. Do not forget to do a slight head bow at: 1)  in excelsis DEO (Deo only), 2) adoramus te, 3) gratias agimus tibi, 4) Jesu Christe which appears twice 5) suscipe deprecationem nostrum.

Dominus Vobiscum and Collect
You will stand. Do not forget to slightly bow your head at "Oremus." 

Epistle (by sub deacon or priest), Gradual
No actions. You will sit. Just remember that if you hear the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, in Latin "Iesu(m) Christ(e/um)," you will do a slight head bow. You should be a well-prepared server for the Masses you serve and read the readings for the Mass ahead of time, at least just prior to Mass to see these cues. Get the propers which are usually provided as handouts at Latin Masses if you need to. 

Gospel (by deacon or priest)
You will stand. You will face the Gospel (where the subdeacon or priest is) and make your three signs of the cross with your thumb in your right hand, your left hand flat and open on your breast, at the mention of the Gospel author in the ``Sequentia`` line. Just like the epistle, if you hear the name of the Lord, "Iesu Christe,"  you will do a slight head bow. You should be a well-prepared server for the Masses you serve and read the readings for the Mass ahead of time, at least just prior to Mass to see these cues. Get the propers which are usually provided as handouts at Latin Masses if you need to.

Sit and listen. If you hear the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, slight head bow. Seminarians and priests (including the priest giving the sermon) will indicate this by the removal of the biretta from their heads and placing it back on. 

You will stand to begin. If the priests sit while the choir sings the Credo, you will sit. You will slightly bow at : 1) "in Unum Deum" (AT Deum), 2) As always, Jesum Christum (if kneeling, a moderate bow is made while the celebrant genuflects while saying Et incarnatus est), and 3) simul adoratur. After this when the priest returns to the altar, you stand with him. 

When you hear the line "Et incarnatus est de spiritu sancto ex Maria virgine: et homo factus est", everybody kneels. You get up after that line. You cross with the priest at "Et Vitam."

After the Credo will be another Dominus Vobiscum, which you reply, "Et cum spiritu tuo with everyone. You will also slightly bow at ``Oremus`` again. 

Mass of the Canons
This is the major part of the mass where you will perform your role as torch bearer. The acolytes will bring up water and wine. After than, the thurifer (herein, Th) will perform his duties like before, except now the deacon will incense a number of the clergy and inferior ministers in the Mass. Eventually, the Th will incense the deacon himself, his fellow servers which includes you, and the people. 

When the Th is about to incense you, he will bow to you. Bow in unison with the Th. He will incense you, you bow in unison with him right after he is done. He will then go off the steps of the sanctuary to the front and incense the people from the top of the centre aisle.

Your first actions at torch bearers are to go to the Th who will be standing in his spot where he incensed the people and line up equally spaced out to his left or right. When you process, you will be in walking with hands joined in the orans prayer position.

It is also possible for torches to line up in two lines behind the Th prior to genuflection (85, How to Serve; 120, Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described), which would work best with either 4 or 8 servers (were it to be a Pontifical Mass.)

Once you are in your spots, the Th and all torches will genuflect facing straight ahead at the sanctuary at the same time. A Th can give a single ``chest pat`` as the signal to do so, or an MC could look at the Th/torches to give the signal. The Th will then lead the torches to the sanctuary to get their torches. When he is leading you, your process in your given pairs, two by two, with your hands in the orans position.

I have also served a Mass as torch bearer, where the torches are led down the main aisle back to the narthex. This is not the most common procedure for the torch bearers, but has happened. Again consult your priest/MC/instructor as to what they want you to do for this part. 

Once in the sanctuary or narthex, you will have a limited time period to light your torches, be they the lanterns or the traditional candles. The Th might also aid in this, or need help with something of his duties. Ideally, matches/a lighter should be in the same place as the torches. Once you have lit all the torches, the Th will stand in the entry way out of the sacristy or into the body of the church. You will line up with your torch in your outside hand, and your inside hand open on your chest and flat. You will remain in the sanctuary until the Sanctus. 

When you hear the three bell rings in succession, your Th leads you out of the sacristy or up the aisle. You will then return to your spots where you were, the spots when the Th had finished his incensing of the people. You likely have been assigned certain positions to be in when you have your torches.

It is also possible at this point, that the acolytes' candles might be used as torches. Acolytes might go and get their candles (or assigned torch bearers), from the credence table, and use these torches for the role. Should acolytes be used as torch bearers, the Master of Ceremonies will perform the duties assigned to them. (85, How to Serve).

The Th lines up in the center and you surround him equidistant from each other at the foot of the altar. Your Th will likely signal or simply genuflect, and everyone genuflects once at this point. After you get up, your Th might give a second signal for you. ALL the torch bearers will now get on both knees (almost like a double genuflection, but not quite as you don't bend your head and you are carrying a torch). Your formation will look like this:

Figure 2: Positions of the Torch Bearers from the Sanctus till after Consecration. 

For my first Solemn Mass, the Feast of Christ the King, which was in Oct 2011 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, in downtown Toronto, we had the following altar configuration to line up prior to post-consecration:

Figure 4: Diagram in my Religious Notebook of torch bearer positions (Me as Tb number 2) relative to the predella and High Altar for October 2011 Christ the King Mass at St. Patick's Catholic Church, Toronto, ON. The Church contained an intact high altar attached to a stone wall, which is the best form for the EF Mass. 

[EDIT AS OF JUNE 13, 2014, also as part of the thurifer post]
You might also want to add a signal, so that you all genuflect with the Th on time. The Th might use his left hand to firmly, but not brashly, beat his chest, to get everyone to bow at the same time. Another option might be to assign first torchbearer (Tb1) this signalling responsibility, but to clap respectfully, not wildly, with both hands, which everyone should be able to hear.

In essence, Tb1 could be the "head torchbearer" (and as an opinion of this author, it could be a sub-rank or promotion for a server whose done the Mass a couple of times, but is not ready to be advanced further in rank.) This signal, however, AS ALWAYS WITH S.U.D., is not the final word, and should be up to your priest/MC/trainer. The signalling is an extra aid for the purposes of synchronization, and is NOT in the rubrics.
[End edit.]

Now the fun begins .... you will be kneeling for a lengthy period of time. A server's tip I will give to you new servers who aren't used to say 15-25 minutes straight of kneeling, if you are just starting out, is to buy a set of gardening or workman's foam knee-pads from a hardware store/gardening centre, and wear them under your cassock. However, I hope by the time you get used to serving, you won't need them. Of course if you are an older server with significant health problems in the joints, but can serve with the pads, then by all means do so. The Latin Mass should not be made to be a source of health problems. 

1a) Communion is NOT distributed at Mass
While usually this does not happen at a High or Solemn Mass, there may be a situation where it might happen. When this does, as soon as the elevation of the Chalice has ended, the torches rise together and come to the centre and genuflect with the Th, just like when they were going to the sanctuary. They go out two by two back to the sanctuary, led by the Th, extinguish their torches and put them back in there (or the narthex), and they go back to their places in the choir. Their function is complete (120, Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described). 

1b) Communion IS distributed at Mass (feast days when ferial Mass is said in violet vestments save Christmas Eve, Requiem Masses, and when people besides the celebrant receive communion)

There are two possible spots I have encountered/marked in my notes where the torches will switch their position on the altar or steps, in order to make way for servers who will be lining up for communion. 

1) After the ``Nobis quoque peccatoribus`` prayer (of which those exact words are said aloud), the priest will uncover the chalice and make 5 signs of the cross. After, he says ``Per omnia saecula saeculorim`` which you will reply, ``Amen.`` OR

2) After the priest consumes the Sacred Eucharist, and then says the "Sanguis Domini nostri ..." prayer and consumes the Precious Blood.

At this point, whatever it is, the other servers will get up to line for communion. What configuration you place yourself in after the single genuflection, will depend on the layout of the church altar or sanctuary (e.g. high altar attached to a reredos/stone wall, free-standing altar in a large sanctuary converted to an EF altar, free-standing altar in a small sanctuary). There are two basic types of post-consecration formations I've seen in my experience and on-line, with three sub-variations on the 2nd one.

a. Traditional Line Formation
Basically, you will remain in the same formation as before the consecration, but you might be required to move up and be on the same steps as the other servers. Regardless of moving, you will need to move yourself to the far ends of the line. You may also be below a step or two from the line up of main servers. It will look like this:

Figure 5: Traditional Straight Line-up for Server's Communion in High/Solemn Latin Mass. Edit of Image from

b. Flanking Altar or Vertical Line Formation
This, or variants of this formation, have been used in my past Solemn Latin Masses, and others. Basically, you line up vertically with other torches either in the large space of the sanctuary, at the sides of the predella on the lowest step (or below the first step), or in a group of two or four torches flanking the corners of the altar OR the main area of the high altar. Here's what it looks like pictorially with all three variations:

Figure 6: Variations of the Sanctuary/Altar Flanking of torch bearers. Tab = Tabernacle if dealing with a EF altar converted from a NO altar. 1) Torch bearers flank the (two) or four corners of the altar. 2) Torch bearers line up at the sides of the altar, on, or below, the first step of the predella. 3) The torch bearers line up vertically in straight lines, equidistant from the centre of the sanctuary, on both sides. This is an edited image from

I have done Masses with both the traditional line up, and the flanking of the corners of the altar variation. For my first Solemn Mass, the Feast of Christ the King, which was in Oct 2011 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Toronto, we had the following altar flanking configuration to line up prior to post-consecration:

Figure 7: Flanking the four corners of the Altar configuration, post-consecration and consumption of the wine, leading up to the servers` communion.

If you have been instructed as torches to flank the four corners of the free standing altar, then you will go and do so. If you are doing the traditional straight line-up, then you will go to the farthest ends of the step you line up on and the torches will be at the ends of the line. On a multi-step predella, or one with the basic 3-4 steps, this is usually the first step of the predella. If the two acolytes are substituting for the torch bearers, they will do the same as regular torch bearers would. If there are only the two of them to serve as substitute torch bearers, they would kneel at the corners closest to the congregation.  

The torch bearers may say the 2nd confiteor and Non Sum Dignus x3 with the other servers. However if you do the 2nd confiteor, do not pat your chest with the free hand at ``mea culpa``. You`re holding something, it is as simple as that. When the torch bearers receive communion, they must hand their torches over to another person before they receive the Eucharist. (120, Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described) This might be an MC, their fellow torch bearer (who will hold the 2nd torch in his other hand), or another server/clergy member. 

It is also possible you will remain a step or two below the line of altar servers if in the traditional line format, or stay in your corners at the altar, and remain stationary. The priest will come to you, along with the MC/another clergy member, and allow you to receive communion by taking your torch from you.

People's Communion

Should the torches or the acolytes subbing in at torches be asked to do so, the two most farthest people (or in an altar-corner flanking configuration, the two acolytes closest to the congregation) will arise, and stand at the far ends of where the people receive communion. If using pews, Tbs stand at the far ends of the pews, giving just enough room for people to get in. If it is a step, or if lucky actual Communion rails, they are the "posts" or "guards" so to speak that denote where the kneeling space to receive communion ends on both sides.

It is here in this situation that the torches perform exceptions to the rule of carrying one-handed objects, whereby their torch is in the hand/direction of the priest. When they come with the Eucharist, the torch is in the hand, closest to the priest, the other hand open and flat on the breast. Should they need to "refill" or get more Hosts, then you switch hands.

The exceptions also apply for the two or more Tbs remaining behind on the altar, if flanking its corners or lining up on the sides of the altar. Your torch will follow the priests. When they go down to give communion, it goes to the hand closest to the body of the church, where they are. When they come back up and go to the tabernacle or altar for more Hosts, it follows them/goes in your other hand. You switch once they pass you. The torch follows the priest/Eucharist.

When Eucharist of the people is finished on your side, you return with your torch in your right hand, left flat on your chest, back to your designated torch bearer spot. Switch this upon returning to the altar to your outside hand once you are in kneeling position again.

After Communion
Once the extra ciboriae and Eucharist is placed back in the tabernacle, this is your cue for all the torches to leave their designated spots. You will line up like you did before kneeling, bow to any clergy if present in choir, and then do a single genuflection, then process back to the sanctuary in twos to deposit your torches and snuff them out. You then return to your places in the choir.

Should acolytes be used for torch bearers when they must stay till after communion, the MC will perform their associated functions, as mentioned before.

Exit Procession
You will again, be behind the acolytes and cross bearer, in twos, in the orans prayer position. The whole server train will stop once they have process several steps from the last step leading into the sanctuary, and are present in the main body of the church. They will stop and turn around, and wait for the clergy while they are saying the Last Gospel.

Do not forget at the line "Et incarnatus est ..." you will genuflect with the congregation. After the last gospel is finished, the clergy will descend from the sanctuary and come towards you. The clergy will do a last genuflection or bow to the altar. You will also bow (moderately) with the clergy, and then turn around and process back to the sacristy. Once inside, you will kneel facing the crucifix, and the priest will give his final prayer/blessing to you.

And so concludes the first of my specific position posts for EF serving. I realize I might have missed things, or might have made some things in error. If you have VALID additions or corrections that need to be added to the post, then I'll make them, providing you are of valid reference (e.g. a clergy member, a reputable choir master, or an altar server, not just a lay person who's been at many High/Solemn Masses). Be warned if you do, you'd better frame the addition charitably. No piss-pots allowed here on S.U.D. The blog rules still stand.


Works Cited
Moorman, Msgr. G.J. The Latin Mass Explained. Tan Publishing: Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.A. 2010.

Fortescue, A., O'Connell, J.B., and Reid, A. The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described. Fifteenth Edition. Burn & Oates: London, U.K. 2009.

Britt, D.M. O.S.B. How to Serve in Simple, Solemn, and Pontifical Functions. Tan Publishing: Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.A. 2008.

Crumly, A. Serving at Missa Cantata (The Torchbearers at Missa Cantata). The Blog of Arthur Crumly. Retrieved 25 Feb 2013 <>;.

Lynch, J.S.M. The Rite of Ordination According to The Roman Pontifical. 2nd Ed. The Cathedral Library Assocaition: New York, N.Y, USA. 1892. Retrieved Feb 2013: <>.

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