Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Starter Points II - General Actions Servers Will Do (1 of 3)

Starter Points II - General Actions Servers Will Do (1/3)

Hello Everyone, 

This is the 2nd of my Starter points postings before I start delving into specific roles and EF Mass levels for all positions. Now that your mind is like a sharpened sword it is time to actually put yourself to use for serving the EF Mass. There are a number of general actions and things pertinent to all servers, regardless of the Mass Level done, and other skills for when you actually use specific items. 

General Poses, Bows, Movement, Etc. 

Sign of the Cross

Figure 1. Demonstration of making a TRUE sign of the cross. (36, Learning to Serve A Guide for Altar Boys)

So you may be asking, do I really have to teach this? "I've been doing this since I was a child" right? Well you might want to think again. Do you rush your sign of the cross? Did you see that this server has his left hand on his breast? Well skimming your SOTC in the EF won't cut it!

The way to do it in the EF, and should be done all the time, is:

  • Keep the left hand flat and on your chest at all times. 
  • Bring the right hand palm open fingers extended out and touch the forehead (1) at  in nomine Patri
  • Bring the right hand down in a straight line, not fast, but at a nice speed, at et filio. (2)
  • Bring the right hand to your left shoulder at et spiritu ... (3)
  • now bring it to the right shoulder at a gradual speed at .... sancti, Amen. (4)
As to when to do this large crossing outside of the beginning and end of Mass, that will be covered with the individual Mass level known as the Low Mass.

During the Gospel
What is done during the Gospel is the same thing as in the Novus Ordo ... the three small crosses with your thumb of your right hand. You apply the same thing with the left hand as if it were a large crossing, that is you put it flat on your chest, and make the three crosses at the name of the author of the Gospel. You also say "gloria tibi domini" which is the Latin for what you say in English "Glory to you, O Lord."

Basic Positions
The Orans Position

So first and foremost, you, the EF server, have a default position when serving, be it kneeling or standing or bowing. That "stance" as it will, is your "Orans" position. Think of it like your basic horse-stance in Karate or fighting -ready stance in any martial art. From this stance you move, carry out motion, etc. in your duties, not to mention show reverence to our Lord at all times (and look reverent and holy, in service to the Lord, to the Laity). This is what the stance looks like from the book "Learning to Serve" by Fr. Charles Carmody

Figure 2: Basic Orans Position (32, Learning to Serve ...)

As you notice here, there are a number of things about the stance of importance:

HANDS: The most important feature, of which it is named "orans" are your hands. With regards to them:

  • Your hands are folded, palms laid flat against each other, with your fingers extending from the breast/chest at a 45 degree angle. 
  • Your hands are not to be too high or low. Don't let them droop or go near your mouth. (31-32, Learning to Serve A Guide for Altar Boys)
  • Your right thumb is to be "crossed" over your left thumb, or placed on top of it to make what looks like an "X".
    • WHY? Surinder S. Mundra, professional organist and pianist, and accomplished Gregorian choirmaster (& organizer) of St. Patrick's Gregorian & St. Issac Jogues Pickering Gregorian Choirs, states that the thumb cross is a sign of reverence. We as servers should be constantly meditating on the Crucifix (and thus our Lord's Passion, Death, and Resurrection)/Eucharist while we are serving. (personal communication, August 8, 2011)

Other parts of the body function as follows:
  • HEAD: The head is kept straight with the eyes looking slightly down. (31, Learning to Serve ...). However, don't look like you are doing a moderate/profound bow with the head and looking at your hands. 
  • BODY: The body is erect and the shoulders thrown back (31, Learning to Serve ...). No slouching or hunchback!
  • FEET: The feet are kept together, except when in motion. When you are in motion, walk slowly and evenly. Don't wobble like a mound of gelatin/Jell-O (TM) (31-32, Learning to Serve ...)

Sitting Position
There is not much to sitting as an EF server, but to mention the following. If you are not holding a missal/missalette/Ordo in your hand to read the Scripture and its English/vernacular translation, your hands are to remain open and flat on your knees, your back is straight, and your head is erect and looking straight ahead at the altar. (e.g. Sermon). This is what it looks like from Carmody:

Figure 3: Sitting position for an EF (and should be an OF too!) altar server. (46, Learning to Serve ... )

While sitting, do attempt not to let your imagination run wild, and focus on everything around you. You may be required during a certain prayer to stand, kneel, or bow your head slightly while sitting. In addition, keep focus so you don't miss your cues in your serving position to do what you must at that part of the Mass. 

Kneeling Position
When you are to kneel, you do so on both knees, keeping your back erect and your buttocks off the back of your legs. If you are not carrying an object in your hands, then you are to keep them in the orans position at all times. While this should be enough to get the idea, I will take the courtesy of applying another Carmody picture:

Figure 4: Kneeling position for an EF (and should be an OF too!) altar server. (46, Learning to Serve ... )

Also while kneeling you might be required to do one of the three types of bows I will mention below. Do not let your hands go out of the orans position while kneeling. 

Types of Bows
Simple/Slight/Head bow -
Figure 5. Head bow from Carmody (41, Learning to Serve ...)

The Simple/Slight/Head bow is a simple one, made with lowering the head down slightly. The majority of the bows made by the inferior ministers are of this type (37, The General Principles ...). The shoulders are not moved. Don't jerk your head quickly! Do it slowly but not too slowly. (40, Learning to Serve ...)

When should one do the Simple Bow? From Louis J. Tofari`s The General Principles of Ceremonies of the Roman Rite (37-38):

  • When our Lord, Jesus Christ`s, full name is mentioned, whether the title of Lord is added. ``Christ`` alone does not merit a simple bow. This would include if it is used in the Epistles/Gospels. 
  • During the Gloria Patri, up to "sicut erat."
  • During the Gloria at these words: "in excelsis DEO (Deo only), adoramus te, gratias agimus tibi, Jesu Christe (see above), suscipe deprecationem nostrum, Jesu Christe (see above). 
  • Every time the celebrant invokes ``Oremus``
  • For the mane of Mary (the Mother of God) and the name of the Saint of the day. If however the name of another Mary occurs, or another saint of the same name, a bow is not made. Likewise, donèt bow if the name of the saint is mentioned in the title of the Epistle or Gospel on their feast day (e.g. don`t bow at Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John at the announcing of their Gospel. The crosses are the proper action). 
  • During the Credo at these words: in Unum Deum (AT Deum), Jesum christum (if kneeling, a moderate bow is made while the celebrant genuflects while saying Et incarnatus est), and simul adoratur
  • During the Preface at: gratias agamus Domino Deo Nostro (At Deo Only)
  • During the entire recitation of the Agnus Dei
  • At the name of the pontiff, our Holy Father. [As of present, this is Benedictus XVI.] 
  • For the name of the local ordinary on the anniversary of his election and consecration. [For the archdiocese of Toronto, this is Thomas Collins who according to the diocesan website was consecrated/ordained to the Episcopate (or rank of Bishop) May 14, 1997. So on May 14 should a Mass be celebrated, you will bow at the mention of his name in the 2nd part of the Mass]. 
  • During the Season of Lent for the Oratio super populum: A simple bow is made when the celebrant says Oremus, then again when he says Humiliate capita vestra Deo and holding the position until the prayer is concluded by the celebrant: "Per Dominum ..."

      There are also times when acting with sacred ministers that the server shall do a simple bow:

  • Presenting the epistolaruim or the evangeliarium
  • Presenting the crutes at the Offertory
  • Any kind of Lavabo (washing of hands)
  • Presenting the pax brede (Sign of peace, kind of like a fraternal bear hug) to someone in choir
  • During the Ablutions 
  • Reciprocating a bow to another minister of equal or higher rank if you are equal in rank or junior. 
  • By the thurifer before he incenses an individual or a group, bowing first before the incensing, and after once done the action. 

Moderate/Shoulder Bow -
Figure 6. Shoulder bow from Carmody (41, Learning to Serve ...)

Both the head and shoulders are bent slightly. Again not to deeply, but proceed to bow at a gradual pace (40, Learning to Serve A Guide for Altar Boys). The Moderate bow is employed according to Tofari (40, The General Principles ...):
  • Ex actu functionalis, to an altar where the Blessed Sacrament is not reserved. [Editorial note: If the church you have to serve at gave into the banality of the tabernacle not in the center of the Church, which is not indicated in Vatican II's documents, you would do a single genuflection at the altar regardless of the lack of the tabernacle there in the center.] 
  • When kneeling, for words said aloud by the celebrant that require a genuflection for those standing (e.g. during the Credo at Et incarnatus est, for Flectamus genua on some Ember days and Lenter ferials).
  • For the four genuflections of the Consecration action [before and after each raising of the host and wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ, the priest will make these single genuflections.]
  • During Benediction when kneeling under the condition of coram Sanctissimo:
    • Before rising to impose incense into the thurible
    • Before and after incensing the Blessed Sacrament
    • During the hymn Tantum ergo at the words, veneremur cernui
Profound/Heavy/Deep Bow
Figure 7. Deep bow from Carmody (41, Learning to Serve A Guide for Altar Boys)

This bow is dome from the waist (41, Learning to Serve ...). This bow is done by bowing head and shoulders at a 90 degree angle  This is done on specific occasions as an inferior minister (41, The General Principles ...):
  • Before and after incensing the celebrant
  • In conjunction with the celebrant (or deacon) before and after incensing the book of the Gospels. 
Genuflections (Including general Times to do so)
This is done generally, with no specific instances when:
  • You process up the center of the body of the Church to the altar, done in synchronization/unison with the server beside you, or the priest
  • ALWAYS, when you cross from one side of the altar to the other, due to the presence of the tabernacle. No central tabernacle due to sad "Spirit of Vatican II" altar arrangements? You STILL do a single genuflection to the center of the altar as it is out of reverence for where our Lord's presence will be during the Mass.
  • Leaving the sanctuary to go into the sanctuary for whatever reason, even to blow your nose in tissues. You also do this upon returning to the sanctuary
Tofari in The General Principles ... (42-44) further adds:
  • Specific objects that get a genuflection are: The Blessed Sacrament, a 1st class relic of the Passion exposed (e.g. an actual piece of the true cross, one of the Holy Nails or Thorns), a principal altar, and the cross during veneration on Good Friday
  • When approaching or leaving the view of the altar
  • When standing, for a word or phrase said aloud that requires a genuflection
  • When the special rules for coram Sanctissimum apply. Translated means in the presence of the Most Holy, referring to when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed
  • On Good Friday, to the cross from its veneration, inclusive to the Vigil of Holy Saturday, as this entire period is treated as in actu functionis, meaning "in the act of function" when a liturgical action is taking place, such as the Mass or the Triduum services. 

Types of Genuflections
Single Genuflection  

Figure 8. Single Genuflection using one knee (41, Learning to Serve ...)

The single genuflection is simple. One goes down on their right knee, keeping the left one upright, from a standing position. The server gets back up, but not like a spring, that is, quickly. Nor slowly (with exception to medical issues). The orans prayer position is maintained and the body remains straight. We do not make the sign of the cross in addition to the genuflection, as the genuflection itself suffices.   

Double Genuflection - 
Figure 9. Double Genuflection on two knees with moderate bow (41, Learning to Serve ...)

This is a more profound genuflection, which starts from the single genuflection position. This genuflection involved both knees planted on the ground, the servers' hands still in the orans position (unless carrying an object) and a moderate bow is made. 

Since the double is not often used, Tofari (46-47, The General Principles ...) states that this less frequent type of genuflection is done by inferior minsters:
  • When the condition Coram Sanctissimo exists with the blessed sacrament exposed, it is done 
    • Outside liturgical functions/Ex actu functionis: when leaving or coming to the view of the altar, in the center of the altar, passing it "at the side,"or before ascending and after descending from the predella (actual altar steps) 
    • During functions (e.g. Mass, Adoration and Benediction) or In actu functionis: Crossing the altar, coming or leaving the center to go to an outside point, on the sanctuary floor (in plano) before ascending, and after descending from the predella. 
- Whenever servers are walking, they should be not rushed, nor slow in their pace. They should be ever mindful of their presence in the sanctuary and in the House of the Lord. 
- When being paired up with another server (e.g. as acolytes, torch bearers ...), you should be of similar height, and should match each other's speed and actions. Your bows, reverences, walking speed, all should be done at the same speed and also at the same time. 
- NEVER, when walking, turn your back on the Blessed Sacrament. That includes going up and down steps. You may have to side-step or turn a certain way to avoid such a fault.  

Using Liturgical Items Generally (not Specific to Roles)

General Principles
Holding and Giving/Taking Items
- In general, when one is handling an item, they are to put it in the right hand only and to give it to the priest or other minister's right hand. I cannot explain why.
- The person will also receive whatever is being given to them in the right hand only.
- If the person must receive two objects (e.g. solo Low Mass server with cruets), then they take the first item with the right hand, transfer the first item to their left, and receive the 2nd item with their right hand.
- With certain items one will have to do a simple bow before and after (see simple bow under genuflections).
- Also on certain occasions, when dealing with the priest (Low and High Mass, and possibly Solemn and Pontifical depending on your role), you will have to kiss the item. (see kissing items below)

Kissing Items (Solita Oscula - ``With the usual kisses``)
- Kissing the item, or solita oscula in the Latin, is done generally, whenever items are presented to the celebrant/Priest.
- One kisses the items "... out of respect to the celebrants's anointed hands which are a source of blessing." (48, The General Principles ...).

- The general rules of the kissing are (48, The General Principles ...):

  • Giving Objects: You are to kiss the object first, then the priest's hand.
  • Receiving: Do the reverse of giving. Priest's hand first, then your received object.  
- The items that receive kissing/solita oscula and where to kiss are (48, The General Principles ...):
  • Biretta: on one of the flat sides.
  • Cruets: on the side of the cruet (but not the lip or handle)
  • Aspergilium: on the handle. 
  • Incense spoon: towards the end of the hanlde
  • Thurible: on the disk where the chains are attached. 

- There are exceptions to the normal rules with specific items (49, The General Principles ...)

  • Blessed candles (on the Feast of Candlemas/Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, February 2): You kiss the candle first, then the celebrant's hand. 
  • Blessed Palm (Palm Sunday): Kiss the palm first, then the celebrant`s hand. 
- Solita Oscula is not performed on the usual items under the following conditions (49, The General Principles ...):
  • Requiem Masses (including the Solemnity of All Souls) and funerals
  • Ceremonies coram Sanctissimo
  • In the presence of a greater prelate (e.g. a bishop is present in the choir, NOT as the main celebrant in a Mass)
  • During the ceremonies of Good Friday
In higher forms of the Mass, you likely will not have to do the kissing because your items will be handed off to the deacon or the Master of Ceremonies. They will have to kiss. 

Specific Items
While candles and torches are for specific roles, with the acolyte candle being used over multiple levels of EF Masses, and the torches only for torch bearers in Solemn Masses or Missa Cantatas (rarely), I have placed the information here because you will eventually have to master being an acolyte as part of your training, or you will start out as a torch bearer should you begin altar serving as one.

Figure 10. Demonstration of carrying acolyte candles. (21, How to Serve in Simple, Solemn, and Pontifical Functions)

Above is a picture from Dom Britt`s book, demonstrating how the acolytes are to hold their candles. When holding the acolyte candles,

- The hand that holds the shaft is the hand of the side you are walking on. If you are walking on the right side of the pair of acolytes, that hand is higher. If you are the leftmost server, you hold the candle shaft with your left hand.

- The hand that holds the base of the candle is the side that is the most inward or closest to the center of the pair of servers. If you are on the right side, you hold the base with your left hand. If you are on the left side, hold the base with your right hand.

- The hand that holds the base of the candle, is to be placed gripping the bottom of the base. YOU DO NOT hold the shaft with both hands.

- If at any time for whatever reason, the servers switch their side in the pair of acolytes, then reverse your hand order to match your side.

[Editor's note. I am only covering how to hold a torch here. I will do the torch bearer role separately in its own posting.]

When one is holding a TORCH as a torch bearer
  • It is treated as a one handed object. 
  • The hand that carries the torch, holds them at the middle. The rule for the acolytes' higher hand, applies here. Anyone on the right side, holds them with the right hand, and the left side with the left hand. 
  • The other hand, is held open and flat against the breast. This is an exception to the rule where usually it is the left hand only that lays flat against the breast. 

Communion Paten
- Like anything gripped with only one hand, you are to keep your left hand held against your chest, palm and fingers flat.
- You handle the paten in your right hand.
- You are to grip it firmly, but not to tight as to break the handle or stress your hand out.
- Hold the paten in your hand horizontally, similar to if you were gripping handlebars on a bicycle.
- Make sure that the plate part is facing upwards! If it looks like an "upside down frying pan" you don't have the right side facing up.

Cruets/Lavabo Bowl/Ablution (Finger) Towel
While not all roles in the Masses will handle the Cruets and lavabo items, I list this generally in this guide because someone, be it yourself in a Low Mass, or the server in the acolyte positions in higher masses, does handle these items. With all items, the general giving, taking, and kissing rules (where performed) apply.

- CRUETS (18, How to Serve ...): Hold them at the base, and the handles are turned towards the left, parallel with the end of the altar or the top step. The handle is not facing the priest. Both cruets are given with the right hand, and the 2nd cruet (if serving Low Mass alone) is transferred to the right hand before giving it. The Kissing/Solita Oscula rules apply to cruets.

- LAVABO BOWL: This is held in the left hand by the acolytes during all levels of the Mass after transfer from the right to the left. You do not kiss this item.

- ABLUTION/FINGER TOWEL: In Masses where two acolytes are present, this is carried by the server who is not doing the water and bowl. In a Mass with a solo acolyte, the ablution towel is to be placed folded over the left arm, which has the bowl in it. This is similar to a towel rack at home, or if you were a servant  presenting a towel for their master's hands (which you in a sense ARE doing, as you are serving the priest who is Alter Christus). However, I have seen a youtube video where either the ablution towel was somehow laid out on the lower right corner of the altar ahead of time, or the purificator was used. Consult your priest/celebrant and ask what they want you to do. Otherwise go with how the priest/the MC/head server has trained you to do.

Bells (New Addition 14/01/2013)
General Information
Bells are quite important in the Liturgy. They signal the beginning of Mass, and in both forms of the Roman Rite, critical points in the liturgy or actions.

While there might be some slight variations in rules for bell ringing during the Mass, there are are some general rules (76, Learning to Serve ...)

  • Your ring should be firm and clear, not choppy
  • Do not pick up the bell before you need to ring it [though picking it up slightly before needing it to be ready should be obvious], or it will ring when it shouldn't. 
  • Do not smother the bell ring by placing it down quickly. Let the tone fade before replacing the bell on the step. 

When should I ring it?
The bells should be rung (23, How to Serve):

  • At the Sanctus.
  • For both Major Elevations
  • Can be allowed to be rung at the Hanc Igitur when the priest spreads his hands over the chalice.
  • Can also be rung during the Domine Non Sum Dignus said by the priest, usually once per D.N.S.D, but it should not be rung when the priest says these words before the distribution of Communion either during Mass or Outside Mass. 

The bells should NOT be rung:

  • During a Low Mass while a High Mass is being sung in the same church
  • Sundays either at the altar of exposition or any other altar when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed
  • When a wedding or funeral is taking place, and you are serving a Mass at a side altar
  • When the office is being recited in choir
  • While the celebrant and sacred ministers are on the way to the altar for a Solemn High Mass, or are returning to the sacristy after it, nor when a procession is happening in the Church. 
Special Type of Bell????
Believe it or not, the EF has a prescribed type of bell by the rubrics of the Church. According to the Ritus Celebrandi VII, 8, the right bell is a small hand bell. Unfortunately, most parishes either don't know this, or go for a cheaper 3-4 belled set up, where the bells are laid out in a straight line or in a cross with a handle sticking out of the top. This diagram will show you the difference and what's the right bell for the EF:

Figure 11. Bell types for the EF Mass. The left bell is the standard type found in most parishes. They are permissible to use, but not rubically prescribed. The bell on the right, the simple hand bell, is the appropriate bell to use for the EF as it is rubically prescribed. 

How to Ring It?
Well you certainly don't want to be a noisy gong with that thing as St. Paul comments on in one of his Epistles. Also there IS a difference in the ring of the bells in the EF than what most Novus Ordo Masses do. Most OF Masses will ring it continuously till the priest puts down the Host/Blood and it will sound like "ding-a-ling-a-ling-a- ......" which in my opinion is quite annoying. In the EF Mass, each ring consists of  two simple tones that sounds like "Ring-Ring."

Robin Cheung, veteran server of the EF at St. Lawrence the Martyr Catholic Church, Scarborough, ON, provides in this video a demonstration of bell ringing in the EF, including how to hold the normally seen type of bell (the 4-bell cross one in figure 11). Robin also gives some verbal cues in this video (when you turn your volume up to maximum) as to how the bell is held at what part of the EF Mass and how to ring it:

Video from Robin's YouTube Channel: Altar Serving: Bell-Ringing 102

END of Starter Points II (1 of 2)

Next posting: Starter Points II - General Altar Knowledge that Servers Will Need (2/2) including setting up the Altar for Mass

Works Cited

Britt, Dom. Matthew. How to Serve in Simple, Solemn, and Pontifical Functions. 3rd ed. Tan Books and Publishers: U.S.A. 2008.

Carmody, Fr. Charles J. Learning to Serve A Guide for Altar Boys. Roman Catholic Books: Fort Collins, Colorado, U.S.A. 1961.

Tofari, Louis J. The General Principles of the Roman Rite for Inferior Ministers. Romanitas Press: Kansas City, MI, USA. 2008.

Mundra, Surinder S. Personal communication. St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Toronto, ON, CAN. August 8, 2011.

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