CHAPTER the FOURTEENTH.
THE CEREMONIES OF HIGH MASS.
HIGH Mass, with the full number of
ministers and all the solemnity prescribed by the Church, is called in her language Solemn Mass. Music is of obligation at
High Mass. Mass with music without ministers is called Missa Cantata.
The ministers who assist the celebrant
at High Mass are the deacon and subdeacon. They are the proper ministers at the great Sacrifice.
The deacon at ordination receives
the special power of assisting the celebrant at High Mass, of solemnly singing the Gospel, of preaching, and of administering
The subdeacon at ordination receives
the power of assisting the celebrant at High Mass, and of solemnly singing the Epistle.
The deacon’s office is to assist
the priest, the sub-deacon’s to assist the deacon and the priest.
Acolytes are prescribed by the Church
as servers at High Mass. The office of the acolyte is one of the four minor orders. The acolyte receives from the Bishop the
special power of serving the subdeacon at High Mass, of lighting and carrying the candle, of preparing and presenting the
cruets of wine and water. But at High Mass we usually have no acolytes in the strict sense; laymen not in orders perform their
This mention of an acolyte’s
distinctive office in lighting candles, enables us to say a few words on the use of lights in a liturgical service. That light
has a symbolical use is almost self-evident. It represents to us our home in Heaven, "where perpetual light shines;" and it
is the symbol of our Divine Saviour, who describes Himself in St. John (xii. 46) as the "light of the world." Christ is
the "light of light," "the brightness of His Father’s glory" (Heb. i. 3), " a light for the revelation of the Gentiles,
and the glory of Thy people Israel " (St.
Luke ii. 31), He is "the bright and morning star" of the Apocalypse (xxii. 16), and the "light shining in darkness." (St. John i. 5.)
Amongst the early Jewish Christians
unquestionably the Paschal Candle typified Him who is "the True Light which cometh into the world." At the blessing of the
fire on Holy Saturday the Church prays to God, "the Eternal Light and Creator of all light," that He would bless the light
so that we " may be thereby inflamed with love and be enlightened by the fire of the Divine brightness." The feast of the
Purification is called in English Candlemas, in reference to the candles which are blessed and carried in procession before
Mass. They remind us of Holy Simeon’s words when,
with the Divine Child in his arms, he declared Him to be the light of the Gentiles and the glory of Israel. The Church in blessing the candles teaches us that she regards and employs
earthly light as a symbol of that heavenly light in which spiritual truth is read. She prays in words, which necessarily lose
in translation, to "Jesus Christ, the true light," to grant that " as the candles lighted with visible fire scatter the darkness
of night, so our hearts (enlightened by invisible fire, that is, by the splendour of the Holy Spirit) may be freed from all
blindness of sin, and with the purified eye of the mind may be enabled to perceive what is pleasing to Thee and conducive
to our salvation, and that after the uncertain dangers of this life we may reach unfailing light."
The blessed candle is raised by the
Church to the dignity of a sacramental. It strengthens our efforts in virtue of the Church’s prayers, to overcome the
spirits of darkness and to see those truths which " the sensual man perceiveth not." (i Cor. ii. 14.) To the newly baptized
the lighted candle is given, as the emblem of the torch of faith with which souls hasten forth to meet the Bridegroom. One
lighted candle is required in the administration of Extreme Unction, perhaps to signify the light of hope shed by that great
sacrament around the dying bed. The figurative use of light in the ceremonies of the Church with its high signification and
purpose cannot be questioned.
Mass is the Church’s greatest
service; and we need not be surprised that lighted candles are a strict obligation. Two, and not more than two, are lighted
at a priest’s Low Mass, and four may be used at the Low Mass of a Bishop. The candles must be of white wax (cera alba),
except in Masses for the Dead, when candles de communi cera, that is, of yellow wax, are prescribed. The latter are used at
Tenebrae in Holy Week on the altar, for the fourteen candles on the hearse or triangular candlestick the candle at the apex
of the triangle being white at the Mass of the Presanctified, as also at Office of the Dead. Electric light is permitted for
illumination and ornament, but it cannot be used as a substitute for those lights
which are prescribed by the Church’s ritual. 1 Six candles are lighted at High Mass, and seven at a High Mass celebrated
by a Bishop. The origin of this custom takes us back to the ninth century after Christ. We cannot do better than quote a passage
from a most interesting and instructive book on the Ceremonies of Holy Week published in 1902. In speaking of the service
of the Three Lessons on Good Friday, the author refers (p. 4) to a time in the early Church when the Chief Pontiff and his
attendants made their solemn entry into the sanctuary for High Mass. "In the sacristy," writes Father Thurston, "near the
entrance of the Lateran Basilica, the Pontiff assumed the sacred vestments. There he took his place in the procession to the
altar, being supported on his right by his archdeacon and on his left by the second deacon, and preceded by the subdeacons,
one of whom, who was inferior in grade to the seven regionary 2 subdeacons, swung a smoking censer. At the head of the procession
walked the seven regionary acolytes bearing lighted candles. . . . The seven candles of the acolytes, which were eventually
ranged in a row on or before the altar, explain in the clearest way the origin of the seven candles in a Pontifical High Mass,
and through an obvious differentiation, the origin of the six candles on the altar in a High Mass which is not pontifical."
1 To the question "Utrum lux electrica
adhiberi possit in Ecclesiis," it was answered by the Congregation of Rites, "Ad cultum, negative: ad depellendas autem tenebras
ecclesiasque splendidius illuminandas, affirmative; cauto tamen, ne modus speciem prae se ferat theatralem." (June 4, 1895.)
a Pope St. Fabian in the third century divided Rome into seven
ecclesiastical " regions." Each region had a deacon and sub- deacon of its own, with acolytes under them. These clerics were
called" regionaries; " others of the same grade were called sequentes, "supernumeraries."
One word as to the candlesticks on
the altar. We are told that the present custom of placing candlesticks on the altar dates from the ninth or tenth century;
previously to this period they were placed probably at the sides or before the altar. " In the private Masses of the ninth
or tenth century, and in some places down to the end of the eighteenth century, the altar remained bare until the priest who
was to say Mass actually arrived at the spot. The priest brought a little crucifix or cross along with the chalice, and the
server carried a candlestick and candle. In all probability the six candlesticks we now see there, or seven when a Bishop
pontificates, have sprung from the seven candles originally borne before the Roman Pontiff by the seven regionary acolytes."
(Ceremonies of Holy Week, Good Friday, p. 6.)
After this brief reference to the
Church’s use of candles at Mass we return to the consideration of the Ceremonies at High Mass. Instead of being crossed
in front like the priest s, the deacon’s stole stretches from the left shoulder across the breast and is fastened at
his right side. Also, instead of the chasuble, the deacon and subdeacon wear special vestments called dalmatics. A dalmatic
is a vestment open on each side, with wide sleeves, and marked with two stripes. It is worn by deacons at High Mass, at Processions
and Benediction, and by Bishops under the chasuble when they celebrate Mass pontifically. The colour is the same as that of
the celebrant’s chasuble. The word is derived from Dalmatia. The dalmatic was a long
undergarment of white Dalmatian wool corresponding to the Roman tunic. Originally it was a garment of everyday life.
The use of the dalmatic as a vestment
was first peculiar to the Popes, and then permitted by them to Bishops, and as early as the fourth century to deacons. From
the year 800 onwards ecclesiastical writers speak of the dalmatic as one of the episcopal and the chief of the deacon’s
vestments. (Cath. Diet. Sixth Edition, p. 268.)
High Mass differs from Low (so called
by way of contrast to the High, the Great, the Solemn Mass) merely in the way of addition. It is substantially the same rite.
But such is the dignity of this great Sacrifice, that the Church prefers its being solemnized with all outward sign of grandeur
and beauty. It is certain that Masses are much more frequent in later than in earlier ages. Thus St. Augustine, speaking of his day, informs us that in some places there was Mass daily,
in others only on Sundays, in others on Saturdays and Sundays. The multiplication of Masses has necessarily tended to divest
them of all ceremonial except what is necessary to their essence. But High Mass is more in accordance with the mind of the
Church than Low. And she has it on every great feast.
The first ceremony after the priest
reaches the altar is the incensing.
Incensing is very ancient in the
Church and was prescribed by God Himself in Exodus xxx. 7: " And Aaron shall burn sweet-smelling incense upon it in the morning."
The Council of Trent mentions incense (Thymiama) amongst those visible signs which lift the mind to heavenly things. (Sess.
xxii. ch. 5.) The burning away of the incense, in other words its destruction, is suitable to the idea of Sacrifice where
the Victim is destroyed, and the perfume, which is of strict obligation, is emblematic of the good odour of Christ of which
the Sacrifice speaks.
The first incensing of the altar
by the priest may be regarded as the conclusion of the prayers said at the foot of the altar. It is unaccompanied by any prayer.
The celebrant places the incense three times in the thurible, saying: Mayest thou be blessed by Him in whose honour thou shalt
be consumed, and makes the sign of the Cross over it. He then incenses three times with a double swing the crucifix next he
incenses the relics of the saints on the altar out of respect to their memory, and then the altar itself- the place of sacrifice.
The altar is the holiest of inanimate things in the church and has been solemnly consecrated, or at least the altar-stone,
by the Bishop. It therefore merits incensing. The incensing of the altar over, the celebrant hands the thurible to the deacon,
who incenses the celebrant three times (as he incensed the crucifix), as the representative at Mass of the great High Priest
The first incensing is meant chiefly
for the altar.
THE KYRIE AND THE GLORIA
IN EXCELSIS. THE EPISTLE.
priest recites in a low voice the Kyrie at the Epistle side of the altar, where it was originally said at Low Mass the deacon
and subdeacon recite alternately with him. The celebrant intones the Gloria. The choir take it up. The deacon and sub- deacon
repeat with the celebrant the words of the Gloria. Then all go to their seats where they remain with covered heads (except
at the words at which inclination of the head is made at Low Mass) while the Gloria is being sung. The Gloria over the celebrant,
after genuflecting with the deacon and subdeacon at the foot of the altar, mounts the steps, the deacon retires behind him,
and the subdeacon behind the deacon.
The priest sings Dominus vobiscum,
and is answered by the choir; he then sings the Collect or Collects of the day. The deacon and subdeacon remain behind him.
The Collects over, the deacon moves near the Celebrant and assists him while he reads the Epistle, Gradual, and, if so be,
Tract or Sequence. Meanwhile the Epistle of the day is sung by the sub- deacon, in the exercise of the power given him at
ordination. At its close he takes the book to the centre of the altar, genuflects, and carries it to the Epistle corner, where
he receives the blessing of the priest. He then restores the book to the master of ceremonies and takes the Missal to the
other side for the priest to read the Gospel.
The priest says the Munda cor meum
and in a low voice reads the Gospel.
THE SINGING OF THE GOSPEL
BY THE DEACON.
When the priest has read the Gospel,
the deacon receives the book of the Gospels, genuflects, and goes up to the altar, setting the book upon it the open part
turned towards the tabernacle. This rubric is the survival of the old custom of taking the book of the Gospels to the altar at the beginning of the Mass and leaving it until the deacon needed
it. He next assists the priest in putting the incense into the thurible with the same ceremonies as before. The deacon then
recites the Mnnda cor meum. This prayer has been already explained. He kneels before the celebrant with the book of the Gospels,
and asks his blessing thus, Jube, Domne, benedicere pray, sir, bless me. The celebrant then pronounces the blessing Our Lord
be on thy heart and on thy lips, that worthily and competently thou mayest announce His Gospel in the name of the Father and
of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen, at the same time making the sign of the Cross over him with his right hand, which
the deacon kisses.
The deacon, subdeacon, acolytes with
lighted candles, thurifer and master of ceremonies proceed to the fixed place where the Gospel is sung. The Church surrounds
the singing of the Gospel with extraordinary solemnity. It is difficult to think of anything in her Liturgy to which she pays
more honour than to the Gospels.
The congregation stand as a mark
of respect. The acolytes lighted candles are a symbol of our Lord, who by teaching was the Light of the world. "Thy word is
a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths." (Ps. cxviii. 105.) The incense with its sweet smell represents the good odour
of Christ. "For we are the good odour of Christ with God, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one indeed
the odour of death unto death: but to the others the odour of life unto life." (2 Cor. ii. 15, 16.)
The subdeacon holds the book and
the deacon sings in a loud voice Dominus vobiscum. The choir answers Et cum Spiritu tuo. On chanting the title of the Gospel,
the deacon signs the book and his forehead, lips, and breast as at Low Mass. The title having been chanted, the deacon receives
the thurible from the thurifer, and while the choir sings Gloria tibi Domine, he incenses the sacred text three times, and
proceeds to chant the Gospel. At the end the sub- deacon carries the book to the celebrant to kiss the place indicated by
the deacon. The latter then thrice incenses the celebrant who (if there be no sermon) at once intones the Credo.
The sacred ministers recite the Credo
with the priest, and then sit until the choir has finished the Credo. After the Incarnates the deacon goes to the altar with
the burse containing the corporal, which he spreads for the Sacrifice, and then draws the Missal from the Gospel side to the
middle of the altar for the celebrant’s convenience. During this ceremony the subdeacon rises and stands uncovered:
the acolytes also rise and stand. The deacon returns to his seat per breviorem, and before sitting, bows to the celebrant.
THE SOLEMN OFFERTORY.
The Creed having been sung by the
choir the priest attended by the deacon and subdeacon goes to the altar in the same manner as after the Gloria and sermon.
The deacon and subdeacon fall into their places behind the priest, and the celebrant after kissing the altar sings the Dominus
vobiscum and is answered by the choir. He then sings the Oremus before the Offertorium, which he says in a low voice.
The deacon now leaves his place and
goes to the Epistle side of the altar, while the subdeacon proceeds to the credence-table, where he finds the chalice and
paten with bread prepared for the Sacrifice, covered with a long veil of the colour of the day as well as with the small veil
by which they are always covered when not in use. Wearing the long veil the subdeacon pro ceeds to the altar, where the deacon
puts the small veil aside, receives the chalice and paten and sets them on the altar. The deacon then presents the priest
with the paten bearing the bread of the Sacrifice, kissing the paten and his hand. While the priest offers the host the deacon
pours wine into the chalice; and the sub-deacon, holding the cruet of water, invokes the blessing of the celebrant in the
words Benedicite, Pater rcverende, using the plural (benedicite) as a mark of respect. The celebrant as at Low Mass blesses
the water and the subdeacon pours a drop or two into the chalice. The deacon and subdeacon have each their proper functions
in High Mass the subdeacon sings the Epistle the deacon the Gospel, to the deacon belongs the wine the matter of the Precious
Blood to the subdeacon the water. The deacon now presents the priest with the
chalice as before with the paten kisses the foot of the chalice and the celebrant’s hand holds the celebrant’s
arm and repeats with him the words of oblation on that account in the plural. The plural is retained in Low Mass as if to
show that the presence of the deacon is more after the Church’s heart; she retains the plural form as if he was present.
The oblation over, the deacon, after
wiping the paten with the purificator, next gives it to the sub- deacon, covering it with the end of the long veil still worn
by the latter, who bearing the paten so covered, proceeds with it to his proper place at the foot of the altar, where he holds
it until the end of the Pater noster. This custom is said to date from the time when the faithful offered bread and wine on
the paten. As the offerings were large, the size of the paten was in pro portion, and for convenience sake it was removed
and held by the subdeacon until wanted again by the priest. The Church loves to maintain practices in symbol after she has
dropped them in their official use.
THE INCENSING AT THE OFFERTORY.
The incensing at the Offertory differs
from the incensing before the Introit, because at the Offertory it is more solemn, more comprehensive, as not merely the celebrant,
deacon, and subdeacon are incensed, but the people also; the incensing also at the Offertory is in an especial way meant for
the bread and wine, and thus is much more clearly connected with the Sacrifice than the first incensing, which is chiefly
concerned with the altar or the place of sacrifice.
The priest in blessing the incense
says, By the intercession of blessed Michael the Archangel, standing on the right hand of
the altar of incense (St.Lttke i. n) and of all His elect, may the Lord vouchsafe to bless ^ this incense, and to receive
it in the odour of sweetness, through Christ our Lord, making over the incense the sign of the Cross.
The Church begs of God by the sign
of the Cross to bless the incense and to accept it as a thing consecrated to His service. To obtain her request more surely
she has recourse to the intercession of St. Michael and all the saints.
EXPLANATION OF THE PRAYER
IN BLESSING THE INCENSE.
By the intercession of blessed Michael
the Archangel his name is mentioned in the Confiteor and now again as the leader of the heavenly
host whose duty in fact is to offer to God the prayers of the faithful which rise like incense. Standing at the right hand
of the altar of incense this is said of St. Gabriel in Luke (i. n), and because of this verse in St. Luke various Missals
introduced St. Gabriel’s name here. And of all His elect, that is, all the saved, may the Lord vouchsafe to bless this
incense by consecrating it to His service and to receive it in the odour of sweetness, through Christ our Lord. The priest
asks not merely that God will accept this incense, but accept it as a gift sweet smelling in His sight. The priest then receiving the thurible from the deacon proceeds to incense the oblation or the bread and
wine of the Sacrifice. Making over them with the thurible three crosses, saying at the first, Incensum istud; at the second, a te benedictum; at the third, ascendat ad te Domine. He next describes three circles
round the chalice and host, the first two with the thurible from right to left, and the third from left to right; saying at
the first, et descendat super nos; at the second, misericordia; and at the third, tua (May this incense blessed by Thee ascend
to Thee, O Lord, and may Thy mercy descend upon us).
He next incenses the crucifix thrice
with the words of the 1 4oth Psalm: Let my prayer be directed as incense in Thy sight, that is, let my prayer reach Thee in
the Heavens as incense ordered by Thee of old and entirely consumed in Thy presence. The lifting up of my hands as an evening
sacrifice. A lifting up of my hands means prayer, as the Jews were wont to lift up their hands in prayer. (See Psalm cxxxiii.)
The prayer I offer up with uplifted hands, may it be like the sacrifice of incense offered up in the evening, prefiguring
the Sacrifice of Calvary. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; and a door round about my lips. My mouth being the gate through
which pass the words that do harm; set, O Lord, a watchman on it, and as that is not enough I beg of Thee to put a strong
door round my lips; That my heart incline not to evil words to make excuses in sin. Do not allow us when we have fallen into
sin to "let our heart incline" to lies and excuses. "To make excuses in sin." Do not allow us to excuse our sin, teach us
to acknowledge it. (See Bellavmine’s Com mentary on this Psalm.)
The celebrant then restores the thurible
to the deacon at the Epistle side, saying, May our Lord enkindle within us the fire of His love, and the flame of eternal
charity. The deacon receives it, kisses the thurible and the celebrant’s hand and incenses him thrice. Then the deacon
incenses the clergy in choir. Next he incenses the subdeacon twice and is himself incensed by the thurifer twice. The celebrant
remaining at the Epistle side of the altar washes his hands and says the Psalm Lavabo as in Low Mass. He next says the Prayer
of Oblation, the Ovate Fratres, and the Secret prayers as at Low Mass.
THE PREFACE IN SOLEMN HIGH
The Preface is invested by the Church
with great dignity, its words of unspeakable majesty are wedded to a chant which, as some writers have thought, was taken
by the Apostles from the music in the Temple. There seems
no difficulty whatever in adopting the opinion, or at least in saying that there may be a strong family resemblance between
the chant of the Preface and certain music in vogue in the Temple
during the Apostles lifetime.
THE CANON AND CONSECRATION
IN HIGH MASS.
The Preface over, the deacon takes
his place at the left of the celebrant, in discharge of his official work of assisting the celebrant at High Mass.
The acolytes come in from the sacristy,
kneel with lighted torches before the altar, and when the priest places his hands over the chalice at the words Hanc igitur
oblationem, the deacon genuflects, moves round to the right of the priest, and goes on both knees. At the same time the subdeacon
lowers the paten which he still carries, and kneels in his place. Incense is placed in the thurible to honour the Blessed
Sacrament at the Consecration. When the Consecration and adoration of the Sacred Host are over, the deacon rises and removes
the pall from the chalice; and after the Consecration and adoration of the Precious Blood he replaces it.
After the Consecration the choir
sings usually the Benedict us, which may be considered as an act of faith in our Lord incarnate on the altar.
FROM THE CONSECRATION TO
THE PATER NOSTER.
After the Consecration the deacon
and subdeacon rise; and the deacon, having genuflected, goes again to the left side of the celebrant to assist at the Missal.
All proceeds as at Low Mass, until after the Memento for the Dead at the Per quern haec omnia, Domine, semper bona creas,
when the deacon genuflects, and goes to the right of the priest to remove the pall from the chalice for the "little Elevation;
" also, when the priest makes the sign of the Cross over the Sacred Host and chalice, the deacon steadies the latter at the
foot, using his privilege of touching vessels which contain the Body and Blood of our Lord. At the Pater nosier the deacon
having genuflected, leaves the altar, and goes to his place behind the priest.
FROM THE PATER NOSTER TO
The celebrant sings the Pater noster
to a tone pre scribed in the Missal. At the Ne nos inducas in tentationem the deacon and subdeacon, having genuflected at
their places, go up to the altar. The subdeacon gives the paten to the deacon, who wipes it with the purificator, and gives
it to the priest after the Pater noster, kissing the edge and the priest’s hand. An attendant removes the long veil
from the shoulders of the subdeacon, who genuflects and returns to his place. The deacon remains near the celebrant at his
right to remove the pall from the chalice and steady it when necessary. The priest sings to the tone pre scribed in the Missal
the Pax Domini. Then the sub- deacon joins him at the altar, and with the deacon, accompanies the priest in saying the Agnus
Dei. This over the subdeacon goes to his place, and the deacon remains on both knees while the celebrant says the first of
the three prayers before the Communion. The Pax is given after that prayer.
EXPLANATION OF THE PAX OR
KISS OF PEACE.
The Pax or kiss of peace is the memorial
of the holy "kiss of peace" mentioned by St. Peter in his first Epistle v. 14; by St.
Paul, Rom. xvi. 16; and in i Cor. xvi. 20. The kiss
of peace is the symbol of charity and of Christian peace. It was given at Mass from the Apostles days. To avoid all danger
of abuse the sexes were after some time rigidly separated. The separation of men and women found sometimes in the present
day in Catholic churches, at home and abroad, reminds us in its origin of the kiss of peace, given by the celebrant to the
deacon, by him to the subdeacon, thence passed down to the clergy in the sanctuary, and from them to the men in the congregation.
In all the Eastern as well as in
the Mozarabic and Ambrosian liturgies the kiss is given before the Offertory and Consecration. In the Roman Mass the kiss
of peace follows the Consecration, and is clearly connected with the Communion. The
kiss strictly so called was given as late as the thirteenth century during High Mass by the celebrant to the deacon, and by
him to the subdeacon. At the end of the thirteenth century the kiss of peace gave way to the use of the Osculatorium, called
also Instunientuni or tahda pads. This Osculatorium was a plate with a figure of Christ Crucified stamped upon it. This plate
was kissed first by the priest, and then by the clerics and congregation. The Osculatorium was introduced into England by Archbishop Walter of York
in 1250. The embrace now substituted for the kiss of peace dates from the Reformation. The Pax, as it is called, is not given
at Low Mass. At High Mass after the first of the three prayers before Communion, the deacon rises from his knees and kisses
the altar with the celebrant. Next the celebrant, placing his hands on the shoulders of the deacon, inclines towards his cheek,
saying Pax tecum, and is answered by the deacon Et cum Spiritu tuo. The deacon then goes to the sub- deacon and gives him
the Pax in the same way.
The Pax is not given on the three
last days of Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday it is omitted from horror of the treacherous kiss of Judas on Good Friday and Holy
Saturday it is likewise omitted because, says Durandus the ritualist, Christ, our true peace, has not risen from the dead.
After His Resurrection pax vobis was His familiar greeting.
At Masses for the Dead the Pax is
also omitted, as we shall see later under Mass for the Dead.
FROM THE COMMUNION TO THE
END OF HIGH MASS.
When the subdeacon has concluded
giving the Pax he rejoins the priest at his right hand, and removes the pall from the chalice before the priest drinks the
Precious Blood. When the Communion of the priest and faithful is over, the subdeacon ministers wine for the first ablution;
and wine and water for the second. The deacon and subdeacon change places, the deacon removing the Missal to the Epistle side.
The priest having received the second ablution leaves the chalice and purificator, and goes to the Missal at the Epistle side
to read the Communion. The subdeacon arranges the chalice and purificator, puts the corporal into the burse, and having covered
the chalice and paten with the veil, bears them with the burse resting on them to the credence-table. After placing the chalice
on the credence-table, he goes to his place behind the priest and deacon. The celebrant after reading the Communion goes to
the middle of the altar, sings the Dominus vobiscum, and is answered by the choir; then returning to the Missal, he sings
the Postcommunion prayer or prayers. Returning to the middle he again sings Dominus vobiscum, and is answered by the choir.
Then the deacon, turning to the people, sings the Ite Missa est or the Benedicamus Domino towards the altar. The celebrant,
after blessing the congregation, reads the Gospel. That over, all bow to the middle of the altar, descend the steps, genuflect
J if the Blessed Sacrament be reserved, and preceded by the acolytes with lights return to the sacristy. (Taken in part from
Canon Oakeley’s Ceremonial of the Mass.]
1 " Genuflexion (the bending of the
knee) is a natural sign of adoration or reverence. The faithful genuflect in passing before the tabernacle where the Blessed
Sacrament is reserved, and on both knees when It is exposed. The early Christians prayed standing on Sundays, and from Easter
till Pentecost, and only bent the knee in sign of penance." (Cath. Diet. p. 401.) Prostration is much earlier than genuflexion.
Prostration is still prescribed for the Sacred Ministers before the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday and during a
portion of the Litany sung on Holy Saturday morning. At an Ordination Mass the candidates to be ordained fall upon their faces
during the chanting of the Litany; and at the Coronation Service also, while the Litany is sung, the Sovereign elect lies
prostrate on the ground. "But the Good Friday prostra tion probably recalls an act of humiliation which was as habitually
practised in the early Church as genuflexion is with us, every time that the Chief Pontiff and his attendants made their solemn
entry into the sanctuary for High Mass. ... It would seem that the Good Friday Service alone has retained unchanged a feature
which eleven hundred years ago was witnessed at the beginning of every Mass."
(Father Thurston’s Ceremonies of Holy Week, pp. 4, 6.) To this day a Coptic priest in communion with Rome, says Mass without a single genuflexion. At his Mass a profound inclination takes the
place of genuflexion.