“And I will come to the altar of God, the God of my joy.” Psalm 43:4


Luke Chapter 2:7-14  – Preparations for the Passover

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.” They asked him, “Where do you want us to make preparations for it?”  “Listen,” he said to them, “when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘ He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.” So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him.

Here we present some extracts from the: General Instruction of the Roman Missal 2011 which can help us understand the Church’s vision of how best we can serve the worship of God in our parishes.

1. As Christ the Lord was about to celebrate with the disciples the paschal supper in which he instituted the Sacrifice of his Body and Blood, he commanded that a large, furnished upper room be prepared (Lk 22:12). Indeed, the Church has always judged that this command also applied to herself whenever she decided about things related to the disposition of people’s minds, and of places, rites and texts for the Celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist.

16. The celebration of Mass, as the action of Christ and of the People of God arrayed hierarchically, is the centre of the whole of Christian life for the Church both universal and local, as well as for each of the faithful individually. For in it is found the high point both of the action by which God sanctifies the world in Christ and of the worship that the human race offers to the Father, adoring him through Christ, the Son of God, in the Holy Spirit.

17. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that the celebration of the Mass or the Lord’s Supper be so ordered that the sacred ministers and the faithful taking part in it, according to the state proper to each, may draw from it more abundantly those fruits

20. Since, however, the celebration of the Eucharist, like the entire Liturgy, is carried out by means of perceptible signs by which the faith is nourished, strengthened, and expressed, the greatest care is to be taken that those forms and elements proposed by the Church are chosen and arranged, which… more effectively foster active and full participation and more aptly respond to the spiritual needs of the faithful.

22. …be vigilant in ensuring that the dignity of these celebrations be enhanced and, in promoting such dignity, the beauty of the sacred place, of the music, and of art should contribute as greatly as possible.

27. At Mass or the Lord’s Supper the People of God is called together, with a Priest presiding and acting in the person of Christ, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord or Eucharistic Sacrifice. In an outstanding way there applies to such a local gathering of the holy Church the promise of Christ: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst” (Mt 18:20). For in the celebration of Mass, in which the Sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated, Christ is really present in the very assembly gathered in his name, in the person of the minister, in his word, and indeed substantially and uninterruptedly under the Eucharistic species.

28. The Mass consists in some sense of two parts, namely the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, these being so closely interconnected that they form but one single act of worship. For in the Mass is spread the table both of God’s Word and of the Body of Christ, and from it the faithful are to be instructed and refreshed. There are also certain rites that open and conclude the celebration.

29. When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel. Therefore, the readings from the Word of God are to be listened to reverently by everyone, for they are an element of the greatest importance in the Liturgy. 

32. The nature of the “presidential” parts requires that they be spoken in a loud and clear voice and that everyone listen to them attentively. Therefore, while the Priest is pronouncing them, there should be no other prayers or singing, and the organ or other musical instruments should be silent.

42. The gestures and bodily posture of both the Priest, the Deacon, and the ministers, and also of the people, must be conducive to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, to making clear the true and full meaning of its different parts, and to fostering the participation of all

 45. Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times….Even before the celebration itself, it is a praiseworthy practice for silence to be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred celebration in a devout and fitting manner.

55. In the readings… God speaks to his people, opening up to them the mystery of redemption and salvation, and offering spiritual nourishment; and Christ himself is present through his word in the midst of the faithful.

56. The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to favour meditation, and so any kind of haste such as hinders recollection is clearly to be avoided. In the course of it, brief periods of silence are also appropriate, accommodated to the assembled congregation; by means of these, under the action of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared.

72. At the Last Supper… Christ took the bread and the chalice, gave thanks, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat and drink: this is my Body; this is the chalice of my Blood. Do this in memory of me. Hence, the Church has arranged the entire celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist in parts corresponding to precisely these words and actions of Christ, namely:

a) At the Preparation of the Gifts, bread and wine with water are brought to the altar, the same elements, that is to say, which Christ took into his hands.

b) In the Eucharistic Prayer, thanks is given to God for the whole work of salvation, and the offerings become the Body and Blood of Christ.

c) Through the fraction and through Communion, the faithful, though many, receive from the one bread the Lord’s Body and from the one chalice the Lord’s Blood in the same way that the Apostles received them from the hands of Christ…

The Preparation of the Gifts

73. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist the gifts which will become Christ’s Body and Blood are brought to the altar. First of all, the altar or Lord’s table, which is the centre of the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist, is made ready when on it are placed the corporal, purificator, Missal, and chalice… The offerings are then brought forward. It is a praiseworthy practice for the bread and wine to be presented by the faithful. They are then accepted at an appropriate place by the Priest or the Deacon to be carried to the altar. Even though the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as was once the case, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still keeps its spiritual efficacy and significance. Even money or other gifts for the poor or for the Church, brought by the faithful or collected in the church, are acceptable; given their purpose, they are to be put in a suitable place away from the Eucharistic table.

75. The Priest may incense the gifts placed on the altar and then incense the cross and the altar itself, so as to signify the Church’s offering and prayer rising like incense in the sight of God. Next, the Priest, because of his sacred ministry, and the people, by reason of their baptismal dignity, may be incensed by the Deacon or by another minister.

76. Then the Priest washes his hands at the side of the altar, a rite in which the desire for interior purification finds expression.

78. The Eucharistic Prayer requires that everybody listens to it with reverence and in silence.

85. It is most desirable that the faithful, just as the Priest himself is bound to do, receive the Lord’s Body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass and that, in the cases where this is foreseen, they partake of the chalice (cf. no. 283), so that even by means of the signs Communion may stand out more clearly as a participation in the sacrifice actually being celebrated.

90. To the Concluding Rites belong the following:

a) brief announcements, should they be necessary;

b) the Priest’s Greeting and Blessing, which on certain days and occasions is expanded and expressed by the Prayer over the People or … solemn formula;

c) the Dismissal of the people by the Deacon or the Priest, so that each may go back to doing good works, praising and blessing God;

d) the kissing of the altar by the Priest and the Deacon, followed by a profound bow to the altar by the Priest, the Deacon, and the other ministers.

 93. A Priest… when he celebrates the Eucharist, he must serve God and the people with dignity and humility, and by his bearing and by the way he pronounces the divine words he must convey to the faithful the living presence of Christ.

100. Other Functions In the absence of an instituted acolyte, there may be deputed lay ministers to serve at the altar and assist the Priest and the Deacon; these carry the cross, the candles, the thurible, the bread, the wine, and the water, or who are even deputed to distribute Holy Communion as extraordinary ministers.

105. A liturgical function is also exercised by:

a) The sacristan, who diligently arranges the liturgical books, the vestments, and other things that are necessary for the celebration of Mass.

b) The commentator, who, if appropriate, provides the faithful briefly with explanations and exhortations so as to direct their attention to the celebration and ensure that they are better disposed for understanding it. The commentator’s remarks should be thoroughly prepared and notable for their restraint. In performing this function the commentator stands in a suitable place within sight of the faithful, but not at the ambo.

c) Those who take up the collections in the church.

d) Those who, in some regions, welcome the faithful at the church doors, seat them appropriately, and marshal them in processions.

106. It is desirable, at least in cathedrals and in larger churches, to have some competent minister or master of ceremonies, to see to the appropriate arrangement of sacred actions and to their being carried out by the sacred ministers and lay faithful with decorum, order, and devotion.

117. Things to Be Prepared The altar is to be covered with at least one white cloth. In addition, on or next to the altar are to be placed candlesticks with lighted candles: at least two in any celebration, or even four or six, especially for a Sunday Mass or a Holyday of Obligation, or if the Diocesan Bishop celebrates, then seven candlesticks with lighted candles. Likewise, on the altar or close to it, there is to be a cross adorned with a figure of Christ crucified. The candles and the cross with the figure of Christ crucified may also be carried in the procession at the Entrance. On the altar itself may be placed a Book of the Gospels distinct from the book of other readings, unless it is carried in the Entrance Procession.

118. Likewise these should be prepared:

a) next to the Priest’s chair: the Missal and, if appropriate, a hymnal;

b) at the ambo: the Lectionary;

c) on the credence table: the chalice, corporal, purificator, and, if appropriate, the pall; the paten and, if needed, ciboria; bread for the Communion of the Priest who presides, the Deacon, the ministers, and the people; cruets containing the wine and the water, unless all of these are presented by the faithful in the procession at the Offertory; the vessel of water to be blessed, if the sprinkling of holy water takes place; the Communion-plate for the Communion of the faithful; and whatever is needed for the washing of hands.

It is a praiseworthy practice for the chalice to be covered with a veil, which may be either of the colour of the day or white.

119. In the sacristy, according to the various forms of celebration, there should be prepared the sacred vestments for the Priest, the Deacon, and other ministers.

When the Entrance takes place with a procession, the following are also to be prepared: a Book of the Gospels; on Sundays and festive days, a thurible and incense boat, if incense is being used; the cross to be carried in procession; and candlesticks with lighted candles.

122. When they reach the altar, the Priest and ministers make a profound bow.

The cross adorned with a figure of Christ crucified, and carried in procession, may be placed next to the altar to serve as the altar cross, in which case it must be the only cross used; otherwise it is put away in a dignified place. As for the candlesticks, these are placed on the altar or near it. It is a praiseworthy practice for the Book of the Gospels to be placed on the altar.

133. If the Book of the Gospels is on the altar, the Priest then takes it and approaches the ambo, carrying the Book of the Gospels slightly elevated. He is preceded by the lay ministers, who may carry the thurible and the candles. Those present turn towards the ambo as a sign of special reverence for the Gospel of Christ.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist

139. When the Universal Prayer is over, all sit, and the Offertory Chant begins (cf. no. 74). An acolyte or other lay minister places the corporal, the purificator, the chalice, the pall, and the Missal on the altar.

140. It is desirable that the participation of the faithful be expressed by an offering, whether of bread and wine for the celebration of the Eucharist or of other gifts to relieve the needs of the Church and of the poor. The offerings of the faithful are received by the Priest, assisted by the acolyte or other minister. The bread and wine for the Eucharist are carried to the Celebrant, who places them on the altar, while other gifts are put in another suitable place (cf. no. 73).

144. If incense is being used, the Priest then puts some in the thurible, blesses it without saying anything, and incenses the offerings, the cross, and the altar. While standing at the side of the altar, a minister incenses the Priest and then the people.

145. After the prayer (With humble spirit) or after the incensation, the Priest washes his hands standing at the side of the altar and, as the minister pours the water, says quietly, (Wash me, O Lord).

 150. A little before the Consecration, if appropriate, a minister rings a small bell as a signal to the faithful. The minister also rings the small bell at each elevation by the Priest, according to local custom. If incense is being used, when the host and the chalice are shown to the people after the Consecration, a minister incenses them.

162. In the distribution of Communion the Priest may be assisted by other Priests who happen to be present. If such Priests are not present and there is a truly large number of communicants, the Priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, that is, duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been duly deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the Priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion.

These ministers should not approach the altar before the Priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the Priest Celebrant the vessel containing the species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful.

163. When the distribution of Communion is over, the Priest himself immediately and completely consumes at the altar any consecrated wine that happens to remain; as for any consecrated hosts that are left, he either consumes them at the altar or carries them to the place designated for the reservation of the Eucharist.

Upon returning to the altar, the Priest collects the fragments, should any remain, and he stands at the altar or at the credence table and purifies the paten or ciborium over the chalice, and after this purifies the chalice, saying quietly the formula (What has passed our lips, O Lord…), and dries the chalice with a purificator. If the vessels are purified at the altar, they are carried to the credence table by a minister. Nevertheless, it is also permitted to leave vessels needing to be purified, especially if there are several, on a corporal, suitably covered, either on the altar or on the credence table, and to purify them immediately after Mass, after the Dismissal of the people.

200. Visiting Priests should be gladly admitted to concelebration of the Eucharist, provided their Priestly standing has been ascertained. [Ask for their “celebret”]

207. In the sanctuary there should be prepared:

a) seats and texts for the concelebrating Priests;

b) on the credence table: a chalice of sufficient size or else several chalices.

208. If a Deacon is not present, the functions proper to him are to be carried out by some of the concelebrants.

215. After the Prayer over the Offerings has been said by the principal celebrant, the concelebrants approach the altar and stand around it, but in such a way that they do not obstruct the execution of the rites and that the sacred action may be seen clearly by the faithful. Nor should they obstruct the Deacon whenever he needs to approach the altar by reason of his ministry.

274. Genuflections and Bows A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.

During Mass, three genuflections are made by the Priest Celebrant: namely, after the elevation of the host, after the elevation of the chalice, and before Communion…

If, however, the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is situated in the sanctuary, the Priest, the Deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself. Otherwise, all who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession. Ministers carrying the processional cross or candles bow their heads instead of genuflecting.

277. The Priest, having put incense into the thurible, blesses it with the Sign of the Cross, without saying anything. Before and after an incensation, a profound bow is made to the person or object that is incensed, except for the altar and the offerings for the Sacrifice of theMass.

Three swings of the thurible are used to incense: the Most Blessed Sacrament, a relic of the Holy Cross and images of the Lord exposed for public veneration, the offerings for the Sacrifice of the Mass, the altar cross, the Book of the Gospels, the paschal candle, the Priest, and the people. Two swings of the thurible are used to incense relics and images of the Saints exposed for public veneration; this should be done, however, only at the beginning of the celebration, following the incensation of the altar.

The altar is incensed with single swings of the thurible.

280. Spills and falls: If a host or any particle should fall, it is to be picked up reverently; and if any of the Precious Blood is spilled, the area where the spill occurred should be washed with water, and this water should then be poured into the sacrarium in the sacristy.

281. Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it takes place under both kinds. For in this form the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident and clearer expression is given to the divine will by which the new and eternal Covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord, as also the connection between the Eucharistic banquet and the eschatological banquet in the Kingdom of the Father.

282. The… Catholic faith teaches that Christ, whole and entire, and the true Sacrament, is received even under only one species, and hence…those who receive under only one species are not deprived of any grace that is necessary for salvation.


288. Sacred buildings and requisites for divine worship should be truly worthy and beautiful and be signs and symbols of heavenly realities.

292. The ornamentation of a church should contribute toward its noble simplicity rather than to ostentation.

293. The suitable arrangement of a church… requires… also that the faithful be provided with whatever is conducive to their appropriate comfort and is normally provided in places where people habitually gather.

294. The Priest Celebrant, the Deacon, and the other ministers have places in the sanctuary. There, also, should be prepared seats for concelebrants, but if their number is great, seats should be arranged in another part of the church, though near the altar.

303. In building new churches, it is preferable for a single altar to be erected, one that in the gathering of the faithful will signify the one Christ and the one Eucharist of the Church. In already existing churches, however, when the old altar is so positioned that it makes the people’s participation difficult but cannot be moved without damage to artistic value, another fixed altar, skillfully made and properly dedicated, should be erected and the sacred rites celebrated on it alone. In order that the attention of the faithful not be distracted from the new altar, the old altar should not be decorated in any special way.

305. Flowers Moderation should be observed in the decoration of the altar. During Advent the floral decoration of the altar should be marked by a moderation suited to the character of this time of year, without expressing in anticipation the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord. During Lent it is forbidden for the altar to be decorated with flowers. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts. Floral decoration should always show moderation and be arranged around the altar rather than on the altar table.

306. For only what is required for the celebration of the Mass may be placed on the altar table: namely, from the beginning of the celebration until the proclamation of the Gospel, the Book of the Gospels; then from the Presentation of the Gifts until the purification of the vessels, the chalice with the paten, a ciborium, if necessary, and, finally, the corporal, the purificator, the pall, and the Missal.

In addition, arranged discreetly, there should be whatever may be needed to amplify the Priest’s voice.

307. The candlesticks required for the different liturgical services for reasons of reverence or the festive character of the celebration (cf. no. 117) should be appropriately placed either on the altar or around it, according to the design of the altar and the sanctuary, so that the whole may be harmonious and the faithful may not be impeded from a clear view of what takes place at the altar or what is placed upon it.

311. Places for the faithful should be arranged with appropriate care so that they are able to participate in the sacred celebrations, duly following them with their eyes and their attention. It is desirable that benches or seating usually should be provided for their use. However, the custom of reserving seats for private persons is to be reprobated

318. Sacred Images In the earthly Liturgy, the Church participates, by a foretaste, in that heavenly Liturgy… Thus, in sacred buildings images of the Lord, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saints, in accordance with most ancient tradition of the Church, should be displayed for veneration by the faithful and should be so arranged so as to lead the faithful toward the mysteries of faith celebrated there.

Care should, therefore, be taken that their number not be increased indiscriminately, and moreover that they be arranged in proper order so as not to draw the attention of the faithful to themselves and away from the celebration itself. There should usually be only one image of any given Saint.

330. Sacred Vessels As regards chalices and other vessels that are intended to serve as receptacles for the Blood of the Lord, they are to have a bowl of material that does not absorb liquids. The base, on the other hand, may be made of other solid and worthy materials.

331. For the Consecration of hosts, a large paten may fittingly be used, on which is placed the bread both for the Priest and the Deacon and also for the other ministers and for the faithful.

334. The practice should be kept of building in the sacristy a sacrarium into which is poured the water from the washing of sacred vessels and linens (cf. no. 280).

336. Vestments The sacred garment common to all ordained and instituted ministers of any rank is the alb…

337. The vestment proper to the Priest Celebrant at Mass and during other sacred actions directly connected with Mass is the chasuble worn, unless otherwise indicated, over the alb and stole.

338. The vestment proper to the Deacon is the dalmatic, worn over the alb and stole; however, the dalmatic may be omitted out of necessity or on account of a lesser degree of solemnity.

340. The stole is worn by the Priest around his neck and hanging down in front of his chest, while it is worn by the Deacon over his left shoulder and drawn diagonally across the chest to the right side, where it is fastened.

341. The cope is worn by the Priest in processions and during other sacred actions, in accordance with the rubrics proper to the individual rites.

346. As regards the colour of sacred vestments, traditional usage should be observed, namely:

a) The colour white is used in the Offices and Masses during Easter Time and Christmas Time; on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity; and furthermore on celebrations of the Lord other than of his Passion, celebrations of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Angels, Saints who were not Martyrs; on the Solemnities of All Saints (Nov 1), Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24); Feasts of St. John the Evangelist (Dec 27), the Chair of St. Peter (Feb 22), and the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan 25).

b) The colour red is used on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion and on Friday of Holy Week (Good Friday), Pentecost Sunday, on celebrations of the Lord’s Passion, on the “birthday” feast days of Apostles and Evangelists, and on celebrations of Martyr Saints.

c) The colour green is used in the Offices and Masses of Ordinary Time.

d) The colour violet or purple is used in Advent and Lent. It may also be worn in Offices and Masses for the Dead.

e) The colour black may be used, where it is the practice, in Masses for the Dead.

f) The colour rose may be used, where it is the practice, on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and on Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent).

g) On more solemn days, festive, that is, more precious, sacred vestments may be used even if not of the colour of the day.

349. Special care must be taken to ensure that the liturgical books, particularly the Book of the Gospels and the Lectionary, which are intended for the proclamation of the Word of God and hence receive special veneration, are to be in a liturgical action truly signs and symbols of higher realities and hence should be truly worthy, dignified, and beautiful.

350. Furthermore, every care is to be taken with respect to those things directly associated with the altar and the celebration of the Eucharist, for example, the altar cross and the cross carried in procession.

351. Every effort should be made, even in minor matters, to observe appropriately the requirements of art and to ensure that a noble simplicity is combined with elegance.

361. Scripture Readings: A situation may arise either when the same text would have to be read again within a few days, as, for example, on a Sunday and on a subsequent weekday, or when it is feared that a certain text might give rise to some difficulties for a particular group of the Christian faithful. However, care should be taken that, when choosing scriptural passages, parts of Sacred Scripture are not permanently excluded.

380. Funerals Among the Masses for the Dead, the Funeral Mass holds first place. It may be celebrated on any day except for Solemnities that are Holydays of Obligation, Thursday of Holy Week (Holy Thursday), the Paschal Triduum, and the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter

394. Each diocese should have its own Calendar and Proper of Masses. For its part, the Conference of Bishops should draw up a proper Calendar for the nation or, together with other Conferences, a Calendar for a wider territory, to be approved by the Apostolic See. In carrying out this task, to the greatest extent possible the Lord’s Day is to be preserved and safeguarded, as the primordial feast day, and hence other celebrations, unless they are truly of the greatest importance, should not have precedence over it. Care should likewise be taken that the liturgical year as revised by decree of the Second Vatican Council not be obscured by secondary elements.


Pope Paul VI: “The Paschal Mystery’s celebration is of supreme importance in Christian worship, as we are clearly taught by the sacred Second Vatican Council, and its meaning is unfolded over the course of days, of weeks, and of the whole year.”

 1. Holy Church celebrates the saving work of Christ on prescribed days in the course of the year with sacred remembrance. Each week, on the day called the Lord’s Day, she commemorates the Resurrection of the Lord, which she also celebrates once a year in the great Paschal Solemnity, together with his blessed Passion. In fact, throughout the course of the year the Church unfolds the entire mystery of Christ and observes the birthdays of the Saints.

4. Sunday On the first day of each week, which is known as the Day of the Lord or the Lord’s Day, the Church, by an apostolic tradition that draws its origin from the very day of the Resurrection of Christ, celebrates the Paschal Mystery.

17. The Cycle of the Year Over the course of the year the Church celebrates the whole mystery of Christ, from the Incarnation to Pentecost Day and the days of waiting for the Advent of the Lord.

18. The Paschal Triduum  Since Christ accomplished his work of human redemption and of the perfect glorification of God principally through his Paschal Mystery, in which by dying he has destroyed our death, and by rising restored our life, the sacred Paschal Triduum of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord shines forth as the high point of the entire liturgical year. Therefore the preeminence that Sunday has in the week, the Solemnity of Easter has in the liturgical year.

19. The Paschal Triduum of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, has its center in the Easter Vigil, and closes with Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the Sunday of the Resurrection.

21. The Easter Vigil, in the holy night when the Lord rose again, is considered the “mother of all holy Vigils,” in which the Church, keeping watch, awaits the Resurrection of Christ and celebrates it in the Sacraments. Therefore, the entire celebration of this sacred Vigil must take place at night, so that it both begins after nightfall and ends before the dawn on the Sunday.

22. Easter Time The fifty days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in joy and exultation as one feast day, indeed as one “great Sunday.” These are the days above all others in which the Alleluia is sung.

23. This sacred period of fifty days concludes with Pentecost Sunday.

24. The first eight days of Easter Time constitute the Octave of Easter and are celebrated as Solemnities of the Lord.

26. The weekdays from the Ascension up to and including the Saturday before Pentecost prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.

27. Lent is ordered to preparing for the celebration of Easter, since the Lenten liturgy prepares for celebration of the Paschal Mystery both catechumens, by the various stages of Christian Initiation, and the faithful, who recall their own Baptism and do penance.

28. The forty days of Lent run from Ash Wednesday up to but excluding the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive. From the beginning of Lent until the Paschal Vigil, the Alleluia is not said.

29. On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which is observed everywhere as a fast day, ashes are distributed.

31. Holy Week is ordered to the commemoration of Christ’s Passion, beginning with his Messianic entrance intoJerusalem. On Thursday of Holy Week, in the morning, the Bishop concelebrates Mass with his presbyterate and blesses the holy oils and consecrates the chrism.

32. Christmas Time After the annual celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the Church has no more ancient custom than celebrating the memorial of the Nativity of the Lord and of his first manifestations, and this takes place in Christmas Time.

33. Christmas Time runs from First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) of the Nativity of the Lord up to and including the Sunday after Epiphany or after January 6.

34. The Vigil Mass of the Nativity is used on the evening of December 24, either before or after First Vespers (Evening Prayer I). On the day of the Nativity of the Lord, following ancient Roman tradition, Mass may be celebrated three times, that is, in the night, at dawn, and during the day.

39. Advent has a twofold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.

40. Advent begins with First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) of the Sunday that falls on or closest to November 30 and it ends before First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) of Christmas.

42. The weekdays from December 17 up to and including December 24 are ordered in a more direct way to preparing for the Nativity of the Lord.

VI. Ordinary Time

43. Besides the times of year that have their own distinctive character, there remain in the yearly cycle thirty-three or thirty-four weeks in which no particular aspect of the mystery of Christ is celebrated, but rather the mystery of Christ itself is honoured in its fullness, especially on Sundays. This period is known as Ordinary Time.

44. Ordinary Time begins on the Monday which follows the Sunday occurring after January 6 and extends up to and including the Tuesday before the beginning of Lent; it begins again on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday and ends before First Vespers (Evening Prayer I) of the First Sunday of Advent.

The Lectionary: was first in the form of margins written into a Bible or Book of the Gospels; then a book with the pericopes for the readings of each day and then of Gospels (with the starting words, ending words). The oldest one surviving is from the 6th Century. Up until Vatican II, the readings contained relatively few texts from the Old Testament, they were in Latin and usually in the form of one reading, a psalm, an acclamation and the Gospel.

The desire of the Council fathers at Vatican II was to open the riches of the word of God to all God’s people. This meant making available the readings in the vernacular language and a wider and more varied selection of readings from both Old and New Testaments. They restored an ancient practice of 3 readings on Sundays and solemnities.

The Readings now follow a 3 year cycle [Cycle A, B and C] on Sundays and solemn feasts and a 2 year cycle on the weekdays of Ordinary Time : Year I and Year II. There was less than a quarter of Scripture in theReadings of the Tridentine Mass Rite. Over 80% of all Scripture is now included in the Mass Lectionary of Vatican II. There are some options and adaptations possible, especially for children and members of the deaf community.

Lectionary Volume I (red): contains the Proper of Seasons [Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, Easter & Feasts of the Lord in Ordinary Time (Trinity, Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart)] and Sundays in Ordinary Time for Years A, B & C, Holy Days, Feasts of the Lord & Solemnities.

Lectionary Volume II (blue): contains Weekdays in Ordinary Time (Year I & year II), the Proper of Saints (Roman Calendar and National Calendars) and the Commons of the Dedication of a Church (and altar), the Blessed Virgin Mary, Martyrs, Pastors, Doctors of the Church, Virgins, Holy Men and Women.

Lectionary Volume III (brown):  contains Ritual Celebrations for Christian Initiation [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults – Admission, Election, Initiation; Baptism of Infants, Reception of Baptised Christians into Full Communion with the Catholic Church, Confirmation, Children’s First Communion], The Eucharist [commissioning ministers, Communion to the Sick, Viaticum], Penance, Rites of the Sick and Dying, Marriage, Holy Orders, Ministries, Blessing of Persons [Abbot, Abbess, Religious Profession], Masses for Various Needs and Occasions [for the Church, Civil Needs, Various Public or Particular Needs] Votive Masses and Masses for the Dead.  The ‘Masses for the Dead’ section is what is used for Funeral Rites.

A quick checklist:

Sign in

Check the Liturgical Calendar

Prepare the vestments for the presider.

Prepare the vestments for any other liturgical ministers (concelebrant(s) deacon, altar servers or acolytes). Are extra seats required on the sanctuary?

Prepare the Roman Missal with the appropriate prayers marked.

Prepare the Lectionary.

Prepare the Book of the Gospels, if it is to be used

Prepare the credence table with the following. You might arrange these things on a tray, to minimize the number of trips you need to make from the sacristy:

The corporal to be placed on the altar

The chalice(s) and purificator(s)

The cruet of water

The basin, pitcher, and towel for hand washing

Additional patens or ciboria to be used for the distribution of Holy Communion to the People of God.

Prepare the bread and wine and place in appropriate vessels, just enough for this celebration. Then place the vessels on the offertory table to be brought forward during Mass.

How much of this can be done well in advance so as to leave a time of silence before Mass begins?

Make any other needed preparations: check the sound system (choir mikes?), check the lights, prepare the thurible, baskets for the collection, prepare the processional cross, prepare the candles (sanctuary lamp?), the key of the tabernacle…


A Prayer:

“Prepare the way for the Lord”… Mark 1:3

God of Glory, your beloved Son has shown us that true worship comes from humble hearts.
Bless our brothers and sisters, who have responded to the needs of our parish
and commit themselves to your service as sacristans.
Grant that their work may be fruitful, especially all the hidden attention to detail
and thoughtful preparations made in advance
so as to smooth the path to worship pleasing in your sight.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen

Diocesan Liturgical Resource Centre Autumn Seminar 2012