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|Meeting Christ in the Liturgy|
Instruction of the Roman Missal
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QUERY: After the distribution of communion the priest often is observed purifying the vessels (chalice, paten, ciborium) at the middle of the altar. Cannot a better place and time be chosen to do this? May another minister purify the vessels? REPLY: a. The directives in the GIRM are to be observed. There is a general principle in no. 238: "The vessels are purified by the priest or else by the deacon or acolyte after the communion or after Mass, if possible at a side table." The directive as to time (whether after communion or after Mass) is completed in no. 229 with one regarding place (at the side of the altar). It is implicit in this regulation that the celebrant never stands at the middle of the altar as he purifies the vessels (see also no. 120). b. Other particulars are found elsewhere in the GIRM: As the priest, no. 120: "After communion the priest returns to the altar and collects any remaining particles. Then, standing at the side of the altar or at a side table, he purifies the paten or ciborium over the chalice, then purifies the chalice, saying quietly: «Lord, may I receive these gifts», etc., and dries it with a purificator. If this is done at the altar, the vessels are taken to a side table by a minister. It is also permitted, especially if there are several vessels to be purified, to leave them, properly covered and on a corporal, either at the altar or at a side table and to purify them after Mass when the people have left."
As to the deacon, no. 138: "After communion, the deacon returns to the altar with the priest and collects any remaining fragments. He then takes the chalice and other vessels to the side table, where he purifies them and arranges them in the usual way; the priest returns to the chair. But it is permissible to leave the vessels to be purified, properly covered and on a corporal, at a side table and to purify them after Mass, when the people have left."
As to the acolyte, no. 147: "After communion, the acolyte helps the priest or deacon to purify and arrange the vessels. If no deacon is present, the acolyte takes the vessels to the side table, where he purifies and arranges them."
The remarks on the priest, deacon and acolyte are applicable to a special minister who lawfully distributes communion (see SCDS, Instr. «Immensae caritatis»; RR, «Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass», no. 17). See also GIRM no. 229 on a priest celebrating without a congregation; nos. 202 - 206 on a concelebrated Mass: Not 14 (1978) 593 - 594, no. 15.
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