ROME, 1 MAY 2018 (ZENIT) Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: From what point and up to what point exactly in the Mass is the part called the “consecration”? In the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 43, paragraph 3, it says that “They (the faithful) should kneel, on the other hand, at the Consecration …” Is the consecration after the Sanctus acclamation until the end of the Eucharistic Prayer in the concluding doxology, with the people responding the great “Amen,” or from the epiclesis up to the institution narrative only with the elevation of the chalice? For sure, it is well understood that “where it is the practice for the people to remain kneeling after the Sanctus until the end of the Eucharistic Prayer and before Communion when the Priest says ‘Ecce Agnus Dei,’ it is laudable for this practice to be retained.” However, I am asking my question in view of the people in some parts of the Philippines who do not have this practice of kneeling throughout the entire Eucharistic Prayer and who, like me, are confused as to which part in the Mass exactly is the consecration. — J.Z., Tandag, Philippines
A: It is generally understood that the consecration, during which the people should kneel unless they are already kneeling, is that part of the Eucharistic Prayer that goes from the epiclesis, when the priest extends both hands over the gifts asking the Father to send the Holy Spirit to sanctify the gifts, until the priest invites the people to sing or recite the memorial acclamation following the proclamation of the institution narrative with the chalice.
The invitation and acclamation, however, do not form part of the consecration.
This interpretation can be confirmed by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal which says:
“151. After the Consecration when the priest has said: Mysterium Fidei (Let us proclaim the mystery of faith), the people sing or say an acclamation using one of the prescribed formulas.”
On those rare occasions when a priest celebrates alone, or in a concelebration with only priests present, the invitation and acclamation are omitted, and the consecration ends when the priest says, “Do this in memory of me” and genuflects in adoration. The Mass continues immediately with that part of the Eucharistic Prayer called the anamnesis in which the priest proclaims what we do in memory of Christ in celebrating his death, resurrection, ascension, etc. In a way, we can say that in this part of the prayer the Mass defines what it is.
* * *
Follow-up: The Part of Consecration at Mass [5/15/2018]
Pursuant to our May 1 article on the consecration some readers made further inquiries.
Two readers, from Ireland and Nigeria, asked similar questions: “Where is the directive found which eliminates ‘Mysterium Fidei’ in private/priests’ Masses?” And: “In view of the fact that the invitation and acclamation after the consecration are omitted, when priests celebrate/concelebrate alone, does it follow that the Agnus Dei, during the ‘fractio,’ is also omitted in these celebrations of the Eucharist?”
With respect to the actions of a priest who celebrates alone, I have stated my personal opinion in a reply from November 14, 2006.
In that article, I explain that there is no overall clear directive, but one must interpret the general principle that monitions directed toward the people are omitted.
For concelebration with only priests, there are clear directions to omit the Mysterium Fidei, but it would appear that the rest of the Mass is said as normal with the principal celebrant addressing his brother priests. Therefore the Agnus Dei is said or sung as normal.
Finally, an eagle-eyed Irish reader caught an apparent contradiction between some of my assertions and the photo which accompanied the May 1 article.
“I notice that the ZENIT editors have illustrated Father McNamara’s latest article (https://zenit.org/articles/the-part-of-consecration-at-mass/) with a photograph that in the foreground shows flowers on the mensa of the altar, perhaps of the Santa Marta chapel, at which Pope Francis is saying Mass, in spite of what Father McNamara says about the ‘clear preference’ of liturgy documents: https://zenit.org/articles/criteria-for-preparing-the-altar/ and https://zenit.org/articles/how-brides-should-dress/ and https://zenit.org/articles/decorating-the-sanctuary/.”
As our reader says, the photos are chosen by the editors, and they can be forgiven if they don’t remember everything I have written over the last 15 years.
If the photo was of a papal Mass, well, does it really make much of a difference?
The Pope is the Church’s supreme legislator, and if he wishes to give himself an exception to some minor liturgical rule, he can do so.
If he wants to make a permanent change to some aspect, he has multiple means of doing so: motu proprio, decree, or a letter to the Congregation for Divine Worship ordering a change of rules.
As far as I know, he has yet to use a photo as a legal instrument. There is no way of knowing if the image represents the will of the Supreme Pontiff or the liturgical taste of the sacristan at Santa Marta.
Therefore, until an official change is made to the liturgical books I will stick to what I have said in my previous articles.