Rome, 15 May 2018 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: I observe many priests presiding at daily and Sunday Masses in church wearing alb and stole but no chasuble. These are not situations of concelebration. Is it permissible to preside at Mass without wearing a chasuble? — T.P., Quebec
A: I think this question is sufficiently addressed in the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum. To wit:
“123. The vestment proper to the Priest celebrant at Mass, and in other sacred actions directly connected with Mass unless otherwise indicated, is the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole. Likewise the Priest, in putting on the chasuble according to the rubrics, is not to omit the stole. All Ordinaries should be vigilant in order that all usage to the contrary be eradicated.
“124. A faculty is given in the Roman Missal for the Priest concelebrants at Mass other than the principal concelebrant (who should always put on a chasuble of the prescribed color), for a just reason such as a large number of concelebrants or a lack of vestments, to omit ‘the chasuble, using the stole over the alb.’ Where a need of this kind can be foreseen, however, provision should be made for it insofar as possible. Out of necessity, the concelebrants other than the principal celebrant may even put on white chasubles. For the rest, the norms of the liturgical books are to be observed.”
“126. “The abuse is reprobated whereby the sacred ministers celebrate Holy Mass or other rites without sacred vestments or with only a stole over the monastic cowl or the common habit of religious or ordinary clothes, contrary to the prescriptions of the liturgical books, even when there is only one minister participating. In order that such abuses be corrected as quickly as possible, Ordinaries should take care that in all churches and oratories subject to their jurisdiction there is present an adequate supply of liturgical vestments made in accordance with the norms.”
During the 1970s some countries received permission to use a combination chasuble cum alb with the stole worn over it. Although one still occasionally sees this somewhat ugly and ungainly vesture it has mostly disappeared.
The norms mentioned above are the most recent and reflect the current state of the question from the point of view of liturgical law.
* * *
Follow-up: Flowers on the Altar [5-29-2018]
Concerning flowers on the mensa of the altar (see follow-up, May 15), a reader from Lansing, Michigan, wrote: “It seems, from my travels around some parts of Italy, to be a universal practice. Thus, approved? Or possessing standing as a custom? Or the practice should be corrected? The Pope doing it might seem to preserve the practice, which doesn’t seem to harmonize with the altar symbolizing the Christ.”
I do not believe that this practice has yet the possibility of gaining force of custom.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Nos. 305-306, referring to the decoration of the altar, are additions to the document between what corresponded to Nos. 268-269 of the previous edition of the GIRM. These numbers correspond to GIRM 304 (on altar cloths) and GIRM 307 (altar candles) in the current edition.
Since the Italian translation of the new GIRM is from 2004, and a new translation of the Italian Missal has yet to be promulgated, the task of bringing Italian parishes into conformity with the norms is still a work in progress.
It would take about another 20 years or so of contrary use to establish a legitimate custom if indeed this is a practice subject to becoming one in canonical terms.