Using the Chalice Pall

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Using the Chalice Pall

ROME, 13 NOV. 2007 (ZENIT)

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Though I was raised with the Latin Mass as a child, I have since become accustomed to not seeing the pall used. Then, I was assigned for many years in foreign countries where the pall was available, thankfully so, in churches where flies are a problem. Circumstances thus taught me from where the chalice-pall tradition was born. Therefore, except for when I hold the chalice during the consecration, or when I place the small piece of the Host in the chalice, I usually have it covered until reception of the Precious Blood. However, I have had times when a visiting priest will reach over and remove it when the bread and wine are being blessed. I, however, when alone, leave it on until the last possible moment before taking it in hand, especially on a fly-some day. Is there any guide (except common sense) to know when to leave the pall on or take it off? — J.E., Houston, Texas

A: The chalice pall is a square of linen stiffened with starch, cardboard or plastic set upon the sacred vessel. In some cases the square of white linen is attached to the underside of palls that reflect the seasonal color or even of highly elaborate palls made of different materials including gold, silver and wood. They are also often decorated with sacred images or fine embroidery.

As our reader points out, the primary use of the chalice pall is to prevent dust and insects from falling into the chalice during the celebration.

In places where insecticides and air conditioning have greatly reduced the presence of insects during Mass, the use of the pall has greatly diminished.

Even in such cases, however, quite a number of priests still prefer to use the pall, or at least have one available on the altar if necessary. After all, no prevention system is foolproof, and a priest can hardly interrupt the Mass to look for insecticide should a fly start buzzing around the chalice.

In all cases where there is a real danger of flies or dust falling into the chalice, the pall should be used.

While the rule of thumb is common sense, the most common practice appears to have the pall cover the chalice at the credence table from the beginning of Mass until the preparation of the chalice at the presentation of gifts.

After the presentation of the chalice the pall is placed upon the chalice until the epiclesis, when it is removed by the deacon or priest. It is replaced after the showing of the chalice and remains for the rest of the Eucharistic Prayer until the doxology ("Through him, with him …"). It is again replaced from the Our Father until the "Haec Commixtio," when a fragment of the Host is placed in the chalice.

Since Communion follows shortly after, and the priest is usually attentive to the chalice, it is not normally replaced after the "Haec Commixtio." After the priest's Communion, the pall may be placed on the chalice again.

When the danger of flies is particularly grave, such as happens in tropical areas, the use of the pall may be extended further.

Special care must also be taken when several chalices are consecrated. If palls are necessary, then they should be used on every chalice. The general custom is to remove all palls during the time of the consecration, but even this removal would not be essential in cases of genuine danger.

In some cases the objective difficulty of protecting the sacred species from flies may be considered sufficient motivation for not offering the option of Communion under both species.

Although it is a secondary motivation, the pall may also be used along with the chalice veil (the use of which is still recommended by the General Instruction for the Roman Missal). Placing the stiff pall under the veil allows it be draped over the chalice in a most elegant manner.

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Follow-up: Using the Chalice Pall [11-27-2007]

Pursuant to our observations on the use of the chalice pall (Nov. 13), a reader commented: "How you respond to liturgical inquiries might be enhanced by your becoming more familiar with versions of the Missale Romanum from 1962 and before. Although there are no current rubrics for the use of the pall, questions about proper use could be more adequately examined according to historical usage rather than 'common practice' or one's own 'common sense.'

"I think your questioner below was looking for something more 'authoritative,' shall we say. In the Missale Romanum of 1962, the pall is not removed during the epiclesis, but only when the time came for the consecration of the wine. Further, after the consecration, every time the pall is removed there is a genuflection, and every time it is replaced, there is a genuflection. It would seem that history might provide us some guidance here."

Our correspondent is, of course, correct in saying that reference to practice before the current reform can be most useful in interpreting some current doubts. And I have often been enlightened by reference to liturgical texts and manuals from that period.

These texts have also recovered much of their actuality, now that the possibility of celebrating Mass according to the 1962 missal has been universally extended.

Our reader's observations, however, also show the difficulty involved in deciding if a rubric from the 1962 Roman rite may be applied "tout court" to the present celebration or if it is no more than a useful rule of thumb.

Thus, for example, the rule that there is a genuflection every time that the pall is removed or replaced, certainly does not apply to the present form of Mass. The present form clearly specifies the genuflections to be made during Mass.

Since the use of the pall is no longer obligatory, the earlier norms are not legally binding for when the pall happens to be used for the present rite. The earlier norms, however, can indicate the maximum possible use of removing the pall only for the consecration of the wine.

Therefore, even though the earlier norms can be a useful guide we must necessarily have recourse to other criteria such as custom and common sense in interpreting their use for the present rite.

Indeed, many liturgical rubrics originated as custom and common sense and only gradually became fixed as precise and exact norms.

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