General Instructions at Odds with a Rubric
By Father Edward McNamara
ROME, 18 FEB. 2016 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: There seems to be a discrepancy between two norms of the missal. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 267, indicates that the priest celebrating Mass with only one minister says the “Lamb of God” along with him, while the relevant rubric for the “Mass with the Participation of a Single Minister” directs the minister alone to do so. Is there any way to reconcile the two texts, or if not, which one should be followed? — A.K., Cheshire, Connecticut
A: Apparently our reader seems to have found a real contradiction in the norms of the Roman Missal. Effectively GIRM No. 267 says:
“Then, while he says the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) with the minister, the priest breaks the host over the paten. After the Agnus Dei, he performs the commixtion, saying quietly the Haec commixtio (May this mingling).”
The next number follows logically this indication:
“268. After the commixtion, the priest quietly says the prayer Domine Iesu Christe, Fili Dei vivi (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God) or Perceptio (Lord Jesus Christ, with faith in your love and mercy).“
On the other hand, the rubrics for the “Mass with the Participation of a Single Minister” says the following, after the greeting “The peace of the Lord be with you always” and, if appropriate, the sign of peace:
“Then he takes the host and breaks it over the paten, while the minister says: ‘Lamb of God […].
“The priest places a small piece in the chalice saying quietly: ‘May this mingling of the Body and Blood ….'”
Thus, while it might be only a small detail, the two indications seem to give opposite instructions to the priest. Either to say the “Lamb of God” with the minister, or not saying it with the minister.
Another slight discrepancy is found in GIRM No. 269 and the corresponding rubric. The GIRM says that before Communion is given to the minister, the minister or the priest says the antiphon. The rubrics for the Mass in which only one minister participates prescribe under No. 28 that, while the priest takes Communion, the minister says the Communion antiphon.
Which is correct? The answer is not easy.
When the new rite was published, it was stated that several changes were made to the form of Mass previously called “Mass Without the People.” Apart from the change in name to “Mass at Which Only One Minister Participates,” other changes were made to bring this form of Mass more in line with the Mass with the people which is now the model for all other forms.
Following this logic, it would seem that the rubric is more in line with this principle, as the normal process for a priest in the Mass with the people would be to not say the “Lamb of God” but to proceed in the fraction of the host and reciting the private prayers indicated in the missal while the people say or sing the “Lamb of God.”
Also, the norm in GIRM No. 267 is for all practical purposes the same as the latest previous edition of the General Instruction issued in 1984 (No. 226).
However, in this missal the rubric for this rite in the “Mass Without the People” corresponds to the norm of the General Instruction and there is no anomaly or contradiction. To wit:
“Then he takes the host and breaks it over the paten, while he says with the minister: ‘Lamb of God […].'”
Therefore, the only text that was changed was the rubric in the 2002 edition, which was reprinted with amendments in 2008. This is the version upon which the new English translations were finally based.
This change of rubric is hardly something casual. I would therefore conclude that it was made, as said above, to conform the Mass said with a single minister to the form of the Mass with the people.
I would thus suggest that, in this case, the norm indicated in the rubric, and not GIRM No. 267, should be followed. This would likewise apply to the discrepancy with GIRM No. 269, except in the case that the minister was unable to read the text of the antiphon.
There might be one advantage in the previous norm. It is possible that in some cases a priest who celebrates with no one else present might think that the “Lamb of God” should be omitted, and this would be an error. However, this is an unlikely scenario and hardly motive enough to justify this diverse norm.
I have no means of knowing how this discrepancy slipped past almost everybody. The first version of the new GIRM was issued a couple of years before the new Latin third typical edition of the missal, and while work on the missal was still in progress. This early publication helped bishops’ conferences to examine the GIRM and approve any adaptations ahead of the task of translating the missal itself. This feedback also helped the Congregation for Divine Worship to further refine the GIRM, and quite a number of changes were made before the definitive version of the missal in Latin was published.
However, in spite of all the careful work, it would appear that this relatively minor detail escaped notice and still remains in the Latin and English Roman Missals. It is to be hoped that later printings can make the appropriate adjustments so that both norms return to harmony.