Divine Worship


General Instruction of the Roman Missal

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. 

History of the GIRM and Theology of the Mass

Advice given by Gregory the Great to Augustine of Canterbury: “You, brother, know the usage of the Roman Church in which you were brought up: hold it very much in affection. But as far as I am concerned, if you have found something more pleasing to Almighty God, either in the Roman or in the Frankish or in any other Church, make a careful choice and institute it in the Church of the English – which as yet is new to the faith – the best usages which you have gathered together from many Churches. For we should love things not because of the places where they are found but because of the good things they contain. Therefore choose from each particular Church what is godly, religious and sound and gathering all together as it were into a dish, place it on the table of the English for their customary diet.”

From the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy “In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy celebrated in the holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord’s glory with the whole company of heaven; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, our life, shall appear and we too shall appear with him in glory.”1

On December 4, 1963, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council promulgated the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. The desired goal of the Second Vatican Council, as articulated in the Constitution, was the reform and renewal of the liturgy. This aim was not a new initiative of the Council but rather followed the path set forth by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. The Council of Trent sought to preserve and restore the liturgy according to the pristine norms of the ancient Church. This was also a stated goal of the Second Vatican Council. This desire was not simply to recapture how things were done in the past, but instead, to learn from the ancient tradition of the Church what was essential to celebrating the Mass. Furthermore, the Second Vatican Council sought to remove from the liturgy either repetitions or additions that did not benefit the celebration but instead obscured its underlying theology. The fruit of this renewal was the Roman Missal of Pope Paul VI, promulgated in 1969.

Included with the Roman Missal of Pope Paul the VI was a document called the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (or the GIRM). The General Instruction was modified in 1975 and this was the second major edition of the GIRM, but the changes were not such that most people would have noticed any difference. In 2000, under the authority of Pope John Paul II, a new Roman Missal was promulgated and with this a new GIRM, the Third Typical Edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.

When using the GIRM, one should note that, from its inception in 1969, it was an entirely new document for the Church. The GIRM was issued to replace the three introductory documents in Missale Romanum 1570 (Missal of Pius V) – Rubricae generales, Ritus servandus in celebratione et concelebratione Missae, and De defectibus in celebratione Missae occurrentibus.2 The GIRM is related to these documents since it provides the rubrics for the celebration of the Mass, yet it differs from them in as much as it supplies more than just the rubrics. In fact, the GIRM “is an accurate resumé and application of those doctrinal principles and practical norms on the Eucharist that are contained in the conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium (4 December 1963), Paul VI’s Encyclical Mysterium fidei (3 September 1965), and the Congregation of Rites’ Instruction Eucharisticum mysterium (25 May 1967).”3

References to these three documents appear often in the GIRM, but despite its doctrinal underpinning, it was not intended to be a doctrinal or dogmatic instruction. Rather, its primary concern has been to provide pastoral and ritual instruction.4 The doctrinal explanations, then, are intended to aid one in understanding theologically each of the elements of the celebration and why it forms part of the rite. “For the rites both have doctrine as their source and give to doctrine its outward expression.”5 The GIRM, in this way, presents a theological context both to the celebration as a whole and to its individual elements. In this context, then, the GIRM is understood most accurately as a new kind of document.

There are obviously various theological points that the GIRM seeks to articulate but three theological points in particular can be considered prominent: the communal, hierarchical6 and sacrificial nature of the liturgy. A primary concern for the communal aspect of the liturgy is to insure the full, active and conscious participation of the faithful within the celebration. The Constitution called this the aim to be considered above all else in the reform of the liturgy. The role of the community, then, is not to be considered a secondary concern of the celebration. The purpose of the community gathering is the worship of God through participation in the Paschal Mystery, which is the death and resurrection of Christ, his ascension and the pouring forth of the Spirit. By this worship and participation, the people are sanctified and are transformed into “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pt 2:9).

The celebration, though, must ultimately be understood as the action of Christ in which we as a community are called to participate. We are united to the one sacrifice of Christ and through this act of worship give voice to our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Understanding that the Mass is a sacrifice is a theological truth that the Church has taught in memoria. This was most clearly articulated by the teaching of the Council of Trent, the Second Vatican Council and theology of the Mass presented in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. In celebrating the Mass, we partake of the one sacrifice of Christ, which is a participation in his death, resurrection, ascension and the pouring forth of the Spirit. Our sharing in this sacrifice comes through the gifts that are presented of bread and wine and our prayer of praise. For as the first Eucharistic Prayer says, “we ask you to accept and bless these gifts we offer you in sacrifice” and “we offer you this sacrifice of praise.” In the Eucharistic Prayer, we offer our words of praise which united with the words of Christ form the great prayer of thanksgiving. Through this prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, we offer back to the Father the gift He has given us, Christ, through the bread and wine, transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. In this we participate in the one sacrifice of Christ. The theology of sacrifice is truly at the heart and soul of the celebration and always has been. It is not a new theological insight; rather, it is a theological point that the GIRM has more strongly emphasized.

To understand the three theological pointes more fully one must examine the theology of both the elements of the Mass and the roles played by the congregation and the ministers.

History of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal

  • Promulgated in 1969; second typical edition in 1975; third typical edition 2002; (other minor changes in 1970, 1972, 1991)
  • A new type of document, unlike the first three documents in the Missal of Pius V
  • Contains not only the rubrics (what to do and how to do it) but also the theology of the actions.
  • Not a doctrinal or dogmatic instruction but rather provides pastoral and ritual instruction
  • Presents theological context to the whole of the celebration and to its individual parts

Theology in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal

Preamble -- Gives theological grounding for the renewal of the Missal

  • Reformed missal part of the ongoing faith of the Church
  • Continues what began at the last supper and cross
  • Sacrifice of praise, of thanksgiving and of propitiation7 and satisfaction.
  • Based on the pristine norm of the ancient Church
  • Adapted to the needs of the day
  • It is part of the unchanging faith and unbroken tradition of the Church
  • Reformed and renewed but not new

Chapter One – The Importance and Dignity of the Eucharistic Celebration

  • GIRM
  • Establishes the underlying theology of the celebration
  • Rooted in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and other post-conciliar documents.
  • Celebration of the Mass – Theology
    • Action of Christ and the people of God arrayed hierarchically
    • Through this worship people of God and the world sanctified
    • Center of Christian life at all levels (source and summit)
    • All activities of Christian life are bound to the liturgy, flow from it and are ordered by it
    • Must lead to full active, conscious participation of the faithful
      • Demanded by the nature of the celebration
      • Duty of Christians by baptism
    • Entire eucharistic celebration carried out with perceptible signs that nourish, strengthen and express faith.


Structure of the Mass


The Preface for Weekdays IV states: “You have no need of our praise, but our desire to thank you is itself your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness but makes us grow in your grace.” This preface is a reminder that all of Christian life, especially our liturgical life, is founded upon God’s initiative. The community is gathered as the Body of Christ in worship first and foremost because God draws us together through the Spirit who dwells within each of us by our baptism. The primary purpose of liturgical celebration, then, is this worship of God that leads to our sanctification and salvation.

The Introductory Rites begin this celebration and invites us to enter into the liturgy as one people. The GIRM states that the purpose of this section is “that the faithful coming together take on the form of a community and prepare themselves to listen to God’s word and celebrate the eucharist properly.”8 The elements of the Introductory Rites are intended to foster a sense of unity among the assembly as a community that is being drawn together by the Spirit. Within this community, assembled by that Spirit, our attention is drawn to the presence of the Lord who is present among those who are gathered in his name. This presence of Christ challenges us as a community and as individuals to reflect on how we have or have not lived out our faith in Christ during the passing week. This leads us to both implore the Lord’s mercy, and glorify and praise him. As the community prepares to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word some aspect of the mystery of the Lord’s work in salvation is brought forth in our prayer, in a sense, it describes the character of the celebration.

Another important aspect of the Introductory Rites is its attention to the Trinitarian nature of the celebration, seen particularly in the sign of the cross, Gloria, and Collect. As we come to celebrate and participate in the Paschal Mystery, this participation draws us to share more deeply in the life of the Trinity. For in the liturgy, we come to worship the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. By our participation, then, we recognize the ultimate purpose of our lives, which is to come to that day that we pray for in Eucharist Prayer III “when Christ will raise our mortal bodies and make them like his own in glory…. There [the kingdom of God] we hope to share in your glory when every tear will be wiped away. On that day we shall see you, our God, as you are. We shall become like you and praise you for ever through Christ our Lord.”9

ELEMENTS: Entrance Song, Sign of the Cross, Greeting, Act of Penance/Sprinkling Rite, Kyrie, Gloria

Collect (Opening Prayer)


  • Establish the communal dimension of the celebration
  • Help to recognize the presence of the Lord in the assembly
  • Prepare for the Liturgy of the Word which leads into the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
  • Characterized as a beginning, introduction and preparation.

Entrance Song

  • Three aims
    • Foster unity
    • Promote the mystery of the liturgical season or feast
    • Accompany the procession
  • Text should foster participation and uphold aims

Sign of the Cross

  • Trinitarian nature of the celebration


  • Signifies the presence of the Lord
  • Manifests the mystery of the Church gathered together

Act of Penance

  • Recalling of sins
  • Three forms
    • Confiteor followed by Kyrie
    • Adaptation of psalm 85: 8  Presider: Lord we have sinned against you.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Presider: Lord, show us your mercy and love.

People: And grant us your salvation

Followed by Kyrie

  • Kyrie with invocations
    • Adaptable
    • Praises Christ for mercy
    • Not followed by Kyrie
  • All three forms end with a form of absolution

Kyrie Eleison

  • Faithful acclaim the Lord and implore his mercy


  • Ancient and venerable hymn
  • Glorifies the Father and the Lamb through the Holy Spirit
  • Pure act of praise
  • Creates a festive character

Collect (Opening Prayer)

  • Invitation (Let us pray)
  • Silence (time for people to pray)
  • Prayer
    • character of the celebration expressed
    • always has a Trinitarian nature to it
    • usually addressed to the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit
    • expresses the richness of our experience with God and the variety of our needs
  • Amen (people make prayer their own)
  • Brings entrance rite to a close
  • Leads into the Liturgy of the Word


As part of the renewal of the liturgy, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy exercised a particular concern with regard to scripture. It stated that “Sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy.”10 This is affirmed not only in the proclamation of the Word but, also, in the way that the scriptures inspire the prayers, collects and songs of the liturgy. With regard to the Liturgy of the Word, the Constitution determined that a greater share of the scriptures would be used in the celebration. Included with this concern of a fuller presentation of the scriptures in the liturgy was the use of the vernacular with the proclamation of the scriptures. This proclamation was perceived to be of such benefit to the faithful that the Council insisted that the faithful be exhorted to attend the entire celebration of the Mass. Furthermore, as part of this renewal of the Liturgy of the Word, the Constitution specifically requested a more ample use of scripture, the restoration of the homily, as well as the Prayer of the Faithful.

The vital nature of the Liturgy of the Word to the whole celebration is summed up by the Constitution when it states that the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist form but one act of worship. As God’s word is proclaimed, it is his voice that is heard. By the power of the Spirit, God’s word is made inwardly effective. This proclamation does not simply remind us of past salvific events. Those events are made really present through our participation in the liturgy. We celebrate God’s promises first made before the coming of Christ and now made real as they are fulfilled in Christ’s saving actions. Therefore, whether the scriptures are from the Old Testament or the New, it is Christ who is made known to us. Thus, the Introduction for the Lectionary for the Mass states “The word of God unceasingly calls to mind and extends the economy of salvation, which achieves its fullest expression in the Liturgy. The liturgical celebration becomes therefore the continuing, complete and effective presentation of God’s word.”11

Within the Liturgy of the Word, the high point of our communication with Christ is found in the proclamation of the Gospel, for Christ commissioned his Apostles and his Church to bring the Gospel, his word, to the whole world. Christ’s presence is found both in his word as proclaimed and in his word as heard, kept and lived in the lives of his followers. Reflecting upon that word most properly prepares us, then, to respond by our celebrating the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

ELEMENTS: First Reading, Sacred Silence, Responsorial Psalm, Second Reading, Sacred Silence, Gospel Acclamation, Gospel, Homily, Sacred Silence, Profession of Faith, Prayers of the Faithful.


  • The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist make but one act of worship
  • In the word of God the divine covenant is announced; in the Eucharist the new and everlasting covenant is renewed.
  • Nourished at the table of God’s Word the faithful
    • grow in wisdom
    • prepare to celebrate at the table of the Eucharist to grow in holiness
    • hear Christ who is present in his word
  • Holy Spirit’s power, inspiration and support, makes the word of God
    • effective
    • the foundation of the liturgical celebration
    • the rule and support of all our life.
  • Proclamation of word is intended to evoke a response
    • to listen and adore
    • to commit ourselves to the Word of God incarnate in Christ.
    • to recognize from our baptism and confirmation we are called to God’s be faithful witness
    • to bear that word in our lives so as to be witnesses to the world
  • Full, active, and conscious participation increases to the degree God’s word is heard and acted upon

Biblical Readings

  • First Reading, Psalm, Second Reading, Gospel Acclamation, Gospel
  • Proclamation of readings is ministerial.
  • Biblical readings cannot be replaced by non-biblical readings
  • Through the proclamation Christ is made present and speaks to his people
  • Opening of the mystery of redemption and salvation
  • Use of both Old and New Testaments shows
    • their unity
    • the unified nature of salvation history.
    • The New Testament lies hidden in the Old; the Old Testament comes fully to light in the New.
    • Christ himself is the center and fullness of the whole of Scripture.12
  • The word of God addresses present conditions, past events and what is yet to come.
  • Responsorial Psalm

    • Fosters meditation on God’s word

    • For a further development on this part of the Liturgy of the Word go to page 21 in the Music section.

  • Gospel Acclamation

    • Serves as a greeting of welcome by the assembled faithful to the Lord who is about to speak to them

    • Acts as an expression of faith through song.13

  • Gospel

    • High point of the Liturgy of the Word

    • Special reverence is shown to this proclamation


  • Necessary for Christian life
  • Exposition on
    • the readings
    • text from the Ordinary of the Mass
    • text from the Proper of the Mass
  • Take into account
    • the mystery being celebrated
    • particular needs of the faithful
  • Christ’s Paschal Mystery is proclaimed


  • The liturgy of the word must be celebrated in a way that fosters meditation.
  • The dialogue between God and his people taking place through the Holy Spirit demands short intervals of silence.14

Profession of Faith/Creed

  • Response to the word of God
  • Calls to mind the great mysteries of faith and our baptism and calls us to confess those mysteries
  • Personal adherence to the Church’s rule of faith (Credo – I Believe)

Prayer of the Faithful

  • Respond in a certain way to the word of God
  • Exercise baptismal priesthood by offering prayers to God for all the faithful
  • Suggested order of intentions
    • For needs of the Church
    • Public authorities and salvation of the whole world
    • Those burdened by any kind of difficulty
    • For the local community
  • Intentions should be
    • Sober
    • Succinct
    • Freely composed
    • Express prayer of the whole community
  • “We may say that the intercessions represent the other side of evangelization, since speaking of   human beings to God is inseparable from speaking of God to human beings.”15


The Liturgy of the Eucharist is ordered according to the words and actions of Christ at the Last Supper. Consequently, the GIRM states:

  1. In the preparation of the gifts, the bread and wine with water are brought to the altar, that is, the same elements that Christ used.
  2. In the eucharistic prayer thanks is given to God for the whole work of salvation and the gifts of bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.
  3. Through the breaking of the one bread the unity of the faithful is expressed and through the communion they receive the Lord’s body and blood in the same way the apostles received them from Christ’s own hands.16

As the parts of the Liturgy of the Eucharist are presented, one ought to understand how they fit into this pattern of taking, giving thanks, breaking, and giving.

It is in the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist that Christ is manifested in a unique and most important way through the gift of his body and blood under the form of bread and wine.17 By the invocation of the Holy Spirit and through the words of Christ himself, the bread and wine are transformed into the very body and blood of Christ. It might be said that it is for this true, real, sacramental and substantial presence of Christ that all the other expressions of Christ’s presence in the liturgy exist. We assemble as the Body of Christ to give praise and thanksgiving to the Father, ministering in his name and proclaiming his word, in order to make possible that moment in which we can fully participate in our salvation as Christ commanded us by receiving his body and blood.

ELEMENTS: Preparation of the Gifts [set altar, presentation of gifts, placement of gifts with attendant prayers, prayer over the gifts],

Eucharistic Prayer [thanksgiving, acclamation, epiclesis, institution narrative, anamnesis, offering, intercessions, doxology]

Communion Rite [Lord’s Prayer, Rite of Peace, Fraction, Reception of Communion,

Prayer After Communion.]


  • Fourfold action of the Liturgy of the Eucharist follows fourfold action of Christ 

take, give thanks, break, give

  • Instituted at the Last Supper
  • Participate in the Paschal Sacrifice (death and resurrection of Christ) and heavenly banquet
  • Sacrifice of the Cross continuously made present

Preparation of the Gifts

  • “In simplest terms, the Preparation of Gifts can be seen as a procession of gifts accompanied by song and concluded with prayer.”18
  • The whole rite consists of practical actions that prepare the way for the great prayer of thanksgiving
  • Altar is prepared (corporal, purificator, Missal, chalice placed on altar)
  • Bread and wine brought forward,
    • corresponds to Christ taking.
    • are the elements that will become Christ’s Body and Blood
    • desirable that they be brought forward by the faithful
  • Other gifts taken for the Church and poor extends the reality of the Body of Christ beyond the ritual.19
  • Gifts placed on altar
    • prayers said with actions
    • may be incensed along with cross and altar  signifies the Church’s offering and prayer rising like incense in the sight of God.
    • The people may also be incensed  by reason of their baptismal dignity.
    • Priest washes hands as a sign of desire for interior purification.
  • Prayer over the Gifts  (invitation to prayer, response of people, prayer, Amen)
    • Ending of Preparation of the Gifts
    • Preparation for the Eucharistic prayer
    • “The prayer is an effective transition from the Preparation of the Gifts and its emphasis on   accepting the material gifts of bread and wine, to the offering that will take place in the great   Eucharistic prayer.”20

Eucharistic Prayer

  • Facts
    • Another word used for this prayer is anaphora which means offering
    • There are now ten Eucharistic prayers available for use in English: The Roman Canon and three Eucharistic prayers that came at the time of the promulgation of the Roman Missal in 1969, three Children’s Eucharistic Prayers, two Reconciliation Eucharistic Prayers, Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions.
  • Theology
    • The center and the summit of the entire celebration
    • Prayer addressed in the name of the entire community to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.
    • The faithful through the ministry of the priest
      • joins itself with Christ in confessing the great deeds of God
      • joins itself to the offering of the sacrifice.
      • offer themselves with Christ as a spiritual offering acceptable to God as an exercise of their priestly ministry
    • Faithful’s participation
      • Part of which is listening with reverence and in silence
      • “The prayer is the prayer of all, led by the presider and punctuated with   acclamations.”21
      • Spiritually they are to actually unite the sacrifice of their life with the one sacrifice of Christ that they then join in offering to the Father.
  • Chief elements
    • Thanksgiving (especially in preface): glorifies God the Father and gives thanks for the whole or a particular aspect of salvation. The purpose of the many prefaces is to bring out more fully the motives for thanksgiving
    • Acclamation (Sanctus): joining in with the heavenly powers
    • Epiclesis: invocation of the Holy Spirit for consecration of elements and that it be received as a means of salvation.
    • Institution Narrative and consecration: by the means of the words and actions of Christ, the sacrifice is carried out which Christ himself instituted at the Last Supper.
    • Anamnesis: keeps the memorial of Christ, recalling especially his blessed Passion, glorious resurrection, and ascension into heaven.
    • Offering: in the Holy Spirit the spotless Victim is offered to the Father, through this we are called to learn to offer ourselves so that day by day we are consummated, through Christ the Mediator, into unity with God and with each other.
    • Intercessions: celebrated in communion with the entire Church, heaven as well as earth, offering is made for all Church members living and dead
    • Doxology: glorification of God is expressed and confirmed and concluded with people’s acclamation Amen.

Communion Rite

  • A primary focus is the reception of communion in order to
    • keep the Lord’s command
    • participate in the Paschal Banquet,
    • receive Christ’s body and blood as spiritual food by the faithful who are properly disposed.
    • act as a sign of our sharing and participating in the sacrifice
  • All parts of this rite are meant to lead to this reception

The Lord’s Prayer

  • Made up of the invitation, prayer itself, embolism, and doxology
  • The faithful petition for daily food, which for Christians means also the Eucharistic bread and forgiveness from sin, so that what is holy may be given to those who are holy

Rite of Peace

  • Church asks for peace for herself and the whole human family
  • The faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity
  • Act as a sign of unity


  • Corresponds with Christ breaking
  • Breaking of the bread – name given to entire Eucharistic action in apostolic times
  • Signifies that the many faithful are made one body by receiving communion from the one Bread of Life which is Christ.
  • Carried out with reverence but not unduly prolonged
  • Agnus Dei sung/said during the fractioning
  • Piece of the host is placed in the chalice to signify the unity of the Body and Blood of Christ


  • Quiet prayer of preparation
  • Priest shows the faithful the Eucharistic Bread (held above paten or chalice)
  • Act of humility made using the words of the Gospel
  • Distribution of Communion
    • corresponds with Christ giving
    • desirable that the faithful with the priest receive from the sacrifice just celebrated
    • reception of both species is desirable so that even by means of the signs Communion will stand out more clearly as a participation in the sacrifice actually being celebrated.
  • Communion chant
    • begins as priest receives
    • singing continues as longs as Sacrament is being administered to the faithful
  • When distribution is finished,
    • as circumstances suggest time of silence is observed for prayer.
    • If desired a psalm, canticle or other hymn of praise may be sung.

Prayer after Communion

  • Prayer for the fruits of the mystery just celebrated.
  • “It also stands as the transition between Communion and the whole ritual action of the Mass and the dismissal and return to ordinary life.” (Handbook for Liturgical Studies, vol. III, 165)


Above all, the liturgy is concerned with the worship of God by which the community and individuals are sanctified. Within the liturgical celebration we recognize the presence of Christ in multiple ways. But, participation in the liturgy is not simply about what happens on Sunday, because as the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states, “the liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church. Before people can come to the liturgy they must be called to faith and conversion.”22 Thus, as the liturgy makes Christ visible to us in various ways, we must acknowledge in our lives the many ways Christ is present and similarly make Christ present to others. It is our duty then to live out what we celebrate in order that others may come to know the faith, through the words and actions of those who profess faith in the Risen One.

It is, therefore, through this worship of God which sanctifies us that we are sent forth to live out the mystery that has been celebrated in order to spread the faith of Christ in the world. We are called to preach the Good News of Christ, in essence to live apostolic lives, by living our faith. In other words, we are sent forth from the celebration to be a people who in their lives give praise and thanksgiving to God, to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pt 2:9). The celebration strengthens and prepares us to do just that in order for us to come back and celebrate what we have lived. The Constitution rightly asserts, then, that the liturgy is the “summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fount from which all the Church’s power flows.”23

ELEMENTS: Brief announcements, Greeting, Blessing, Dismissal


  • Send the people forth from the celebration to
    • do good works
    • praise and bless the Lord
    • live out what they have celebrated
  • Actions are kept simple and all work together to achieve this goal


  • Reminder of the Lord’s presence


  • A Trinitarian conclusion like the sign of the cross at the beginning


  • The community is sent forth to live out the mystery


One way Christ is manifested is in the liturgical assembly. The Church gathers to hear God’s word and to give praise and thanksgiving to God in the name of Christ. As we have been promised: “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). Thus, the congregation is recognized as Christ’s presence in the world. Therefore, through our prayer as his brothers and sisters we are joined sacramentally to the one sacrifice of Christ. Through the reconciling power of that sacrifice we are more perfectly formed into the Body of Christ. Our being called to partake of the one sacrifice of Christ is derived from our baptism. Thus, it is our right and duty to participate in this sacrifice for by our baptism we are made “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pt 2:9).

Therefore, The liturgy is not a celebration of a group of individuals who happen to gather in the same location. Rather, it is the faithful being called together by the Holy Spirit to be formed more perfectly into the Body of Christ through the celebration of Mass. A sign of the congregation being united in prayer is the common postures enacted by the congregation, for example all of the people standing together. This communal reality, thus, is a theological truth that the liturgy must express. As the people of God act as one body, through their common posture or gestures, the congregation comes to embody this unity.

Furthermore, a primary concern of the Church is to ensure that the faithful are able to fully, actively, and consciously participate in the liturgy. This is done by a person engaging in the full spectrum of liturgical prayer. This participation is manifested through such actions as the common gestures and postures, verbal assent to the prayers offered by the priest, raising our voices in song, and meditating in silence on the word proclaimed. Thus, prayer is not simply about the words being said, nor is it simply an intellectual exercise. Rather, liturgical prayer is intended to engage a person on all levels of his or her being.

Therefore, it is our right and duty to participate fully in all aspects of the liturgy through prayer, for each action of the celebration calls for some form of participation by the whole congregation. What form this particpation takes is determined by the action occuring in the liturgy, for example, in the Liturgy of the Word we participate by sitting, and then listening and meditating on the word proclaimed. This listening and meditating is not to be understood as a passive response but rather an active response to the Spirit who makes the word effective to those properly disposed.

A final point that must be noted, though, is that the full effectiveness of the liturgy on person’s life depends on a proper disposition by that person. One must be open to cooperate with divine grace by uniting mind and heart to what he or she is giving voice to by participating in the liturgy. Without this, it is difficult, if not impossible, for a person to achieve the sense of full, active, conscious participation that the Church so desires for all the faithful.


  • Christ is present among those assembled in his name (Mt 18:20)
  • Liturgical assembly is a reflection of the Church but its structure and ordering
  • Faithful
    • Form a holy people, a people God has made his own, a royal priesthood
    • Give thanks to God
    • Offer the spotless victim through the hands of the priest but also together with him
    • Learn to offer themselves through the celebration
    • Make clear what they have celebrated through
      • a deep religious sense of life
      • Charity shown to their brothers and sisters
  • People are called to a full, active, conscious participation in the liturgy
  • Liturgical prayer engages the entire person – heart, mind, body and soul -- by
    • Use of bodily gestures and postures
    • Use of senses
      • Hearing – word proclaimed
      • Sight – look to the actions of the ministers
      • Smell – use of incense
      • Touch – use of material things
      • Taste – receive the Body and blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine.
    • Movement – various processions
  • Shun any appearance of individualism or division for we all have only one Father in heaven
  • Form one body by
    • Hearing God’s word
    • Joining in prayer and singing
    • By common offering of Sacrifice
    • Common partaking of Lord’s table
    • Unity apparent in common gestures and postures
  • Proper disposition of the individual is important

The Congregation’s Common Postures

  • At the beginning of the Entrance chant all stand and remain so until the end of the collect (Opening Prayer).
    • “This posture [standing], from the earliest days of the Church has been understood as the stance of those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above… we assume our full stature before God, not in pride, but in humble gratitude for the marvelous thing[s] God has done…”
  • All remain seated for the readings until the time of the Gospel Acclamation when they stand to hear the Gospel.
    • “Sitting is the posture of listening and meditatating.”
  • They remain standing for the Gospel and then sit for the homily.
    • “We stand for the Gospel, the pinnacle of revelation, the words and deeds of the Lord.”
  • The people stand for the Creed and the Prayer of the Faithful. During the Creed, all bow at the words “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man
    • We bow at theses words in the Creed to signify “our profound respect and gratitude to Christ.”
  • The people sit as the altar is prepared, as the gifts are brought forward and the gifts are placed on the altar.
  • The congregation stands at the end of Orate fratres (Pray, brethren) but before their own response.
  • The people remain standing until the conclusion of the Sanctus when they kneel.*
    • Kneeling, once a sign of penitance now has come to signify adoration and reverence.
  • They remain kneeling until the conclusion of the Great Amen.
  • All stand for the Our Father and remain standing until the conclusion of the Agnus Dei.
  • At the conclusion of the Agnus Dei all kneel.*
    • Kneeling, here is a sign of communal reverence.
  • All stand for the reception of Communion.
  • As one prepares to receive the Body of Christ the communicant remains standing and bows his or her head and receives either in the hand or on the tongue. If receiving also the Precious Blood, the same sign of reverence is shown by bowing the head before receiving from the cup.
    • The bow of the head is a sign of reverence.
  • They may sit or kneel for a period of sacred silence after the distribition of communion is ended. †
  • All stand for the Prayer after Communion until the end of Mass.

* One of the variations requested by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

† If a person chooses they may sit or kneel when returning to their pew, but the normative posture at this time is to remain standing.

Committee on the Liturgy

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


One way Christ is manifested in the liturgy is in the liturgical ministers who serve the people of God in the celebration. Ministry within the liturgy is a sign to the community that with and through Christ we are all called to be servant people. Christ said he “did not come to be served but to serve” (Mt. 20:28). St. Paul tells us that “it is one and the same Spirit who produces all these gifts, distributing them to each as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). Each minister empowered by the Spirit acts in the name of Christ and thus through their service makes Christ present.

It is important to remember that the liturgy is never a private function or the concern simply of those who participate in it at a particular moment or place.24 It is always the work of the whole Church and is always a manifestation of the whole Church.25 Therefore, in the celebration of the liturgy, we come to recognize and express both the mystery of Christ and the nature of the Church.26 The mission of the Church is to continue Christ’s ministry on earth, and thus, from her very origins, she has celebrated the liturgy.27 Ministry within the liturgical celebration plays an essential role in manifesting the nature of the Church. Within a properly regulated celebration, one can recognize that the Church is an ordered society. It is arranged in a hierarchical28 array according to its “priestly” nature. As it is written in 1 Peter, we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own to proclaim the glorious works of the One who called you from darkness into his own wonderful light.”29 The mystical body of Christ is arranged such that through Christ our High Priest we share in a priestly life that is common to all by virtue of baptism. In particular, the priestly service of those in orders30 continues sacramentally all that Christ the High Priest does to make his members a truly priestly people. Hierarchy then in a liturgical context, and, thus, in an ecclesial context, is fundamentally about how the people of God share in the High Priesthood of Christ.

The Church believes that in the Eucharist Christ offers himself to the Father for the salvation of the world through the ministry of the priest. Consequently, through and with the priest, the whole people of God offer the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and unite to that offering the gift of their own lives given up and poured out.31 It is essential, then, for all involved with the celebration, and in particular the ministers, to be imbued with the spirit of the liturgy in order that each person might fulfill their proper duty with dignity and decorum.32 For example, the reader proclaims God’s word to the assembled people of God that they may reflect and be nourished by that word. And, through that reflection, be more fully prepared to celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Thus, each minister has a particular role to play within the celebration. This role then defines both the purpose of their ministry and the duties and functions, which each minister performs in the celebration. Therefore, no minister should take on the roles of any other minister within a particular celebration for it can diminish the hierarchical nature of the liturgy. 33

Finally, in addressing the issue of ministry in the celebration, one must look to the issue of proper preparation for ministry. Liturgical ministry is not something that one simply does on the spur of the moment. All Christian ministry is based ultimately on God calling us to serve both himself and his Church. Thus, we must recognize that ministry is not simply based on what a person desires to do within the Church. Ministry is not a “right” that an individual chooses to exercise or not; rather, we are chosen by God to fulfill his mission. Therefore, all ministry calls for some level of formation both to discern whether or not God is calling us to serve in a particular to role and to realize what that ministry entails. Therefore, just because a person wants to be a lector, does not necessitate that he or she should be one.

Part of the formation process should determine if the person has the necessary gifts to perform whatever the particular ministry involves. If the person does have what is necessary, then, there needs to be spiritual and technical development for the person directed toward their specific ministry. Their formation should be composed of liturgical, biblical, technical and spiritual components. There should an understanding both of the liturgy in general and the role of one’s ministry within the celebration. “Through training in the particular skills of their ministry, they learn to make the best use of their personal gifts and strengths in order to communicate the person and message of Christ by the reverent use of word, gesture, and movement.”34


  • Every eucharistic celebration is an action of Christ and the Church
  • Pertains then to the whole Church which is manifested in the celebration
  • Effects individual members in a particular way according to their different order, offices and actual participation
  • Expresses its cohesion and hierarchical ordering
  • All who participate should fulfill their duties and roles but no more than that
  • Ministry is a calling from God for the needs of the Church and not a right
  • The faithful should not refuse to serve the People of God whenever asked to perform some particular ministry or function in the celebration

Ministers of the Celebration

  • Presider (bishop or priest)
    • The Bishop, either in person or through priests who are his helpers, directs every legitimate celebration of the Eucharist.
    • Possesses within the Church the power by Holy Orders to offer sacrifice in the person of Christ
    • By that power stands at the head of the faithful gathered together to
      • Preside at prayer
      • Proclaim the message of salvation
      • Associate the people with himself in the offering of the sacrifice through Christ in the Holy Spirit to God the Father
      • Gives the Bread of Life
    • When he celebrates must do so with dignity, humility, and a bearing that conveys the living presence of Christ.
  • Deacon
    • After the bishop and then priest, in virtue of his sacred ordination, holds first place among those who minister in the Eucharistic celebration
    • Comes from the time of the Apostles
    • Assists the priest and remains at his side
    • Ministers at the altar, with chalice as well as book
    • Carries in the Book of the Gospels
    • Proclaims the Gospel
    • May preach the homily
    • Announces the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful
    • Prepares the altar and chalice
    • At doxology elevates the chalice
    • Guides the faithful by appropriate introductions and explanations
    • Assists in distributing communion
    • Helps to clean up altar
    • Helps in incensing
    • As needed, fulfills the duties of other ministers if not present
  • Acolyte (altar server)
    • Serve the priest and deacon at the altar
    • Responsibility to prepare the altar and sacred vessels
    • If no deacon, sets the altar by placing on it: corporal, purificator, chalice, pall and Missal
    • Helps priest to receive gifts if necessary
    • May incense the priest and people
    • May cleanse the vessels
    • Carry cross (candles, thurible)
    • Presents book
    • If necessary act as extraordinary ministry of the eucharist
  • Lector/Reader
    • May carry in the Book of the Gospel if there is no deacon,
    • After the collect the people sit and the reader goes to the ambo to proclaim the first reading.
    • After the proclamation the reader says “The word of the Lord” and then sits for a moment of silent meditation by the congregation.
    • The verses of the psalm are sung by the cantor or if there is no cantor are proclaimed by the reader from the ambo with the response being said/sung by the people.
    • If possible a second reader proclaims the second reading from the ambo and concludes with “The word of the Lord.” The reader then sits for a moment of silent meditation by the congregation.
    • “Whenever there is more than one reading, it is better to assign the readings to different readers, if available.” (Introduction, Lectionary for Mass no. 52)
    • If there is no deacon, and the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful are not sung, a reader may be assigned to proclaim the intentions from the ambo.
    • “If there is no singing at the Entrance or at Communion and the antiphons in the Missal are not recited by the faithful, the lector may read them at the appropriate time.” (GIRM no.198)
  • Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist
    • Do not approach altar until after the priest receives communion
    • Helps with distribution of communion if there is not enough ordinary ministers of communion
    • May distribute either the body or the blood of Christ
    • May consume whatever is left of the sacred elements after distribution is finished
    • May help to cleanse vessels either immediately after distribution or after the celebration is completed
  • Commentator
    • When appropriate offers brief explanations and commentaries to the Mass, they are to brief
    • These explanations are not to be given at the ambo
  • Sacristan
    • Carefully arranges the liturgical books, the vestments and other things necessary in the celebration of the Mass
    • Should have working knowledge of the liturgical calendar
    • Should have a working knowledge of Church vessels and other “equipment” used in the celebration
  • Master of ceremonies
    • Oversees the proper preparation for the sacred ceremonies
    • Insures ceremonies are carried out with proper decorum, order and devotion
  • Music Ministers

[] Great importance should be attached to the use of singing in the celebration

[] though singing all parts of the Mass is not always necessary, due care should be taken that singing is not unduly missing from the celebration.

[] the most important elements should be given preference

[] no music should accompany the presidential prayers

[] Gregorian chant holds pride of place, as wells as the organ

[] singing is a sign of the hearts joys

[] one who sings well prays twice

  • Psalmist
    • Sings Psalm or other Biblical canticle
    • Should be able to sing with good pronunciation and diction
  • Cantor
    • Leads and sustains the people’s singing
  • Choir
    • In keeping with the various forms of chants (or other songs) fosters the active participation of the faithful in singing
  • Musicians
    • In keeping with the various forms of chants (or other songs) fosters the active participation of the faithful in singing


Music is an integral element and holds a prominent place within the celebration of the Mass. The importance of music to the liturgy needs to be actively sustained by a strong level of participation by the people, well-chosen musical selections, and a competent performance of the music chosen. Therefore, it is important to understand not simply what is good music but rather what is good liturgical music. This distinction is at the heart of the proper place of music in the celebration of Mass.

The natural question that arises then is how to determine what good liturgical music is. The answer to this question begins with realizing that the “role of music is ministerial; it must serve and never dominate.” (MCW 23) Music’s purpose within the celebration is to aid the faithful in expressing their sense of joy and the gift of faith found in Christ. It is intended to help the people to more fully express with one voice the unity of spirit that is at the heart of celebration of the Mass. As we are gathered by the Spirit to celebrate the Paschal Mystery we give voice to this experience through word and action. That word and action is appropriately supported by music for music helps to raise our consciousness of what we are participating in and its meaning. It is necessary then to carefully choose the music that is part of the celebration.

The selection of music for any celebration must address three factors: its musicality, liturgical appropriateness, and pastoral setting. The musicality of a piece of music concerns such issues as whether it is good quality music or how easily it can be sung by the congregation. The liturgical appropriateness of music is determined by such issues: as the nature of the particular celebration, the theological meaning of the different parts of the Mass, the season of the liturgical year or any special rites that may occur. The pastoral dimension is concerned with whether it is something that the congregation can or will participate in. This means that we must take “into account the abilities of the assembly, the relative importance of the individual rites and their constituent parts, and the relative festivity of the liturgical day” (LMT 13).

Good liturgical music is not about the personal preference of any particular person or group. It is not simply about what people like or do not like. It is ultimately about helping the people of God to achieve full, active, and conscious participation and through that participation leading them into a fuller sense of worship of God. Music as part of the liturgy is meant to play a role in the sanctification of the faithful as they lift their voices in worship of God.

Therefore, music should never be considered something we merely add to the celebration; in fact the Church expects that on Sundays and Holy Days music should not be absent from the celebration (GIRM no. 115). “Music should be considered a normal and ordinary part of any liturgical celebration” (LTM 13). Hence, something is truly missing from the Mass if there were no liturgical music. But, at the same time, there must be differences in the quantity, style and choice of the Mass parts that are sung depending on the liturgical celebration. Not all celebrations of the Mass are, in a sense, liturgically equal. As such, one must use the principle of progressive solemnity to determine what should be sung and when. This principle “takes into account the abilities of the assembly, the relative importance of the individual rites and their constituent parts, and the relative festivity of the liturgical day.” (LTM no. 13) Music is then an instrument for helping us to better understanding the unfolding of the liturgical year. It does this by the way it is used, and when and how it is used in the celebration, and by the theology that it expresses. It can help us to recognize that there is difference in solemnity and meaning between the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time and Easter. The Mass, in a sense, then, loses some of its solemnity and ability to fully express its theology when such an important element is not used to its full potential. As the ancient proverb says, “One who sings well prays twice” (GIRM no. 39). The community, then, should always be encouraged in the celebration of Mass to lift its voice in song as it is gathered to worship God.

  • Importance of Music in the celebration
    • Music is not to be considered as an extra or something added to the celebration. In fact the celebration is intended to be completely sung. When we chose not to sing we are actually taking music out of the celebration.
    • Contributes to promoting the dignity of the celebration and enhances a genuine understanding of the rites and liturgical texts (GIRM no. 22).
    • The Apostle Paul instructs us to sing together psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (GIRM no. 39).
    • Singing is a sign of the heart’s joys (GIRM no. 39).
    • “One who sings well prays twice” (GIRM no. 39).
    • Singing should be considered a necessary or integral part of the liturgy (GIRM no. 393) thus:
      • great importance should be attached to the use of singing (GIRM no. 40).
      • every care should be taken that singing is not absent from the celebration of Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation (GIRM nos. 50 and 115).
    • The faithful help to form one body through singing (GIRM no. 96).
    • By their silence and singing the people of God make God’s word their own (GIRM no. 55).
  • Place of Choir and Musical instruments and Use of Instruments:
    • Choir and other musicians (GIRM nos. 312 and 103):
      • Exercise own liturgical function.
      • Help to foster the active participation of the faithful through singing.
      • Placement
        • Respects design of the Church.
        • Makes clear that the choir is part of the gathered community fulfilling a specific liturgical function.
        • Assists in exercising liturgical function more easily and at the same time conveniently allows each minister a full, sacramental participation in the Mass.
    • Musical instruments (GIRM nos.313 and 393):
      • Placed in a proper setting to sustain singing and be heard by all.
      • Organ takes pride of place but other instruments may be used which are apt for sacred use or can be so rendered.
    • Musical instruments should not be used:
      • When the presidential texts are prayed no other singing or musical instruments should accompany them. This is especially true when these prayers are chanted by the priest (GIRM no. 32). An exception to this rule would be any through-composed pieces that have received some ecclesiastical approbation.
      • During Advent instruments are to be used with moderation (GIRM no. 313).
      • During Lent instruments are to be used only to accompany singing (exceptions Laetare Sunday, solemnities and feasts) (GIRM no. 313).
  • Important parts of the Mass to be sung
    • This would be guided by the principle of progressive solemnity.
    • In choosing the parts of the Mass to be sung:
      • Preference should be given to:
        • those parts of greater importance (GIRM no. 40).
        • those parts whose very nature demand they be sung.
      • Special notice should be given to:
        • parts sung by the priest/deacon with a response by the people;
        • parts sung by the priest and people together.
  • Particular elements of the Mass:
    • Entrance Song (GIRM nos. 47 and 48):
      • Begins when priest and ministers enter.
      • Three aims:
        • Foster unity;
        • Promote the mystery of the liturgical season or feast;
        • Accompany the procession.
      • Text should foster participation and uphold aims
      • Different methods:
        • Alternately by choir/cantor and the people.
        • Entirely by the people.
        • By choir alone.
      • Options for selecting the music:
        • Antiphon from the Roman Missal or Psalm from the Roman Gradual.
        • Seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple Gradual.
        • A song from another collection of psalms and antiphons approved by the USCCB or diocesan Bishop.
        • A suitable liturgical song approved by the USCCB or diocesan Bishop.
    • Kyrie Eleison (GIRM no. 52):
      • Chant by which the faithful acclaim the Lord and implore his mercy.
      • Ordinarily done by all – people and the choir or cantor having a part in it.
      • As a rule each acclamation sung or said twice.
      • When Kyrie is sung as part of the Act of Penitence a trope may precede each acclamation.
    • Gloria (GIRM no. 53):
      • Ancient and venerable hymn.
      • Cannot be replaced by any other hymn.
      • Not used in Advent or Lent except on solemnities.
      • Intoned by priest, choir, or cantor.
      • Sung by:
        • Everyone together.
        • Alternately between people and choir.
        • Choir alone.
      • Should normally be sung.
    • Psalm (GIRM no. 61)
      • An integral part of the Liturgy of the Word.
      • Cannot be replaced by a song or hymn, the psalm though may be use various approved musical settings.
      • Sung from the ambo or other suitable place.
      • Holds great liturgical and pastoral importance.
      • Fosters meditation on the Word of God.
      • Should correspond to each reading.
      • Preferable that it be sung at least as far as the people’s response because Psalms by their nature are meant to be sung.
      • There are seasonal psalms and responses that may be used to aid the people’s singing.
      • May be sung straight through without responses.
      • Psalms can be taken from:
        • Lectionary for the Mass or as found in the Roman Gradual, Simple Gradual, or other approved collection;
        • Approved collection of psalms by the USCCB or diocesan Bishop (GIRM no. 61)
    • Sequence (GIRM no. 64):
      • Optional except for Easter and Pentecost is sung before the Gospel acclamation
      • “A poetic text celebrating the feast with its own rhythmic and rhyme schemes” (Michael Witczak “The Sacramentary of Paul VI,” Handbook for Liturgical Studies: The Eucharist, 149)
      • possibly could “be considered the equivalent of a festival ‘Hymn of the Day,’ i.e., a closed (hymnic) form intimately tied to the theme of a great solemnity.” (Jan Michael Joncas, “Musical Elements in the Ordo Missae of Paul VI,” Handbook for Liturgical Studies: The Eucharist, 226.)
    • Acclamation before the Gospel (GIRM no. 62):
      • Proper acclamation for liturgical season (Alleluia or another verse in Lent)
      • May be omitted if not sung.
      • Faithful welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak the Gospel.
      • Sung by all while standing:
        • Led by choir/cantor.
        • Repeated if appropriate.
        • Verse sung by choir/cantor.
      • Verses taken from Lectionary or Gradual.
    • Profession of Faith when sung (GIRM no. 68):
      • If it is sung then it is:
        • Begun by priest, cantor, or choir.
        • Sung altogether or alternately by the people and choir.
        • Preferable that it be set in a simple musical declamation style. (Music in Catholic Worship no. 68)
    • Preparation of the Gifts (GIRM no. 74)
      • Procession of gifts accompanied by song and continues at least until the gifts are placed on the altar.
      • Norms for singing are the same as for the Entrance song.
      • Singing may be part of the rite even without a procession.
    • Eucharistic Prayer:
      • Introductory Dialogue
        • Begins the Eucharistic Prayer
        • If sung is sung by the presider alone
        • It is fittingly sung on Solemnities and other important moments for the community.
      • Preface
        • Purpose of the preface is to bring our more fully the motives of thanksgiving contained in the Eucharistic Prayers
        • If sung is sung by the presider alone
        • It is fittingly sung on Solemnities and other important moments for the community.
      • Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) (MCW no. 56)
        • People’s acclamation of praise concluding the preface.
        • Chant belongs to the priest and the people therefore choir parts must be such that they facilitate the people’s singing.
      • Memorial Acclamation (MCW no. 57)
        • Is properly a memorial of the Lord’s suffering and glorification, with an expression of faith in his coming again.
      • The Great Amen (MCW no. 58)
        • People’s assent to the eucharistic prayer
        • To be most effective
          • may be repeated or augmented
          • choirs may harmonize or expand upon the people’s acclamation
    • Lord’s Prayer (MCW no. 361)
      • Begins our immediate preparation for sharing in the Paschal Banquet.
      • All settings must provide for the participation of the priest and all present.
    • People’s response to the Doxology (MCW no. 59)
      • is fittingly sung by all.
      • Choir may enhance this response as in the Great Amen.
    • Agnus Dei
      • A litany song to accompany the breaking of the bread. (MCW no. 68)
      • Not necessarily a song of the people and may be sung by the choir, though the people should generally make the response. (MCW no. 68)
      • Should be sung as long as the fractio rite is in progress.
    • Communion Song/Chant (GIRM nos. 86, 87 and 88):
      • begins while priest receives communion.
      • Purpose:
        • Express union of spirit by unity of voices;
        • Show joy of heart;
        • Highlight more clearly the “communitarian” nature of the procession.
      • Singing continues as long as the Sacrament is being administered.
      • If there is to be a hymn after Communion then the Communion Song should be ended in a timely fashion, but still sung while the faithful receive.
      • Care should be taken that the choir/cantor should be able to receive communion with ease.
      • Options for selecting the music
        • Antiphon from the Roman Missal or Psalm from the Roman Gradual.
        • Seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple Gradual.
        • A song from another collection of psalms and antiphons approved by the USCCB or diocesan Bishop
        • A suitable liturgical song approved by the USCCB or diocesan Bishop.
      • After Communion but before the Prayer after Communion
        • A psalm, canticle or hymn of praise may be sung by the entire congregation.
        • It is appropriate that the people stand during the singing of this hymn.
    • Recessional
      • There is nothing contained in the GIRM about music after Mass has ended. The use of a recessional is a custom that has developed over time and is widely used throughout the Church.
      • It may be appropriate at times to make some adjustments to the use of music at this time. During Lent to use no music at this time and to process in silence. Possibly at other times simply to use instrumental music.

1 SC no. 8

2 Ordine Missae, DOL no. 1367.

3 Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Decleration Institutio generalis Missalis Romani, on the occasion of a second printing of the Ordo Missae, clarifying the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 18 November: Notitiae 5 (1969) 417-418, in DOL no. 1368.

4 Institutio generalis Missalis Romani, DOL no. 1369.

5 Institutio generalis Missalis Romani, DOL no. 1369.

6 This theological point will be addressed further in the document under the discussion addressing ministry.

7 Propitiation is a theological term. Its meaning is concerned with Christ’s self-offering on cross which is part of the atonement of the sins of humanity.

8 GIRM no. 24.

9 Missale Romanum ex decreto sacrosancti oecumenici concilii Vaticani II instauratum auctoritate Pauli pp. VI promulgatum (Vatican City, 1970; second typical edition, 1975). English translation by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy: The Roman Missal. The Sacramentary. Collegeville MN: The Liturgical Press, 1974; revised edition 1985, 555.

10 SC DOL no. 24.

11 ILM no. 4

12 last 3 lines – ILM no. 5

14 ILM no. 28 both lines

15 Cabiè, 75

16 GIRM no. 48.

17 To accomplish so great a work Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in person of his minister, “the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,” but especially in the eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised “where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt. 18:20)” SC no. 7

18 Handbook for Liturgical Studies, vol. III, 151

19 Handbook for Liturgical Studies, vol. III, 151

20 Handbook for Liturgical Studies, vol. III, 153

21 Handbook for Liturgical Studies, vol. III, 155

22 SC no. 9

23 SC no. 10

24 “Liturgical services are not private functions but are celebrations of the Church which is “the sacrament of unity,” namely, “the holy people united and arranged under their bishops.” SC no. 26.

25 “Therefore, liturgical services pertain to the whole Body of the Church. They manifest it, and have effects upon it.” SC no. 26.

26 “For it is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, “the work of our redemption is accomplished,” and it is through the liturgy, especially that the faithful express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.” SC no. 2.

27 “Liturgical practice begins with very founding of the Church.” Mediator Dei no. 21.

28 Hierarchy is derived from the Greek word hieros which means priest.

29 1 Pet. 2: 9. New American Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers: New York, 1983. 1 Pet. 2: 9, 4-5

30 Bishop, priest, deacon

31 Eucharistic Prayer I says “we, your people and your ministers, recall his passion, his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into glory; and from the many gifts you have given us we offer to you God of glory and majesty, this holy and perfect sacrifice: the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation.”

32 SC no. 29

33 SC no. 28.

34 Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy, USCCB, Introduction to the Order of the Mass, 5.


General Instruction of the Roman Missal – History, Theology, and Structure of the Mass