Redemptionis Sacramentum 117-120

Sacred vessels capture our attention in these three sections that follow (RS 117-119). These are serious matters. Not as serious as the bread and wine, nor as the altar and furnishings, but worthy of attention and diligence:

[117.] Sacred vessels for containing the Body and Blood of the Lord must be made in strict conformity with the norms of tradition and of the liturgical books. [Cf. GIRM 327-333] The Bishops’ Conferences have the faculty to decide whether it is appropriate, once their decisions have been given the recognitio by the Apostolic See, for sacred vessels to be made of other solid materials as well. It is strictly required, however, that such materials be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region, [Cf. GIRM 332] so that honor will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided. Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate.[Cf. GIRM 332; Inaestimabile Donum 16]

Precious metals were considered “precious” because of their non-corrosive properties. Gold, silver, and copper were known to the ancients and were honored because they were not wood, ceramic, or such.

The prescription against “common vessels,” which I would take to be diningware recruited to perform the task, is something with which I’m in absolute agreement.

That said, the movement to ceramic or crystal/glass is more a Catholic sub-cultural nod to a “low” christology, as it were, and less a denial of the Real Presence. Bishops and pastors are better placed to assess this. It speaks to a lack of ars celebrandi, I think, rather than intentional irreverence. How can you legislate good taste? Require gold and silver?

Bless vessels ahead of time, and there is a rite for this:

[118.] Before they are used, sacred vessels are to be blessed by a Priest according to the rites laid down in the liturgical books. [Cf. GIRM 333; Appendix IV. Rite for the Blessing of a Chalice and Paten; Roman Pontifical; Rite for the Dedication of a Church and an Altar] It is praiseworthy for the blessing to be given by the diocesan Bishop, who will judge whether the vessels are worthy of the use to which they are destined.

In specific cases, will the bishop care?

Let’s examine purification rituals, including the prescription for clergy or acolytes to purify:

[119.] The Priest, once he has returned to the altar after the distribution of Communion, standing at the altar or at the credence table, purifies the paten or ciborium over the chalice, then purifies the chalice in accordance with the prescriptions of the Missal and wipes the chalice with the purificator. Where a Deacon is present, he returns with the Priest to the altar and purifies the vessels. It is permissible, however, especially if there are several vessels to be purified, to leave them, covered as may be appropriate, on a corporal on the altar or on the credence table, and for them to be purified by the Priest or Deacon immediately after Mass once the people have been dismissed. Moreover a duly instituted acolyte assists the Priest or Deacon in purifying and arranging the sacred vessels either at the altar or the credence table. In the absence of a Deacon, a duly instituted acolyte carries the sacred vessels to the credence table and there purifies, wipes and arranges them in the usual way. [Cf. GIRM 163, 183, 192]

The credence table is an option in all circumstances, except, curiously, when a deacon is serving. Credence table seems a better choice than the altar. The sacristy is where this once took place, and to me, seems the best solution of all.

Some prescriptions on laundry:

[120.] Let Pastors take care that the linens for the sacred table, especially those which will receive the sacred species, are always kept clean and that they are washed in the traditional way. It is praiseworthy for this to be done by pouring the water from the first washing, done by hand, into the church’s sacrarium or into the ground in a suitable place. After this a second washing can be done in the usual way.

Does your parish altar society rinse purificators in the sacrarium before laundering?

Other comments?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to Redemptionis Sacramentum 117-120

  1. FrMichael says:

    Yes, my parish now washes the linens in the sacrarium before they go to the home of an altar society member for more thorough washing and ironing. That wasn’t the regular practice when I arrived here.

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