Let’s look at what BLS has to say about the priest’s chair:
§ 63 § The chair of the priest celebrant stands “as a symbol of his office of presiding over the assembly and of directing prayer.”(GIRM 310) An appropriate placement of the chair allows the priest celebrant to be visible to all in the congregation. The chair reflects the dignity of the one who leads the community in the person of Christ, but is never intended to be remote or grandiose. The priest celebrant’s chair is distinguished from the seating for other ministers by its design and placement. “The seat for the deacon should be placed near that of the celebrant.”(GIRM 310) In the cathedral, in addition to the bishop’s chair or cathedra, which is permanent, an additional chair will be needed for use by the rector or priest celebrant.(Ceremonial of Bishops 47)
“Presidency” is a suspect term in some circles, but the Latin roots are appropriate for the role of the priest: prae = “in front of” and sidere = “to sit.” From his seat, a priest directs and prayer of the assembly. Visibility without remoteness is prime. Design and location distinguishes this chair from other seating.
Most deacon chairs are placed next to the priest’s, but the GIRM only calls for proximity.
And you all knew that the bishop’s chair is not to be used by clergy, and as we read in BLS 64, a lay person does not use the priest’s chair:
§ 64 § “The [most appropriate] place for the chair is at the head of the sanctuary and turned toward the people unless the design of the building or other circumstances [such as distance or the placement of the tabernacle] are an obstacle.”(GIRM 310) This chair is not used by a lay person who presides at a service of the word with Communion or a Sunday celebration in the absence of a priest. (Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest , no. 40.)
§ 65 § Other chairs may be placed in the sanctuary for the priest concelebrants and other priests present for the celebration in choir dress.
Sanctuary placement for concelebrants is optional.
Thoughts or questions?
All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.