Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dominican Solemn Mass: Prayers at Foot of the Altar

Today's picture shows the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar in a Dominican Solemn Mass at St. Albert the Great Priory in Oakland CA about 1958. The major ministers are Fabian Stan Parmisano, priest; Ambrose Toomey, deacon; and John Flannery, subdeacon. Fr. Fabian is the author of a history of the Western Province, Mission West: The History of the Western Dominican Province, 1850-1966 (Oakland: Western Province, 1995); Fr. Flannery later served as our provincial. Both are still alive and members of the Western Province.

The ministers have arrived at the altar, the deacon and subdeacon have placed the Missal and the Evangeliary on their respective cushions and returned to below the altar steps. As they were doing this, the priest recited quietly the prayer Actiones Quaesumus. The major ministers having reassembled at the step, the acolytes turn inward for the prayers. Those who know the Roman Rite will notice that in contrast (following the Sign of the Cross and the verse Confitemini Domino and response Quoniam in Saeculum), all the ministers bow at the same time and remain bowed together. The Dominican prayers are very simple reflecting their early origins. The short Confiteors follow the verse immediately and all rise after the Absolutionem. There is no striking of the breast at the single Mea Culpa, nor do the ministers cross themselves at the Absolutionem. They then recite the verse Adiutorium with its response Qui Fecit and ascend to the altar. After the priest recites the Aufer a Nobis, and kisses the altar, they form a line in back of the priest at the book and swing out to the right side of the altar for the recitation of the Officium (as we call the "Introit") and the Kyrie.

I don't have a picture of this swinging motion, but this one from a celebration in France, previously posted on N.L.M., gives an idea of what the result is like, although this is actually the swing at the Credo, which is on the Gospel side and also includes the thurifer. The reading of the Kyrie over, the ministers swing back into line behind the priest at the center, where he intones the Gloria. They swing again to the right and recite it with him. As the other ministers return to the sedilla (a single bench for all three, not three stools as in the French picture), the subdeacon and his acolyte go to the sacristy to retrieve the chalice and paten. During singing of the Gloria, these are brought to the altar in procession covered with the humeral veil, while the subdeacon's acolyte leads carrying the cruets. The subdeacon then sits with the other minsters until they return to the altar for the Dominus Vobiscum and the Collects. While sitting, acolytes cover the ministers' laps with the mappula (or "germial") to protect the vestments. You can see it on the stools in the French picture. The ministers hands go on top of it, not under it. It protects the vestments, it is not to keep their hands warm.

My next installment will cover the readings and the preparation of the chalice during the Responsorium (as we call the Gradual) and Alleluia. Of course, as it was Eastertide, this Mass had two Alleluias instead of a Responsorium and Alleluia. For those interested, Fr. Fabian's history of the Western Province is available for sale (and partly posted in electronic form) at:

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