Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
You might have noticed that at some of our weekday and weekend Masses in these last couple of weeks, the deacons have been purifying vessels at the side table, called the “credence table”. This is because the deacons recently went to a liturgical workshop for deacons, sponsored by the Diocese. At the workshop it was pointed out that the rubrics of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal treat the priest and deacon and a bit differently, when it comes to purifying (i.e., cleansing) the vessels after Communion time.
The rubrics suggest that the priest, if he is cleansing the vessels, would do so at the end of the altar. But if there is a deacon serving the Mass, he should take the vessels to a side table, i.e., the credence table, and purify them there.
As you can imagine, there will be some churches where the altar is situated in such a small sanctuary, or the credence table is so tiny; or there could be some other reason that cleansing of vessels on a side table simply would not be possible. It could still be very acceptable in these situations for the deacons to cleanse the vessels at the end of the main altar.
Why would the priest still always cleanse at the main altar? The rubrics don’t really explain this. I think, however, this is because he is always “presiding” as the main celebrant. It doesn’t make sense for him to leave the altar, when he is the primary person present who relates to the altar; or for him to step out of his service of presiding in such a way that he actually moves to the side of the sanctuary and gives his attention primarily to cleansing of vessels, turning his back on the congregation and the altar.
The deacon, however, is the primary servant of the Mass. Assisting the priest, it makes sense for him to move to the side credence table and handle the cleansing there, while the priest celebrant goes to his chair.
The deacons and I talked about this when they returned from the diocesan workshop, and we think we can accomplish it (sort of) at each campus. We have moved an extra credence table beside the normal one at our Paulding campus. At Antwerp we are having a larger table built in the next couple of months. In the meantime, we are sort of using the two small tables that flank the door into the sacristy. At Payne we are going to try to use the end of the high altar for purifying vessels, since the sanctuary area at Payne is so small that we cannot even fit a credence table into it. Currently we can barely fit the altar servers and the table that holds the Sacramentary.
This is one of those changes that makes sense to try to implement, if we can do it; and it seems we can. But it might not seem very efficient at first, as we are trying to smooth out all the necessary moves. We can all be patient with the learning curve. The time after Communion is a great time to close your eyes and focus on the Lord who has just come to you. No need to critique the deacons’ moves at this point! [They are under enough pressure, trying to serve under this high-maintenance pastor in the Mass!]
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,