From a reader:
I have a question about the Redemptionis Sacramentum requirement that the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion do not "approach the altar" until after the priest’s Communion…
What is meant by "approach the altar"? Does it mean they should not come into the sanctuary until…or can they come into the sanctuary as long as they stay away from the altar?
We have 21 people that come up into the sanctuary during the Agnus Dei. They wash their hands with anti-bacterial gel that is in pumps on two extra credence tables at the back sides of the sanctuary and then stand all across the back wall of the sanctuary looking at us and the back of the priest at the altar. Sometimes they first shake hands with each other as a continuation of the "kiss of peace" which took place immediately prior to the Agnus Dei. This entire operation is a kind of "spectacle" that I do not think is in keeping with the solemnity of the Mass and the priest’s Communion which kind of appears as a secondary afterthought. I hope this situation will be corrected in our parish.
First, I cannot fathom why, in a parish church, there should have to be 21 people entering the sanctuary to help with Holy Communion. Surely this is an abuse of what ought to be an exception permitted in the case of true necessity.
Second, I would say that "approach the altar" means to enter the sanctuary, where the altar is.