QUAERITUR: a presiding but non-celebrating bishop’s Communion

I got a question from a reader:

Dear Father,

I am hoping you can help me with a practical question. 

The question is, when exactly does a Bishop who is presiding but not celebrating approach the altar and take the host?  The Ceremoniale Episcoporum says ‘Episcopus, si communicat, ad altare post celebrantem Corpus et Sanguinem Domini sumit‘ (183).  [A bishop, if he is receving Communion, receives the Body and the Blood of the Lord at the altar after the celebrant.]  The GIRM (our old Canadian edition:  we don’t have the new one yet that you have) [Yes, you do.  It is the 2000 GIRM which is in the 2002 Missale Romanum and it applies to the whole world.] says that after the Commingling and the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ Son of the living God", the principal celebrant steps back and all the concelebrants receive the host. "then the principal celebrant takes the eucharistic bread, holds it slightly raised above the paten, and says ‘this is the Lamb of God who takes away etc".  After the response he receives.  When exactly does the Bishop approach the Altar and take the Host?  only after the principal celebrant (and concelebrants if there are any) have consumed?  or after the principal celebrant "takes the eucharistic bread" but before he speaks?  It seems the text literally says the latter, but I want an expert opinion. 

I would say that the non-[con]celebrating bishop would come up immediately after all the concelebrants have consumed both species, or at least the "main" concelebrants.  Sometimes some concelebrating priests are vested in matching chasubles and are directly at the altar, while in large concelebrations some of the men are a bit farther away, etc.

It seems to me that the bishop, as dignified as he is, is still not in that moment of Holy Mass to usurp the place of a priest who is actually celebrating Mass.  So, the concelebrating priests should go first, and then immediately the non-celebrating bishop.  This is logically what comes from the the language of the Ceremoniale Episcoporum.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box, SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. At TLM’s I’ve attended with a bishop in choir but not the celebrant, he has received Holy Communion in the same manner as everyone else, from the celebrant, on the tongue, kneeling–though at a kneeler in the sanctuary rather than at the altar rail with the people.

  2. Larry says:

    For the NO in English translation of the Ceremonial of Bishops P.64 #183 second part. “If the bishop receives communion,he takes the body and blood of the Lord at the altar, after the celebrant.”

    A couple of notes here. First, this translation was never submitted to Rome for approval and is only certified as corresponding to the original. Second, the capitalization speaks to the lack of reverence the former ICEL had for the Body and Blood of the Lord. In the Latin Corpus et Sanguinis is always captitlized. Third I have seen when there are concelebrats that the Host is sometimes presented to them by a deacon without their actually approaching the altar. When this has been done the bishop is also presented the Host at his chair. I have no idea if this is correct or not; but, I suspect that they are really to approach the altar and take the Host. Just an opinion with No authority.

  3. I have also seen a deacon or celebraent go to the chair from which the bishop presides and give him communion.Hving seen several bisops comminicate,I have never seen it done as the Cerermoniale states.

  4. Ioannes Andreades says:

    “Post celebrantem” is loose Latin anyway, as it means “behind (rather than after) the celebrant.” “Postquam celebrans communicat” or “post celebrantis communicationem” would be correct for what I think the C.E. is trying to say.

  5. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Of course, maybe the C.E. is trying to say, “Behind the celebrant.”

  6. Ioannes: The preposition post also has a temporal meaning, “afterwards, after”, just as it can also mean “after, since”.

  7. CarpeNoctem says:

    I would point out that the proper term here is not “non-concelebrating”, but instead “PRESIDING”. A bishop may “preside” without (con-)celebrating. As I understand it, the presidential function of a bishop puts him in charge of the introductory rites, the Liturgy of the Word, and the final blessing, while another priest-celebrant prepares the altar, says the Eucharistic Prayer, gives communion, says the post-Communion prayer(?).

    This distincion, clear in the relevant liturgical texts from Rome (although not necessarily clear from many of the US docs), undermines the various wacky-liturgist efforts to call all priest-celebrants PRESIDERS rather than CELEBRANTS. Yes, a priest-celebrant at Mass can be called a “presider” (and most often he is fulfilling that ‘role’), but the act of presiding does not necessarily equate with the greater action of celebrating… i.e., when a bishop is present, but not celebrating, the bishop is the presider, another priest can be the celebrant. Thus, the most relevant term to identify the priest/bishop conducting the rites of Mass and confecting the Eucharist is “celebrant”.

    Calling a priest a “presider” also is an attempt by some to flatten his role. To call him such is to imply that he is minister (or “functionary”) among many. One is a presider, another a reader, another an usher, another a “Eucharistic Minister”. I reject the title “presider” on these grounds. Yes, ‘presiding’ what I do at Mass, but it is not the fullest expression of what I am as a priest. When I conduct the ritual of Mass, I am, by the grace of God, the celebrant of the sacred mysteries, and all my priestly life flows from that act of celebrating, not from the mere functional ministry of presiding.

    I am not sure of the origin of the term “celebrate” as it applies to Mass, so Fr. Z, if you could work your magic here to further my point, I’d appreciate it.

    In my estimation, the effort to call the act of celebrating Mass a “presidential” function is another attempt to confuse the roles of priests and laity and confuse the dignity of Mass and other forms of liturgy. It seems that all bets are off outside of Mass, where it the person conducting the ritual (Baptism, Liturgy of the Hours, etc), is properly called a “presider”, but not a “celebrant”.

  8. Ioannes Andreades says:

    The preposition post can of course have both spatial and temporal meanings, but when it has a temporal meaning, its object is more frequently an event or situation, not a person or thing. True, post here can mean “after”, but still strikes me as a clumsy way to communicate that idea. Maybe I don’t like the substantivized participle used this way. At very least, it’s unnecessarily ambiguous, and I’m still inclined to think the natural translation would be “behind.”

Comments are closed.