QUAERITUR: Chalice veil during a TLM

From a seminarian reader:

I have a question regarding serving the extraordinary form of the Mass which I was hoping you would be so kind as to answer for me.
Toward the end of the Mass, after communion, the missal has to be moved from the Gospel side back to the Epistle side; I have seen where the servers both come up, with one taking the missal and moving it thus, while the other takes the chalice veil and moves it to the priest’s left.  But the vice-rector of my seminary has told me that this is not as he remembers it from his youth.  Should the priest be the only one to touch the chalice veil, or is it permissible to have the servers move it in this limited circumstance?
Thank you in advance for your consideration and elucidation.

Servers may touch the chalice veil. 

They can certainly touch the sacred vestments, for the priest and the chalice.  As a matter of fact, the servers can and should help Father vest before and divest after Mass.  Serves also touch the chasuble during the elevation.  They deal with the biretta was well and hold copes and humeral veils when necessary.

In some places servers are trained to take the chalice veil over to the Gospel side.  When two serve, one takes the veil and the other the book stand and they "swap" positions, as it were. 

This is mostly a practical matter, especially when the altar may not be very wide: you get the chalice veil out of the way for the arrival of the bookstand.

Sometimes the server, especially when serving alone, would just place the veil on the mensa of the altar and go about his business.  When two serve, sometimes the server with the veil holds it out for the priest so that he can take it and drape it over the chalice.  Thus enters the pesky problem of the server, doing the celebrant a good turn by bringing the veil to the Gospel side, handing the priest the veil the wrong way.

I don’t remember ever seeing anything written that obliges the removal of the chalice veil to the Gospel side after Communion.  Frankly, I am used to having it simply remain on the Epistle side.  Since I tidy up fairly quickly after the ablutions, it isn’t a problem.

But… in short… yes, the server can handle the veil.  And yes… it is very common for the server to shift it to the Gospel side after Communion.

Let us not forget that the GIRM says a chalice veil really should be used in the Novus Ordo!  At least a white veil.

I think a bare chalice for the beginning and end of Mass is disrespectful.  It can be even ugly thing to have to see.

A chalice has its dignity! 

The unveiling of a chalice and its veiling help to define different moments of Holy Mass. 

Vesting the chalice in a matching veil, underscores the unity between the priest and the gifts on the altar.  Christ is priest/victim.  The priest is also victim during Mass.

There is also something of the nuptial symbolism of the unveiling of the chalice during Mass, during this sacred action wherein we encounter mystery, and hidden mystery which is in part revealed during Mass. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ian says:


    Another item to note here: At a Sung Mass, the servers may even touch the chalice itself or ciboria when there is a need to do so (the MC removes the veiled chalice on Corpus Christi before the exposition and then Postcommunion), so touching the vestments should not be an issue.

    I have seen two methods of the server assisting with the veil. The French custom is at Low Mass for a server to ascend at the offertory and receive the veil, folding it and placing it on the Gospel side. Then when covering the chalice, that same server opens the burse and then hands the priest the veil from the Gospel side and then the burse to put on top.

    The American custom has always been to have the priest do these things himself, so the server merely switches the veil when the Missal is switched. The whole idea of serving the veil from the Gospel side is likely because the burse should be there.

  2. The moving of the chalice veil was custom. Some places taught it, come did not. It’s a form of the transfer that takes place during solemn mass. Though some taught the pall should be moved by the SD when the D moves the book (Fortescue comes to mind), the chalice veil was the object of choice by some continental orders. I was trained by the Scalabrini fathers in my youth, and the chalice veil was the object moved at solemn mass, though we did not transfer it at low or sung. It became customary other places to have the servers do the same thing during low or simple sung mass.

    Bill Riccio
    MC St. Gregory Society

  3. Tyler says:

    “Vesting the chalice in a matching veil, underscores the unity between the priest and the gifts on the altar. Christ is priest/victim. The priest is also victim during Mass.”

    Thank you for this sentence Fr. Z, as a soon-to-be seminarian, I have heard that the priest is the Victim as well, but the way you link the gifts to the priest is something that has never crossed my mind. Beautiful.

  4. TNCath says:

    Thank you, Father Z., for saying this!!! I have long been a fan of the chalice veil, and I hate that it has fallen into such disuse in the Novus Ordo, despite the GIRM’s clear instruction that it should be used.

  5. Kyle says:

    When we have two servers one transfers the missal and one transfers the veil. If just one server then the priest moves the veil.

  6. Fr Arsenius says:

    Fortescue et al. (14th edition, 2003) says:

    Low Mass: acolyte transfers Missal; no mention of transfer of veil

    High Mass: acolyte 2 transfers Missal; no mention of transfer of veil

    Solemn Mass: deacon transfers Missal while acolyte 2 transfers veil

    N.B. The rubric for the transfer of the veil at Solemn Mass is a little confusing: acolyte 2 brings it not from the altar — as at High and Low Mass — but from the credence table where it had been placed by the subdeacon (or MC) during the Offertory.

  7. Josephus muris saliensis says:

    1. Moving the veil is common practice in some countries, but is in fact not a necessity at Low Mass: it replicates the practice at High Mass where the veil must be transferred so that the subdeacon may cover and remove the chalice while the celebrant is at the epistle horn of the altar saying the communion verse. We train our servers to do this in London. Fortescue discourages it.
    The french nicety alluded to above is quite complex, the veil is carried (as normal, fully extended held by the top two corners) always face to the congregation, and thus turned by crossing the arms when the server comes round the corner. This looks fine with small boys, and excessively camp done by men!

    2. Assisting with the veil and burse after Communion: Strictly the books all tell you (Vavasseur, Martinucci, Fortescue) that this is ONLY done by a cleric, ie a seminarian in minor orders. A lay server should simply move the veil across, not open the burse, nor then pass the veil to the priest. This is the same distinction as the solita oscula (kissing of hand, cruets, thurible etc) which is reserved to clerics, but observed principally in the breach in some places. Silly practice, never tidily done by boys. The solita oscula was dead in most places in the post-War years before the Council.

    3. Two servers, (which I like as it adds solemnity, especially on feasts or for a minor prelate): the action as described above allows the two servers to change sides. Thus server1 remains always opposite the book. This seems preferable to them staying permanently on the same side as some manuals suggest. Thus at the moving of the book at the gospel they change sides, server2 moving the book each time.

    Oh the joys of pedantry!

  8. Josephus muris saliensis says:

    marvelous Fr Arsenius, you amply define the difficulty of these blogs discussions. You use the french distinction Solemn Mass (ministers), High Mass (priest alone, “Missa cantata”), Low mass.

    In England we use High Mass (ministers), Solemn or Sung Mass (priest alone, “Missa cantata”).

    This is why sometimes discussion and argument seems to arise when in fact we are all agreeing!

    Where are you from, dear Father, I guess the States? I know some parts of New England, where the churches look very french, and thus I assume the practices too.

  9. Vesting the chalice in a matching veil, underscores the unity between the priest and the gifts on the altar. Christ is priest/victim.

    I never knew that. Of course, in the 13 years I have lived in my present diocese, I can’t recall ever seeing chalice veils at all until recently. I wish we’d start off with the assumption that everything in the liturgy (properly celebrated) has some significance, and educate ourselves on what we don’t understand, instead of getting rid of it.

    They can certainly touch the sacred vestments, for the priest and the chalice. As a matter of fact, the servers can and should help Father vest before and divest after Mass.

    Reason No. 3,438,572 not to have altar girls. But that’s a whole other can of worms.

    P.S. What is the significance of the server holding the chasuble during the elevation? (The nearest TLM to me is about 300 miles away, so please cut me some slack.)

  10. When I was a boy, as a server in a novus ordo mass, the priest, Fr Bryon, used the veil. Part of our job was he would hand the veil to us , and we would hand it back after the communion rite. So even in the Novus ordo we handled it.

    Also as far as touching the vestments, I have seen servers assist in both solemn EF masses, and also in Novus Ordo Masses (for instance, Holy Thursday, during the washing of feet)

  11. Mitchell says:

    And sometimes lay people are the victims, in a banal NO Mass.Sorry couldn’t resist that one with the mention of the “victims” during Mass.

  12. Frank H says:

    I have recently noticed, at Novus Ordo Masses in three parishes (unfortunately not my own) the use of chalice veils. A lovely thing to see!

  13. dcs says:

    What is the significance of the server holding the chasuble during the elevation?

    I am sure there is some mystical explanation out there but the practical explanation is so that the priest can easily lift his arms at the elevation – this can be an issue especially with heavy chasubles. In the old rite in order to show the Host to the people the priest must lift It over his head. (I’ve seen priests in the new rite lift it only to eye level.)

  14. Marcos ASPV says:


    Why doest the server hold the chasuble during the elevation?

  15. Gedsmk says:

    “The priest is also victim during Mass”. So that might imply that the priest is co-redeemer? I think this was Padre Pio’s understanding.

  16. Fr Arsenius says:


    I am not intentionally following the French usage (unless Adrian Fortescue, J.B. O’Connell, & Alcuin Reid, OSB are all Francophiles). :-)

    I am employing the language and classifications of Holy Mother Church herself:

    Musicam Sacram (1975) – Instruction on Sacred Music

    “28. The distinction between solemn, the high, and the low Mass, sanctioned by the 1958 Instruction (no. 3) remains in force, according to tradition and current law….”

    De Musica Sacra (1958) – Instruction On Sacred Music and Sacred Liturgy

    “. There are two kinds of Masses: the sung Mass (“Missa in cantu”), and the read Mass (“Missa lecta”), commonly called low Mass.

    “There are two kinds of sung Mass: one called a solemn Mass if it is celebrated with the assistance of other ministers, a deacon and a sub-deacon; the other called a high Mass if there is only the priest celebrant who sings all the parts proper to the sacred ministers.”

    New England? – moi?!? – heavens, no! Though my ancestors hailed from merry ole England (Northumberland), I’m writing from the American frontier: the Pacific Northwest…where churches are as rare as the proverbial hen’s tooth (“the most unchurched state in the nation”). And most of them look like it, too. No French influence here. (Or Roman, either, for that matter.) We give the adjective “provincial” a whole new meaning.

    Sacerdos Dioecesis Bakeriensis (Oregon, USA)
    (i.e., NOT part of the former British colonies)

  17. Gloria says:

    At our Sunday High or Solemn High Masses, the celebrant is in cope during the procession and the Asperges. After returning to the sanctuary, he goes to the chair situated on the Epistle side where a server has arranged his chasuble and maniple before Mass. The server takes the cope to the side chapel and Father vests for Mass. You can see him reciting prayers as he does so. A server brings the chalice and veil to the altar before Mass and arranges the veil. Whenever a server touches the sacred vessels he wears a white glove. I have never seen an altar server touch them barehanded.

  18. Fr Arsenius says:

    Anita and Marcos ASPV inquire:

    Why does the server hold the chasuble during the Elevation?

    dcs is correct in observing that the pragmatic and practical reason — or so we’re told — is to assist the priest who (at least in theory) is wearing a very heavy chasuble to lift his arms to show the Host to the people behind him.

    Pious interpretations of this abound, but (if the truth be told) it’s really to keep the priest from floating away with the Host and leaving the congregation with no Communion.

  19. Kells says:

    Interesting how there still is no chalice veil used for papal liturgies. Even under Marini II.

  20. Bruce T. says:

    Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence…Is he friendly to the TLM?

  21. At the Missa Cantata at St John’s in McLean VA, the deacon brings out the chalice before Mass to lay out the corporal, and leaves it there, where it is present for the procession and Asperges. In the deacon’s absence, the priest or MC takes it out. After Mass, the MC usually removes it before the sanctuary is converted back to use of the Ordinary Form.

    As to the use of two servers at Low Mass (or High Mass without incense), we train them as first acolyte (“the bell”) on the Epistle side, and second acolyte (“the book”) on the Gospel side. This is consistent with how I was trained personally as a boy back in Ohio, as well as how they are trained at St Mary’s in DC. “Back in the day,” we boys who showed up to serve, always chose between doing either “the bell” or “the book.” The more experienced guy took the bell. Some places they switch places at the end, but at St John’s they cross over to return to their original spot.

    When using only one server, again when I was a boy, we were taught to “always be opposite the book.”

    It’s safe to say we didn’t use Fortescue back then. But I seem to recall a book by Carmody. It included chapters on gentlemanly behavior, and taught the dialogue parts and rubrics in installments.

    I suspect this method of a more even division of labor (and a single server positioned opposing the book) is more common in North America, while the practice of the server on the Epistle side both moving the book and ringing the bell was more common in Europe. It’s just a semi-educated guess on my part so far. With all the new training material coming out, I’ll probably know better by this time next year.

    I’ll get back to you then.

  22. TJ Murphy says:

    I am all in favor of using the chalice veil… Only good thing about not veiling the chalice is that you can see ahead of time which priest will be praying the Mass.

    As an altar boy in the 70’s and 80’s I always remember the chalice veil matching the chasuble, and tabernacle veil for that matter. Then came the wreckovation of the church. The old altar was cut down to a square altar thrust into the center of the church. At least it made the altar a lot more dignified than the wooden altar that we used in the 70’s.

  23. Paul Waddington says:

    In England it was always the normal practice to take the veil to the gospel side if there were two servers.
    Paul Waddington

  24. TJ Murphy says:

    I knew a very saintly old priest. After Mass he was always found in front of the tabernacle in thanksgiving.

    When his chalice was veiled for mass, he had a little gold “dipper” that was hooked on to the burse. He used the dipper for putting the drops of water into the wine in the chalice. I’m sure it was because he was old and couldn’t control the flow of water from the cruet.

    Has anyone ever seen this done before? If so, does the dipper have a specific name?

  25. Josephus muris saliensis says:

    the dipper, as you say, or “spoon” for the cruets is quite common still in Rome, and is not unknown in England.

    Fr Arsenius, my apologies. What fun. You are of course quite right, which rather shows that theory and practice are not the same, nor need they be, at least in the hand of the discerning!

  26. Prester says:

    All this reminds me of a piece by Mgr Knox satirising rubricism, in which he cites various authorities whose names are Italian dishes.

    But since we’re talking about it:

    I prefer the server not to take and fold the chalice veil at low Mass. I certainly would not want him to transfer the veil after the ablutions, since it would then be on my left instead of my right. It is quite different when the subdeacon to takes it with him to the Gospel side of the altar at (solemn) high Mass.

    I find the custom whereby the subdeacon carries the pall and a server the veil, and the custom of showing the veil to the congregation (with attendant arm-crossing), rather grating. I am thankful that they are not common in my country.

  27. Thank you, Fr. Arsenius! I love it! That’s what I’ll tell the first person who asks me that!

  28. Sussex Catholic says:

    I was not aware that under the traditional custom servers were permitted to touch the sacred vessels. My understanding was that this was a privilege reserved to clerics (i.e those who had received the tonsure). Indeed it was a well known custom in England and Ireland before VII for seminarians who had recently received the tonsure to be invited into the sacristy to get their first “feel” of the chalice and paten.

    I had thought that in all other circumstances laymen could only touch the sacred vessels by specific dispensation of the priest (for example in the case of a sacristan) and even then the wearing of white gloves was recommended.

    Perhaps others more knowledgable than I might confirm this or otherwise correct me?

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