QUAERITUR: odd elevation style

From a reader:

My family attended a Novus Ordo Christmas Vigil Mass with a visiting priest. During the major elevation (This Is My Body), he elevated the host with one hand (his right) while the other held on to the altar. He did the same at the next elevation of the cup. I have never seen this done in the fifty years I’ve attended Catholic Masses (both old and new rite). The elevation has always been two hands, thumb and forefinger. Is this valid or licit, both or neither.

Maybe the priest has bursitis. The would have been improper for sure in the traditional form of Mass in the Roman Rite. Both hands are designated and for good reason: to steady the chalice. You also create a symmetry that way. I do not believe there is ant indication if both hands for the Novus Ordo. Thus, while what you saw is a departure from the Roman way, a rupture of continuity as it were, I don’t think it was illicit.

NOTA BENE: If I am not mistaken, and I am dredging my memory here, does the Novus Ordo GIRM instruct the priest at the offertory to raise the paten with the host and the chalice with the wine with water using both hands?   If that is the case, then it seems fitting that the elevation would similarly be with both hands.

I have seen older priests do this one-handed, btw, because they have shoulder troubles.

Don’t assume a strange motive.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Margaret Collins says:

    At my sister’s parish church in Battersea (London)the old priest (he has long since retired) only had one arm, so obviously the elevation had to be using one hand only.

  2. Margaret: Well … of course. But that is not really the same situation.

  3. TNCath says:

    I often see priests at the elevation hold the host in one hand and a paten under it in the other. I’ve often wondered the rationale behind this position as well.

  4. Raymond says:

    In the last years of the ailing Pope John Paul II, he would elevate the Host and Chalice with his right hand only, and minus the semi-circular right-left turns.

  5. FrCharles says:

    I know a few priests who do this; I suspect it was a style once. I also know a few who make adjustments because of steadiness, mobility, or range of motion issues, so Fr. Z’s comment about assuming motives is well taken. All the rubric says is accepit panem and then after the words of consecration, ostendit populo, and there is no mention of two hands, or even any hands at all, depending on one’s sense of accipio.

    Nevertheless, I know a bishop who always shows the chalice with one hand under the base, and it always unnerves me a little. Two hands has a lot to recommend it, in terms of safety, reverence, and tradition. When I was taught we were told not to even touch the bread at all, but to pick up the bowl we were given for a paten, which we would then show to the people. I remember thinking that the rubric said to show the host to the people, not a bowl, but I kept my mouth shut (to my shame.)

  6. I enjoy this blog and find it interesting how how closely we are monitored during the consecration – when heaven and earth are united on the altar. I struggle with dizziness – especially when undergoing chemo – and many times I have one hand on the altar to steady myself.

  7. ShihanRob says:

    During the elevation, I typically see the priest holding the large host in one hand and the paten with the smaller hosts in the other hand. I suppose it’s to reinforce that all of the hosts have been transubstantiated (not just the large one) and to catch any fragments of the larger host.

  8. FrCharles says:

    GIRM #141, both hands at the offering.

  9. pelerin says:

    Archbishop Vingt-trois of Paris always seems to raise the Host with just one hand while holding the paten in the other. I don’t think I have seen this done in Britain.

  10. btdn says:

    I know a priest that does this.

    He folds his left arm in front of his stomach; he looks like the Statue of Liberty when he is elevating the chalice.

  11. pelerin says:

    btdn – !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. There seems to be no rubric on this in the OF. However, I find it distracting and almost insulting for priests and bishops to hold the host and chalice at the elevations with one hand. Of course, if they had shoulder problems or were amputees that would be different, but I’m seeing one-handed method now becoming more common everywhere. With the host it sometimes looks like they’re holding it up to the light to check for flaws, and the one-handed elevation of the cup makes it look like a toast to our departed founder. It’s a very undignified practice, but there’s nothing that can be done about it. It’s at times like that one wishes for the charismatic gift of projectile vomiting.

  13. Father Gregory: “The charismatic gift of projectile vomiting”…LOL!
    But could you give a reference from St. Paul on that?!:<)!

  14. pelerin says:

    ‘Checking for flaws’; ‘toast to our departed founder’; ‘the Statue of Liberty’
    Oh dear – I shall have to be careful the next time I attend Mass in Notre-Dame!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Henry Edwards says:

    Aside from rubrics and the real physical difficulties some priests (especially elderly ones) may have, it’s obvious that there’s some correlation between a priest’s personal beliefs and the manner of his elevation of the consecrated Host and Chalice. One who feels reverence and wants to show it need not consult norms to find out how.

    Most of us can think of two priests of our acquaintance, one who regards the Mass as primarily sacrifice, the other as mainly communal meal. If one of them elevates the Host high with both hands and adores it, and the other waves it chest high with one hand while making eye-contact with his audience, then a person with ordinary walking-around sense has no difficulty figuring out which is which.

  16. FrCharles says:

    Inside this discussion is the hidden issue of the widespread avoidance of the rubric parum se inclinat in the OF; a good proportion of priests (in my experience) hold up or show the bread for the words of consecration, which wouldn’t really work is they were bowing slightly.

  17. wanda says:

    Both hands is the practice I’ve seen, as high as our Priests can reach! We do watch and can clearly see the love the Priest has for the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    I’ve been so blessed to observe the tender touch, the loving cradling of most Priests hands as they take the Holy Eucharist into their hands for the elevation. Same for the Chalice containing the Precious Blood. The Priest seems, almost in slow motion, to intentionally place his hands lovingly and carefully, just so, touching Our Savior Himself, before lifting up His sacricife to Our Father in Heaven. Ineffible.

  18. Henry Edwards says:

    FrCharles: Indeed, if one of the two particular priests I mentioned previously bows low over the elements during the consecration and concentrates his entire visible attention on them, while the other remains erect and shows them or makes some kind of visual contact with the folks then, again, we surely know which priest is which.

  19. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    I’ve seen it done. Not a fan, due to the loss of symmetry, and, well, why wouldn’t you just use the other hand? (Barring, of course, extenuating circumstances as the good Father has mentioned.)

    I’ve come across an odd practice (c/o an aging priest) related to this: during the OF, an elevation of both the Host and Chalice during the Mysterium Fidei. It’s precisely the same as the elevation seen during the Per Ipsum. Wondering if maybe anyone else has seen this…

    If nothing else, its just plain weird.

  20. Fr. Z: I just have to tell you that I am comforted by the fact that you have to “dredge your memory” about this rubric. I feel like such an idiot sometimes when I can’t remember exact things about the Sacred Liturgy (that I take for granted) or other points of canon law, Church discipline, etc.
    Thanks for the humility.
    It makes all of us who are “ding-bats” feel much, much better!

  21. pilgrimom says:

    If I remember correctly, Fr. Isaac Jogues had to be given special permission to say Mass after he was mutilated by the Indians in New York. The Pope at the time supposedly said he could never deny him permission since he was already a saint/martyr. I forget the exact quote, but I think that it was a given that, if you couldn’t hold the paten and chalice properly, you couldn’t say Mass either. It seems to be a good rule since there could be a terrible accident if the celebrant dropped either the chalice or paten.

  22. In the Extraordinary Form, the priest must always hold the bottom of the chalice whenever he touches it for whatever purpose. That, I believe, was to insure that it did not knock over. And believe me, it can happen.
    Time and tradition offer us many good practices. We should remember them and keep them to heart.

  23. mibethda says:

    I have occasionally noticed priests – generally of a generation ordained in the seventies – use one hand only on both the host and chalice. Those that I have seen doing so did not appear to have any physical limitation (one priest, who does have a physical limitation, elevates both only a few inches, but using both hands). Perhaps of more concern is the rather hurried and casual manner in which I have seen some drop the host onto the paten after the Elevation – a practice which, at the very least, fails to communicate a belief that they are handling the Body of Christ. Perhaps some fail to realize what their actions – especially when the Mass is offered facing the people – may convey in non-verbal communication to the members of the congregation.

  24. SidMJr says:

    I know some priests who always elevates the Host/Chalice with only the right hand because they are holding the blessed microphone with the left one… :-(

  25. wanda says:

    Fr. Gregory-‘projectile vomiting’ – good one! LOL, really, LOL.
    I hope to never see that charism in person!

  26. msmsem says:

    GIRM 141 refers to the offering before the Eucharistic Prayer itself, not the elevation. I don’t think the GIRM actually mentions whether the elevation is done with one or two hands. In practice, though, I’ve seen it done mostly with two hands – with one hand tends to look kinda silly…

  27. JARay says:

    Reading “does the Novus Ordo GIRM instruct the priest at the offertory to raise the paten with the host”, made me wince. Where I live (in Western Australia) I have never seen a priest with a paten. They(patens)seem to have gone the way of maniples!

  28. Of course there are priests who physically can’t elevate the Eucharist with both hands; those are not the priests I am about to mention. There are some who, if they haven’t lost their faith in the Real Presence, I wonder how their behavior would be any different if they had. I have seen the one-handed elevation done by middle-aged priests who generally like to do nutty things to the liturgy; the thing that gripes me worst is the Host in the palm of the hand, where nobody can see it. Then I have seen priests, deacons and laypeople grab handfuls of Hosts out of the ciborium as though they’re diving into a bowl of chips.

    The late, great Msgr. Donoghue, despite the burdens of old age and poor health, faithfully showed up to offer Mass, in all kinds of weather, at 07:00 every weekday morning (unless he was really, really, really sick), up until just a day or two before he died (in the 55th year of his priesthood). Because he was on oxygen, he couldn’t light the altar candles; he got to a point where he was too weak to distribute Communion; and toward the end, he had to sit to offer Mass. But there was nothing like the childlike awe and reverence with which he handled the Eucharist — always with the thumbs and forefingers of both hands.

  29. MrsHall says:

    Our priest always uses both hands and such obvious reverence that once when a visiting priest elevated the chalice with one hand I could almost have imagined him saying, “Cheers” or “_Cin-cin_.” Horrors. He just seemed so blase about the whole thing.

  30. Emilio III says:

    We had a visiting priest from Nigeria last summer who, as the Consecration approached seemed to withdraw into a world in which only the Host and Chalice existed. His expression of total concentration was a great contrast to his usual smiling face. Awe and reverence seemed to be the main elements in the picture.

    I’m not sure how to describe the elevation, but he is still holding the Host between thumb and forefinger of both hands… As he raises it, the hands separate, with the Host on the right hand. The left hand is kept at the same elevation and with the same position of the fingers as the right as they both describe arcs meeting at the top, where again the Host is held in both hands and brought slowly down to the altar, genuflecting before putting it down in the patten. The elevation of the Chalice was similar.

    It seemed rather graceful, but theatrical. I got the impression that it might be borrowed from another rite: “looks nice, but doesn’t belong here”.

  31. Agnes says:

    Wanda, beautiful description. That’s what I see here too, most days – like a cradling of the Divine Infant. Also, with “Ecce Agnus Dei” one of the priests holds the Sacred Host just above the Chalice right in front of his face, blocking himself from view – all your eyes focus on is Our Lord. I found that incredibly striking the first few times he offered Mass for us.

    Now it’s old hat. Yep, there’s Jesus, not Father Whoozit. THANK GOD!

    Priestly readers might feel like they’re under a microscope. Yes, Liturgy does matter!

  32. ssoldie says:

    Dosen’t the ‘anything goes’ at the N.O. is what the pastoral thing is all about, innovative novelties by the presider to make it more relevant, personal or whatever. It’s much better then that T.L.M. as that one is so ‘rigid’.

  33. Mitchell NY says:

    For the last few years I have been blocking out memories of the abuses and the NO and focus on remembering and learning anew what goes on in the EF as this is my future..I do remember one handed elevations though as I child. Recent years though are fading..I just wish there was continuity throughout the rite and the world in every Parish Church.

  34. Priestly readers might feel like they’re under a microscope. Yes, Liturgy does matter!

    That may seem unfair — it certainly is unfair for us to get hypercritical. But it’s an unfortunate effect of the nutjob stuff that’s been going on for years in the liturgy, some of which has been so over the top as to render Sacraments invalid on some occasions (e.g., baptizing in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier). I’m sorry that good priests have had to suffer on this account.

    The particular issue in hand doesn’t make me doubt the validity of a Mass where I see it done, but it does tend to illustrate the importance of sticking to the rubrics or venerable procedure. The liturgy just isn’t the place to try and break us of our attachment to formulas and rituals (as if that’s necessary). Getting something off the wall in the liturgy doesn’t conduce to people’s peace of mind. (Nowhere, by the way, is this more true, I think, than in confession — the last place you want to have to question the validity of the Sacrament.)

  35. shin says:

    nazareth priest:

    I surfed to your website, and saw the beautiful interior with the high altar et all, however small and blurry the picture is..

    I nearly started to cry.

    I just moved and have been going from terrible church to terrible church, terrible mass to mass, and it’s been getting to me.

    Thanks for the beautiful picture.

  36. robtbrown says:

    In the last years of the ailing Pope John Paul II, he would elevate the Host and Chalice with his right hand only, and minus the semi-circular right-left turns.
    Comment by Raymond

    He did about the same when he was younger. The host/paten would be elevated with one hand, then he would bring the other up after elevation.

  37. shin: Thank you.
    Our technology here is a bit, well, basic. Hope we can get some better pictures.
    But bless you for your kind comments. Hang in there; Jesus won’t let you down. We’re trying in our small way to continue the great Tradition we have been so lovingly given.

  38. I used to see Pope John Paul do a one-handed elevation in televised Masses, as he got more and more frail.

  39. DominiSumus says:

    We may be conditioned to consider anything that is not precisely according to the rubrics to be an abuse, but I think that unless we have good reason, we should give the priest the benefit of the doubt.

    In the situation here, the priest is described as “holding on to the altar” with his other hand. That choice of words alone leads me to think he held on as though to keep from falling.

    Before jumping to the liturgical abuse, I would wonder if the priest has any sort of health problem which could prevent him from elevating with both hands. Also keep in mind that even young priests could have balance problems.
    I have seen good priests verbally attacked after Mass because of adaptations they had to make in the way they celebrated Mass.

    Of course, there are priests who are just sloppy as well.

    Still, please don’t jump to conclusions.

  40. Fr. Z. makes a great point about not assuming bizarre motives. When I was first ordained, I had an inner ear infection and lost my equilibrium for about a month. I too had to hold on to the altar with one hand lest I tip over.

    That being said, there are many priests out there who were taught to minimize the elevation. (This is based on a minimalist interpretation of the rubric that directs the celebrant to “show” the Host and the Chalice to the people.

  41. Rob Cartusciello says:

    I can think of a number of innocent motivies: vertigo, labrynthitis, bursitis, torn rotator cuff…

  42. dcs says:

    In the last years of the ailing Pope John Paul II, he would elevate the Host and Chalice with his right hand only, and minus the semi-circular right-left turns.

    Which turns are those?

  43. lucy says:

    “Priestly readers might think they are under a microscope”

    I think a huge thing to remember for a priest is that we are paying attention and the priest’s demeanor is very important. As so many have stated here, it gives a big insight into the priest’s personal thoughts on the matter.

    Many years ago, I attened a conference with a Legionaire priest, at the elevation – I was astonished ! He raised it as high as humanly possible and kept it there a good few minutes. This caused a mini-conversion in me. I am a convert, and perhaps when I see a priest who truly believes in what he is doing, it moves me greatly. I think we all need to be moved greatly from time to time or every Sunday (or daily) at the very least.

    Another thing is that when we are immersed in the greatest moment of our day or week, when the priest does something untoward, it totally changes the moment and we start wondering, because we’re just plain human. I don’t want to be disturbed at the consecration. I want to gaze upon our Lord in wonder and know that my priest is doing the same.

    Thanks be to God, I am privileged to have such priests, most of the time, who truly believe.

  44. DominiSumus says:

    There is one priest who helps at my church who actually tears up at the consecration. I love that.

  45. Mary Ann says:

    Please excuse me if this has been mentioned by another here but the priest may have a weakness in his arms or a balance problem that might make him very cautious regarding his physical capabilties during this sacred moment.

  46. Frank H says:

    Slightly off topic, but related, I think, is the practice of one of our priests who, at the preparation of the gifts, lifts BOTH the paten and the chalice and says “…we have this bread and wine to offer…it will become the food of life.” Every time!

  47. coeyannie says:

    How about no hands? A priest, who shall remain nameless, pastor of one of the big parishes in Mpls., does not elevate either the Host or the Chalice. He just waves his hand over it, as if saying, “here it is folks!” Disgusting. At this same church, a visiting priest substituted the “Lord I am not worthy to receive You”, with his own made up version. And so it goes……

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