QUAERITUR: Uncovering the ciborum

From a reader:

This past Sunday, September 16, 2012, I attended mass celebrated by an elderly priest. Present on the altar was a covered ciborium. At the time father consecrated the large host the ciborium remained covered, father uncovered the ciborium then consecrated the wine. After saying do this in memory of me, father covered the ciborium. Does the ciborium have to be uncovered for the consecration of its contents? I never witnessed this before.

The cover would not have to be off the ciborium for the hosts within to be consecrated. However, it is both customary and fitting that it be uncovered before its consecration. It is not necessary to uncover in order the “let the consecration in”, as it were. The consecration doesn’t work like that.  But it is proper to uncover it before the consecration of the hosts, and then cover it before continuing with the consecration of the wine.

It sounds like, from your description, that Father may have gotten a little scrambled and uncovered the ciborium in the wrong order.

A priest should form a moral intention to consecrate what needs to be consecrated. What needs to be consecrated should be placed upon the corporal that is spread upon the altar. Since the priest has this moral intention, he does not have to be thinking specifically about every host in every vessel. Uncovering the ciborium, however, certainly reinforces the intention and reminds the priest about the hosts to be consecrated.

But, no, were the priest or deacon to omit uncovering a ciborium before the consecration, the hosts within would nevertheless be consecrated.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. While I don’t suppose the correspondent was speaking of the following situation, one can see the wisdom of keeping a cover on the ciborium if there is a pesky fly about, or else if Mass is being offered outside, or where there is a lot of wind. I have offered Mass outside, and kept the ciborium tightly covered all during the Mass, and even during communion used the cover to protect the hosts from the wind.

    It is one reason I don’t care for offering the Mass outdoors.

  2. Charles E Flynn says:

    By the dubious technique known as “extension”, this must mean that the person who says grace before meals intends God to bless the food that is still in saucepans on the stove.

  3. Suburbanbanshee says:

    What a priest intends, or what we ask God to bless, is generally a matter that can be determined by common sense and custom. The Church’s rules do sometimes include exceptions (concelebrated Masses with distant hosts) but generally it’s a lot easier and more fitting and beautiful just to put all the hosts you’re going to consecrate on the altar. Because that way, there’s no question in people’s minds what’s going on, and no worries for the priest.

    Grace, on the other hand, is explicitly said “for what we are about to receive” or (if you say Grace after meals) “for what we have just received.” This explicitly includes everything we eat and drink during the meal, and nothing that we don’t eat and drink. Location during the prayer doesn’t matter, so it doesn’t have to be anything placed on the table.

    And of course, a food table for serving dinner is very different from an altar of offering sacrifice.

  4. Pingback: Sacred Music Ciborum Prayer Warriors Dogma Doctrine Theology | Big Pulpit

  5. Blackfriar says:

    Just the other day at Mass I found, immediately after the consecration of the host, that I was actually holding the chalice in my hands. This sort of absent-minded error can happen … I suspect that it happens more often as we get older! I had valid matter in front of me, no doubt that I said the words of consecration for the host, and no doubt that I intended to consecrate the hosts in front of me – so there was no doubt that I did consecrate the hosts. Fortunately, I noticed before I elevated what I held in my hands!

  6. Blackfriar says:

    Actually, I think I can blame the new translation fort this error (pace, Fr Z!), in the sense that my eyes were on the Missal rather than the hosts as I pronounced the words of consecration, because I am still getting used to the new words and don’t want to make a mistake. In the past, with no doubt that I knew the words by heart, I would more likely have looked at the host sooner and noticed that I had picked up the chalice instead.

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