From a reader…
Father, can you please shed some light on GIRM #171-173 (and there abouts), regarding the position of the Deacon during the procession to and from the altar?
We were instructed in the seminary to be in front of the priest. I am seeing more and more (even on EWTN) the deacon walking in procession to and from the altar NEXT to the priest. This seems to be wrong. It “appears” then as the Deacon is equal in all aspects to the priest. In fact, in my diocese deacons have been asked to not conduct any, so called, “Communion Service” because it “looks” like he is offering the Mass in the eyes of many of the laity. At Masses where the Deacon preaches, I have even heard parishioners say to the Deacon after Mass: “nice Mass Father.” And the Deacon, of course, never correctes them. Is the statement about being “next to the priest” meant for only within the sanctuary, or only as an alternative to being in front of the priest during the procession, as when not carrying the Book of the Gospels? I believe there is another part of the GIRM (escapes me at the moment) that states the Deacon exits the same way he enters. I would read that as, if entering carrying the Gospels in front of the priest, then you should leave in front of the priest even if not carrying the Gospels.
It seems, our “Uppity Deacons” today enjoy making issues of virtually everything.
Thank you Father, for your wise and much appreciated thoughts.
It has been a long time since I had a deacon for a Novus Ordo Mass, and it has been a really long time since I was a deacon for a Novus Ordo Mass. I was deacon for a Solemn TLM last Sunday, however. During that Mass I walked at the side of the priest on the way in and during the Vidi aquam, because he was in cope and because I had to carry the aspersorium. If there had not been a Vidi aquam I would have walked in front of the priest. I also walked at the priest’s side from the sedilia to the altar. It was pretty clear that the priest was the priest and that the deacon was the deacon: we were dressed differently. At the conclusion of Mass, I walked in front of the priest. That’s how we do it in the Roman Rite… traditionally.
What does the GRIM say?
171. When he is present at the celebration of the Eucharist, a Deacon should exercise his ministry, wearing sacred vestments. In fact, the Deacon:
a) assists the Priest and walks at his side;
172. Carrying the Book of the Gospels slightly elevated, the Deacon precedes the Priest as he approaches the altar or else walks at the Priest’s side.
I believe the GIRM says that the deacon walks in front of the priest in the entrance procession when he carries the Evangelarium. I suppose then that if he goes in in front of the priest, he should leave that way too.
Perhaps this is a chance for enrichment of the Novus Ordo. Perhaps the more traditional entrance and exit would be a good idea.
I suspect that there are deacons who would like to jump in.