ASK FATHER: Communion for organist after Mass

From a reader…


When leaving Church I noticed a deacon (not the deacon of the Mass) giving the Eucharist to the organist after the Mass had ended (up in the choir loft). There is singing or playing any time the priest or a lector is not talking. I find it hard to believe that putting music before the Eucharist in importance is allowed. Is it?

Not a lot of silence, eh?

It was common back in the day, and it is still done now, to distribute Communion to choir members or musicians who were in the choir loft during Mass.

It seems better to do this after Mass, reverently, at the Communion rail than send someone traipsing about with the ciborium, up and down stairs, and then having an awkward space in which to distribute.

There was and is a standard rite for doing this: HERE

You will note that this also describes the manner in which Communion is distributed during Mass.  Indeed, in the older, traditional Missal, distribution of Communion is not described.


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  1. APX says:

    Sometimes I wonder if people just look for things to complain about when they go to Mass.

    Growing up, the organist just stuck out one of his hands to receive the host, while continuing to play, and just popped it in his mouth. That is something that righteous anger could be angry about. The organist and/or the choir receiving after Mass? No.

    Furthermore, receiving after Mass, once all the hustle and bustle in the choir loft is over and done with, allows one to more thoroughly recollect oneself before receiving. That being said, there is much to be said about receiving communion in the context of the Mass at the the communion rail, and the rich symbolism of what Communion actually is and the symbolism of church architecture, and how it relates to the Sacrifice of the Mass, which makes me dislike the idea of having to receive after Mass, or while in the choir loft itself, though not as much as having to run downstairs from time to time due to mid-timings. We usually just receive first downstairs at the communion rail.

  2. Joy65 says:

    Our choir members and musicians go up first to receive the Eucharist before anyone else. That way they get back to their places and play and sing for the rest of us. Works out perfectly.

  3. iPadre says:

    My choir comes to the altar rail after singing the Communion proper for both OF and EF. The timing is perfect, and are always the first to receive. They have time to get back to the choir area in the back, in time for a Communion meditation or chant.

  4. Southern Baron says:

    Those of us in the choir and/or schola who wish to receive (EF) go down after the Communion proper and join the crowd. If there is a motet it is usually not so long that we cannot be at the rail to be among the last receiving. It might not work everywhere, but I prefer this to going down first because I would rather rush down than rush back to sing; there is time for private prayer before the dismissal.

  5. Mary Jane says:

    On the flip side, it is very nice of this organist to play for everyone during the entire time the Eucharist is distributed, such that the only way he can receive is to receive after mass. It is wonderful that he plays for everyone else so they can receive Our Lord and make a thanksgiving with (hopefully) good music to aid their prayers.

    Our choir goes down after the Agnus Dei and is the first to receive, then we head back up to the loft to sing the Communion proper and hymns/motets.

  6. James in Perth says:

    I sang in a cathedral choir for a few years and the practice there was, I thought, quite beautiful and humbling.

    The cathedral rector, unless he was presiding at Mass, always came up to the choir loft (directly behind and above the altar) and he moved through the choir loft giving Communion to the singers and musicians. He would then wait patiently for the organist/music director to complete his post-Communion music and give Communion to him.

    Just thinking about this brings tears to my eyes because (a) the music was that good, and (b) the rector wanted to honor the choir and the organist for their service to the community. I am glad too that the choir was always looked after and that the music could flow in continuity with the Mass. We were obviously fortunate to have a large choir loft but the alternative – i.e., having the choir descend to the church – would have been highly impractical.

  7. Genevieve says:

    My husband and I are an organist/ cantor duo. We prefer to receive after Mass at the altar. I’ve been in choir lofts when an EMHC comes up to distribute and I really don’t care for that practice. And I’ve been in a position to approach the altar during communion as the musician and it’s pretty rushed. We typically have our three 6 and under children with us in the choir loft and it’s just too much to get everyone downstairs to receive. After Mass, we can approach the altar reverently, kneel together as a family, and say our after communion prayers still kneeling there together. TBH, in our church with no communion rail, I much prefer this to the line situation that happens normally.

  8. Alice says:

    I’m an organist. Communion is a bit more complicated than those downstairs often realize. The rubrics for the OF are nearly impossible to follow without much greater musical forces than most parishes have. As a result, pastors have to pick their priorities. Sometimes they ask their organists for input, other times the organist just has to obey.

    My personal preference is to have a strong singer chant the Communion Proper while I (and the choir, if there is one) go down for Communion. Then that singer can go down last while the choir sings or I play. This isn’t always possible because confident chanters aren’t exactly a dime a dozen and some pastors are simply allergic to chant. In that case, it’s usually better for me to receive Holy Communion after Mass. What I really dislike is when someone brings up Communion and I have to receive while playing or running down and then running back up to start the Communion hymn. Of course, not all organists have young knees that can get up and down the stairs quickly. For some, getting up and down is a five minute process and the deacon bringing up Communion after Mass is the least stressful way for them to receive. Silence during Communion sounds nice in theory, but most people find the sound of kneelers and shuffling feet far less meditative than good music.

  9. LizS says:

    As a choir director and organist myself, it’s a lot harder than you might think for everyone to go downstairs from the loft, receive, and still have time to do the Communion proper plus other needed music. People get winded climbing down and up all the stairs, and have a harder time singing. In smaller parishes, by the time everyone gets down and back up again, you could potentially be left with hardly any time for music at all – and in a typical OF parish, Communion is pretty much the only chance you get to do any polyphony or other choral music. I pretty much count on not being able to receive during Masses at which I direct or play organ. All that being said, if people need to receive after Mass, I prefer it to be done downstairs at the rail. It makes me nervous when EMHC’s try to carry the Eucharist up all those stairs…

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