Concelebrating at Additional Masses

And More on Christmas Masses

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ROME, JAN. 13, 2009 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Priests are allowed to binate or even trinate in cases of pastoral necessity. What should happen if a priest has to give the homily at several Masses on a Sunday, perhaps in connection with an appeal? When he has already said one Mass and another priest is the celebrant, should he also concelebrate? — S.P., Stourport-on-Severn, England

A: I would say that the most relevant norm regarding this topic is found in the instruction «Redemptionis Sacramentum,» No. 64:

«The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself, ‘should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson. In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.'»

The final phrase of this number would cover the case of our correspondent. An appeal, such as when a missionary priest preaches on Mission Sunday or when the pastor makes an annual diocesan appeal, would constitute a just cause.

It is important, however, that the priest should attempt to weave the themes of the appeal into the homily itself as relating to the readings and the Christian life. Otherwise, appeals are best left until after the post-Communion prayer and before the final blessing.

The priest who preaches in these circumstances should vest in an alb or a cassock and surplice, as well as a stole of the corresponding liturgical color.

The norm foresees the case of a priest who «cannot concelebrate.» The general rule is that a priest celebrates or concelebrates no more than one Mass a day (Canon 905 of the Code of Canon Law). The permission to binate or trinate is a pastoral concession for the benefit of the faithful and only for a just cause. Since it is usually not necessary to concelebrate at a second Mass, then it would not generally fulfill the requirement of a just pastoral need.

Therefore, in the case at hand it is enough that the priest has already celebrated Mass, or is scheduled to celebrate a later Mass, in order to justify being able to both preach the homily and refrain from concelebrating.

Religious priests have a habitual exception to the one-Mass rule as they may always concelebrate at their community Mass even though they have another Mass scheduled for the faithful. All priests may likewise concelebrate at a second Mass in any justifiable situation such as the bishop’s Mass, funerals, anniversaries of ordination, and similar circumstances.

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Follow-up: «Midnight Mass» at 9 p.m.

Pursuant to our comments on Christmas Midnight Mass (see Dec. 23), an Eastern Catholic priest who is bi-ritual in the Roman rite asked the following question:

«On Christmas Day, as I was celebrating Mass in a Roman-rite parish, I wanted to use Eucharistic Prayer 4 because it lays out so majestically the whole plan of salvation vis-à-vis the Anaphora of St. Basil the Great in the Eastern Churches. However, I was not aware that it had its own Preface until I turned to it. Since I had already prayed the Christmas Preface, I decided I should not use Prayer 4. Would I have been wrong to have done so?»

Father was correct in refraining from using Eucharistic Prayer 4 and precisely because it has an invariable preface that forms a unity with the rest of the anaphora.

This beautiful prayer is theologically and structurally modeled on Eastern anaphoras, such as that of St. Basil. But it is stylistically and literarily more akin to traditional Latin prayer formulas although with a clear biblical background.

Because of its special structure and invariable preface it may not be used on feasts which have an obligatory preface of their own, such as Christmas and other solemnities, Sundays of the major liturgical seasons, and the fifth week of Lent.

It may be used when an assigned preface is not obligatory, such as on weekdays and Sundays of ordinary time; whenever a seasonal preface (rather than a preface of the day) is to be used; or for votive Masses. For example, Eucharistic Prayer 4 may not be used on Pentecost or the feast of Corpus Christi, but it may be used for a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit or of the Holy Eucharist even though the rubrics indicate the use of proper prefaces. In the case of votive Masses the use of the proper preface is not obligatory.

The most suitable Eucharistic Prayer to use on Christmas Day is the Roman Canon (No. 1). This ancient prayer has a traditional specific formula for this day that may be used every day of the Christmas octave.

While some bishops’ conferences have composed special Christmas formulas for Eucharistic Prayers 2 and 3, they do not quite match the beauty of the traditional insertion.

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Readers may send questions to Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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