Chapter 5 Liturgy of the Eucharist:
Preparation of the Altar
213. For the basic Mass, with one celebrant and no deacon, "An acolyte, or other lay minister arranges the corporal, purificator, the chalice, the pall and missal upon the altar." (IG 139).
214. GIRM 100 had "The servers place the corporal, purificator, chalice, and missal on the altar." The pall has been added to this list, so is it compulsory? Not according to IG 118, which has the pall prepared "if useful". Surprisingly IG 306 does not include the pall in the list of items that may be placed on the altar. It has: "from the presentation of the gifts until the cleansing of the vessels, only the chalice with the paten, the pyx as necessary, and finally, the corporal, purificator and missal." It appears that IG 139 contradicts IG 306 on this point, so bishops may need to resolve this issue for their diocese.
215. The chalice veil is not included in the list of items that may be placed on the altar (IG 306). If is used, perhaps it would be removed at the side table. Alternatively it could be removed at the altar and immediately taken to the side table.
216. For Mass with a deacon, "the deacon prepares the altar, assisted by the acolyte, but the care of the sacred vessels belongs to the deacon." (IG 178).
217. For a concelebrated Mass (without a deacon), this is done by the "acolyte or other lay minister" since IG 214 says IG 139 is to be followed. Only if there were no lay ministers would a concelebrant prepare the altar, following IG 208. Depending on how the Eucharist wine is drunk, a concelebrated Mass may require several chalices (IG 207) and two corporals (IG 249) on the altar.
218. For Mass without a congregation, with only one minister, according to IG 265, "In the Eucharistic liturgy, everything is done as at Mass with the People, except ...". There is no exception made for preparing the altar. Therefore, even if the chalice and missal were placed at the side of the altar before Mass, the minister would arrange the corporal, purificator, etc.
219. For Mass with a bishop, according to CB 172 - 173: "In the absence of a deacon, a presbyter should proclaim the gospel reading and minister at the altar; if he is not to concelebrate he wears an alb and stole. Everything described in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal for the celebration of Mass with a congregation should be observed. (Footnote: See GIRM 77-152)." The priest is to "minister at the altar", but he is not a deacon. Therefore it seems that the acolyte, or other lay minister, arranges the altar following GIRM 100, 145 and IG 139, 190.
220. For a Stational Mass, the deacons and acolytes arrange the corporal, purificator etc. (CB 145).
Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 18 March 2002. Last updated 15 April 2002.