As a priest with an academic assignment, I rather frequently find myself in new liturgical assemblies on the weekend, each of which has its own particular method of celebrating the Roman Rite. Thus I experience communities who mark the epiclesis and the showings of the newly consecrated bread/hosts and cup/wine during the Institution Narrative with ringing of bells or sounding of what appears to be a metallophone, while still other communities have no corresponding auditory signals. I experience communities who vest their music ministers in “choir robes” (usually black, red, or blue), others in albs (with or without cinctures), and still others who do not vest their singers and/or instrumentalists. Similarly I experience communities who vest their acolytes in cassocks (black or red) and surplices, others who vest them in albs, and still others who do not vest them at all.
Since one of my principles is to try simply to fit into the ritual pattern established for Lord’s Day worship in these varying communities (unless something so egregious occurs that it might impinge upon the validity of the celebration), I never impose my own preferences in cases like the ones listed above. I do find it interesting that a minority of worshipers discover or impose meanings on the practices mentioned above: in each case the first is seen as the most “conservative”, the second “middle of the road”, and the third “liberal.”
Recently I have experienced a practice in some of the communities to which I’ve been assigned that is new to me, namely the provision of a small paten with a single largish host and a chalice holding only enough wine and water for the priest’s use designated for the priest/presider in isolation from the other eucharistic breads/hosts and wine. While I don’t think this practice invalidates the Mass being celebrated, I wonder where the practice comes from and what reasons are adduced for introducing it. Steeped in a eucharistic theology that makes much of the symbolism of one bread and one cup at eucharist, I would see no need for a separate paten and chalice for the priest/presider; in fact I might go so far as to say that doing so strikes me as an embodiment of the clericalism against which Pope Francis inveighs. On the other hand, I seem to remember an argument that the priest must commune from elements consecrated at the Mass over which he presides; perhaps supplying eucharistic bread and wine separate from the congregation’s guarantees that the priest will follow that precept.
I invite Pray Tell readers to tell me how common this practice is in their own communities of worship and what reasons are given for introducing or maintaining it.