By Father Edward McNamara, LC
ROME, 23 April 2013 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: After the priest has washed his hands at the offertory, he turns to the assembly and says, "Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that my sacrifice and yours …." My question is, at this moment of the liturgy should the assembly be seated or standing? In different communities and countries they do it in different ways. Some stand immediately at the word "Pray," some at the moment of the prayer over the gifts, and others at the preface. There is some confusion because incense is not used at daily Mass. — G.S., Shkoder, Albania
A: The Introduction to the Roman Missal says the following in No. 43:
"The faithful should stand from the beginning of the Entrance chant, or while the priest approaches the altar, until the end of the Collect; for the Alleluia chant before the Gospel; while the Gospel itself is proclaimed; during the Profession of Faith and the Prayer of the Faithful; from the invitation, Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren), before the Prayer over the Offerings until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated below.
"They should, however, sit while the readings before the Gospel and the responsorial Psalm are proclaimed and for the Homily and while the Preparation of the Gifts at the Offertory is taking place; and, as circumstances allow, they may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed.
"But they should kneel at the consecration, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason. Those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the consecration.
"Nevertheless, it is up to the Conference of Bishops to adapt the gestures and postures described in the Order of Mass to the culture and reasonable traditions of the people. The Conference, however, must make sure that such adaptations correspond to the meaning and character of each part of the celebration.
"Where it is the practice for the people to remain kneeling after the Sanctus until the end of the Eucharistic Prayer and before Communion when the priest says Ecce Agnus Dei (This is the Lamb of God), this practice is laudably retained.
"With a view to a uniformity in gestures and postures during one and the same celebration, the faithful should follow the directions which the deacon, lay minister, or priest gives according to whatever is indicated in the Missal."
This general norm is further clarified in No. 146:
"Upon returning to the middle of the altar, the priest, facing the people and extending and then joining his hands, invites the people to pray, saying: Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren). The people rise and make their response: Suscipiat Dominus (May the Lord accept). Then the priest, with hands extended, says the Prayer over the Offerings. At the end the people make the acclamation: Amen."
This norm does not leave it perfectly clear if the people are to rise as soon as the priest says "Pray" or wait until after he has concluded the invitation and then rise and respond.
The rubric of the missal, however, in placing the norm that the people rise and respond between the "Pray, brethren" and the people's response implies that that the people should wait until the priest has finished before rising, or respond while rising immediately after the conclusion.
It must be admitted that this requires a fairly disciplined community to manage to stand in perfect unison on concluding the invitation, and that moments of silence or confusion are not unlikely.
Therefore, I would not consider it a particular problem if in some places the community arises while the priest is still reciting the "Orate, fratres." Since both invitation and response are so brief, it hardly causes any difficulty.
It is not foreseen that the people arise after the response, although a bishops' conference could legitimately propose to adopt that variation to the missal.
It would not correspond to liturgical tradition to remain seated during the prayer over the gifts. The people usually stand, or occasionally kneel, when the priest proclaims any presidential prayer.
* * *
Follow-up: Standing at the "Pray, Brethren" [5-14-2013]
A surprising number of responses arrived regarding the question as to when the people arise following the invitation "Pray, brethren" (see April 23). Unsurprisingly, however, the responses were also divergent.
Some readers maintained that the people should always wait until the invitation is completed; others firmly held that the prevailing custom was to arise during the invitation itself.
One correspondent even suggested arising after the priest has washed his hands and before beginning the invitation. This latter form would not appear to conform to the norms, which clearly tie the people's standing up with the invitation. An exception is when incense is used, on which occasion they arise before being incensed.
Therefore I think I can safely confirm my previous position that, barring an official clarification, both arising during the invitation or immediately afterward are legitimate possibilities.