Altar in sanctuary

Question from Anne-Marie on 2/11/2008:

In our parish we have wonderful people, ready to volunteer etc... some however need to be educated in what is proper in the liturgy, including myself. I went to a meeting when the GIRM came out a couple years ago. I try to educate myself on "my own" by watching EWTN a lot, reading etc... However I have a question to ask.

At Mass, after people have received Holy Communion, the priest goes to the credence table to purify the vessels. We, as extraordinary Eucharist Ministers stay next to him to help him put the vessels away (he is disabled). I always heard that the altar at that time should be free of all: palls, purificators and Petitions Prayer book that is brought up with the gifts and placed on the altar, at the top corner. At that time the Holy Sacrifice is done and nothing should remain on the altar. Is this correct? if so where can I find it to show my friends? Thank you and God bless you. Anne

Answer by Colin B. Donovan, STL on 4/10/2008:
Two norms apply:

GIRM 306. Only what is required for the celebration of the Mass may be placed on the mensa of the altar: namely, from the beginning of the celebration until the proclamation of the Gospel, the Book of the Gospels; then from the Presentation of the Gifts until the purification of the vessels, the chalice with the paten, a ciborium if necessary, and, finally, the corporal, the purificator, the pall, and the Missal.
In addition, microphones that may be needed to amplify the priest's voice should be arranged discreetly.


270. The priest purifies the chalice at the credence table or at the altar. If the chalice is purified at the altar, it may be carried to the credence table by the minister or may again be placed on the altar at the side.
So, the purified vessels may remain on the altar. If the priest has no server this will often be the case. However, if they were purified at the credence table, or he has someone to carry them from the altar to the credence, it would not make sense to leave the vessels, corporals and purificators on the altar.

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