Altar set-up in OF vs EF


I’ve noticed that during the OF the altar has nothing on it until the offeratory where everything needed for communion ifs brought by an alter server. Why would this be done instead of the way it is done in the EF where everything is put on before the mass starts? Also is it permitted for it to be dne this way in an OF mass?


During the EF Mass only the sacred ministers may handle the sacred vessels for the most part whereas in the OF the vessels are permitted to be handled by deputed acolytes During Mass. Practices in the OF depend on the preference of thr priest whereas in the EF it is standard.

At the EF Low Mass the priest brings the veiled chalice
With him from the sacristy to the altar. This can be done by a priest at an OF Mass without music.

At the EF Sung Mass the Veiled Chalice is placed on the altar before Mass. This can br done at an OF Mass with music.

At the EF Solemn Mass the veiled chalice is placed on the credence and is covered eith a humeral veil. This can be done at an OF Solemn Mass save for the use of a humeral veil.

The two different forms of the Roman Rite have different rubrics. At EF most of the Mass centres round the altar. At EF only sacred ministers can do many of the things done by servers at the OF Mass. The Offertory at the two Masses is different. At OF the rubrics call for the deacon to prepare the altar. As most parishes don’t have a deacon the priest does it. Also in the OF Mass Offertory the gifts (bread and wine) should be brought up by the people. Of course, this doesn’t happen on the EF Mass.

As someone else pointed out, the rubrics for each form of the Mass dictate when the altar is “dressed.” *It’s not up to the preferences of the individual celebrant. * Waiting to dress the altar during the OF is by design.

During the Liturgy of the Word, the focus is on the ambo and the spoken/sung word of God. When that part of the Mass is complete the Evangeliary is closed and often put in a place of respect.

When the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins, the focus shifts to the altar and the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ to His Father. To me it would appear to be a glaring sign of expediency at the price of reverence if if the altar was “pre-set.” It would also contravene the official rubrics although I have seen it done at daily Masses before.

Chalice veils, burses, palls, etc. may be used (but are not required) during the celebration of the OF Mass.

FWIW, the rubrics for the OF do not necessarily call for the deacon to dress the altar. That’s the job of the altar servers. Preparing the chalice is the job of the deacon.

That would contravene the rubrics of the Mass.

By a chalice veil. Chalice veils are certainly permissible (but not required) during the celebration of the OF Mass.

It would underline this switch if the candles were not lit until this point. I wonder if it was considered?

I have seen “liturgists” (who felt they didn’t need to follow the rubrics) direct the servers to place the processional torches in stands adjacent to the ambo and then move them to holders located at the altar. I have also seen the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist celebrated in separate rooms in an extremely reverent setting.

The altar of sacrifice is the most important icon of Jesus Christ in any Latin Rite Catholic church. I suspect that status and/or the choreographed fluidity of the OF Mass is why the altar candles are lit prior to the start of the Mass.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had to light the altar candles. They often seem to be very obstinate to me. There is an inverse relationship: the shorter the time you have the more difficult the candles are to light.:eek: I reckon it’d be too distracting to light them during the Offertory.

Yes. I light them most days of the week .They are oil canisters within the wax-effect candle, and are very easy ,provided that the wick isn’t too short.

Mind you, the Big Six are another case, as the end ones are a bit tricky to reach. We’ve found the best way is to use a super-long match slotted into the hole provided in the snuffer.

I’m almost tempted to use the method an old Brother told me he used, back when there were banks of votive lights for the Forty Hours. He used to put petrol on the wicks. so that all he had to do was light the end one and the flame leapt along the whole line at once. It beggars belief.


I’ve seen in Solemn High EF Masses, where “everything needed for communion” isn’t brought up until after the Offertory. Perhaps the only things different you see before the Offertory are the Mass cards placed on the altar for the EF.

Well I’ve only been to a low EF mass so maybe you are right. When I went everything was set-up before the mass started

Sometimes the priest brings up the chalice, etc. as he approaches the altar as well. I don’t think there are any strict rules on this in the EF. When there are no servers, the priest may even have all the cruets set on the altar. I may have even seen this in the OF as well, but I’m not sure.

Thank you, Urn. This is what I was thinking, but you have said it much better than I could.:thumbsup:

I have seen Masses where these candles were not brought out until this point, but they were not sitting there unlit. They were lit beforehand, but kept behind a screen. Probably it seems better that if the candles are there, they be lit, and conversely that if they ought not be lit, they ought not be there at all…sort of like not having obviously empty vessels there.

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