Non-celebrants vesting, not "in choir"

When did the rules about how priests non celebrating mass dress to attend it? I always believed non-celebrating clergymen wore “choir dress” when attending mass but not celebrating it. Shouldn’t the only clergy vested for mass be the priest, deacon, and subdeacon, (and concelebrating clergy in the NO) with possibly an assistant priest or MC wearing a cope?

But so often at big NO masses, such as ordinations, the papal masses in DC and NY, etc, every bishop priest and deacon shows up fully vested. Shouldn’t they be “in choir” and wearing choir dress? Or are they all “concelebrating” from their seast in the pews?

I would guess they were concelebrating from the pews, as there wouldn’t be enough room around the altar.

More than once I’ve seen in the Byzantine liturgy non-celebrating priests wearing cassock and riassa (the appropriate choir dress), sometimes with epitrachelia (stoles), or at least putting them on for communion.

For the large, special masses at our cathedral, like ordinations, bishop installations, etc. all the priests are concelebrating. It’s actually an incredible thing to hear when you are there, especially when the majority of the people in the pews are priests. So perhaps that is what you are seeing there.

Actually, you will probably see a lot of prelates vested “in choir” on Monday for the Papal Mass. These are generally cardinals and archbishops who will be present for the Mass, but, not concelebrating.

Here is what Redemptionis Sacramentum notes:

[128.] Holy Mass and other liturgical celebrations, which are acts of Christ and of the people of God hierarchically constituted, are ordered in such a way that the sacred ministers and the lay faithful manifestly take part in them each according to his own condition. It is preferable therefore that “Priests who are present at a Eucharistic Celebration, unless excused for a good reason, should as a rule exercise the office proper to their Order and thus take part as concelebrants, wearing the sacred vestments. Otherwise, they wear their proper choir dress or a surplice over a cassock”.218 It is not fitting, except in rare and exceptional cases and with reasonable cause, for them to participate at Mass, as regards to externals, in the manner of the lay faithful.

Like Sarabande, I have seen my share of huge diocesan liturgies where all of the priests are concelebrants. While they will sit in the pews (the sanctuary at the Cathedral is too small for seating that many priests), they will all go up and gather around the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

You will also see these concelebrants communicating themselves (that is receiving the Eucharist themselves) at the altar usually while the celebrant and other ministers give communion to the congregation.

I realize this is a little late, but in the Papal Masses most of the priests were indeed concelebrating from the seats (so the answer to the last question is “yes”)–wearing either an alb with white stole or stole over cassock and surplice.

Priests not concelebrating should wear choir dress (so yes, you’re correrct in that understanding).

Priests concelebrating should wear either full vestments (this is preferred) or simply an alb and stole (if circumstances make full vestments impractical).

Hope that helps. Good questions.

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