Project Canterbury

From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 6),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 35-40

Plain Suggestions for a Reverent Celebration of the Holy Communion

by Bishop Charles Chapman Grafton


Chapter VII

The Order of the Service

THE following suggestions are for a plain celebration, where there is but a single priest. Being vested, and the vessels having been prepared as before described, the priest takes the chalice by the knob with his left hand, and, putting the fingers of his right on the burse, proceeds to the altar. He ascends to the middle of the altar, and places the sacred vessels a little on one side in order to leave room for the spreading of the corporal. He then takes off the burse and takes out of it the corporal and veil. He places the burse on the Gospel side, standing it up against the retable. He places the communion-veil, still folded, on the Epistle side, and then unfolds the corporal and spreads it on the altar, and places upon it the sacred vessels, still covered by the silk veil. He then goes to the altarbook and opens it. The altar-book usually lies on a stand, or book-rest. He returns to the centre and goes down the steps, and then, turning to the altar, says his private prayer. The Forty-third Psalm is a suitable devotion here, and is frequently used. He says all this standing, upon the general principle given by the House of Bishops in their published resolutions in regard to the posture of the officiating priest. They declared that, "as the Holy Communion is of a spiritually sacrificial character, the standing posture should be observed by him whenever that of kneeling is not expressly prescribed, to wit, in all parts, including the antecommunion and the postcommunion, except the confession and the prayer immediately preceding the prayer of consecration."

After this short private prayer the priest ascends to the middle of the altar and goes, according to the rubric, to the "right side." This does not mean to one of the ends of the altar, but to the right side of the "midst," or middle, of the altar. The American book has changed the old confusing direction of "north side," as it stood in the English book, to "right side"; and interpreting the Prayer Book by the Prayer-Book, we learn which the right side is. The rubric in the marriage service, "standing together, the Man on the right hand," etc., seems to show that the "right side " means the Epistle side. Anyway, facing the altar, the Epistle side is on the right side, and this is the commonsense construction. Moreover, going to the Epistle side at the beginning involves less subsequent change of posture.

The priest then says the Lord's Prayer and the Collect for Purity. He then goes to his normal place, which is the middle of the altar, and, turning to the people, recites the Ten Commandments or the Summary of the Law. It is well that he should do this without a book. If he says only the Summary of the Law he will turn, of course, to the altar to recite the Kyries. Then he goes to the Epistle side, and says there the collect for the day and reads the Epistle. After the Epistle he goes over to the Gospel side and reads the Gospel. Then he returns to his normal place in the middle of the altar and recites the Creed; and here he remains, save when going for the elements and communicating the people, throughout the rest of the service.

After the Creed he shall begin the offertory by saying one of the appointed texts and by uncovering the sacred vessels. He takes off the silk veil, and folding it once, lays it on the Epistle side. He then places the pall upon it. He takes the paten and goes to the Epistle corner of the altar to receive the bread. If he has no assistant to bring the elements from the credence, it would be well to place them within easy reach on the Epistle side. After this the priest returns to the middle of the altar, and places the paten with the bread in it upon the corporal, in such position that he may turn over upon the paten the righthand corner of the corporal. He then takes the chalice, and, the purificator being on it, he wipes out the chalice-bowl. Then he carries the chalice to the corner of the altar, and takes the cruet and pours into the chalice a sufficient quantity of wine, and then, if the universal practice of the primitive Church is observed, pours in also a very small quantity of water. The chalice is then brought and placed on the corporal behind the paten, and is covered with the pall. It will be found convenient for its further use now to place on top of the pall, unfolded, the fair linen communion-veil.

From this point in the service the priest will take care that the chalice and paten, when not in use, are always covered with the pall and corporal. The alms having been presented, the priest turns from the right to the left toward the people, and, extending his hands, says: "Let us pray," etc.; and then, continuing to turn in the same direction, he completes a circle, and facing again the altar, he begins the prayer for Christ's Church militant. There is no other reason connected with this movement than that the circle typifies the whole world and Christians everywhere. The priest continues the service according to the direction of the Prayer-Book.

Here we may note that in saying collects, and during the preface, and at the beginning of the consecration, the hands are separated and held facing each other, the elbows resting naturally at the sides. This ancient custom probably comes from St. Paul's direction that men should pray "lifting up holy hands." In kneeling down at the prayer of humble access, it is well to contract the habit of putting the hands on the altar on either side, or under the corporal; by so doing the danger of upsetting the chalice is avoided. On coming to the consecration, the priest uncovers the paten and chalice. They are uncovered for the consecration and invocation, and then are usually covered during the rest of the prayer.

In communicating the people it is easier for the priest to commence on the Epistle side, so that, holding the paten with his left hand, he is more free to distribute from the paten with his right.

Care should be taken to remove any drops which may adhere to the edge of the chalice. After the communion of the people, the chalice is placed in the middle of the corporal. The priest places next the paten upon the chalice, and on the paten the pall, and unfolding the communion-veil, spreads it over the pall.

After the blessing the priest reverently receives the sacrament remaining. Then, if alone, he goes to the Epistle corner of the altar, takes the wine cruet, and pours a little wine into the chalice, and having consumed the wine, a little water and wine is poured into the chalice over the fingers of the priest. Sometimes water also is poured upon the paten, which is afterwards emptied into the chalice? and then the priest drinks the whole. The chalice and paten are next wiped with the purificator, which is left in the chalice-bowl. The chalice is then placed in the middle of the corporal, the paten placed upon the chalice, then the pall laid on the paten, and the whole covered with the silk veil. The vessels so covered are moved a little to the Epistle side, and the corporal and communion-veil are folded. The burse is then taken from the retable, and the corporal and communion-veil are put in it, and the burse is laid on the top of the silk chalice-veil as it was when it was brought from the vestry. The priest closes the altar-book, and takes the sacred vessels, and in the same manner in which he brought them to the altar returns to the vestry.

It will greatly tend to the devotion of the people and their more frequent attendance if the priest will study to say the service reverently in manner, quietly and steadily in tone, with moderate rapidity of utterance, with dextrous economy of time at the offertory, without pauses for the introduction of his own private prayers. The service, with a dozen to communicate, can be said with great reverence and devotion, and without any sign of haste, in from twenty-five to thirty minutes. The priest will make, after the celebration, his thanksgiving to God before leaving the church.

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