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Posted September 28, 2006

Book: The Mass
Author: Dennis C. Smolarski, SJ
Liturgical Training Publications. Chicago, IL. 2002. Pp. 119

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Can eucharistic ministers clean the vessels after communion?

What does the deacon do at Mass?

How do we use the entrance and communion antiphons?

Where do the servers fit?

Is the book carried out at the end of Mass?

How do we choose the eucharistic prayer?

These and more questions — 45 in all — that priests, liturgists, music directors, liturgy committees, ministry coordinators and diocesan liturgy offices frequently ask about the Mass are answered here with legal expertise and pastoral sensitivity by Father Dennis Smolarski, SJ.

An Excerpt from the Book:

What are the proper liturgical roles for a deacon?

By a tradition based on the Acts of the Apostles, the deacon is seen as the servant of the community, and this role as servant is the foundation for determining the various diaconal activities during a liturgy. As servant, the deacon is the chief assistant to the presiding bishop or priest at a liturgy and also the main servant to the assembly gathered. His role is to facilitate the assembly’s worship but not lead it himself. The 2000 General Instruction of the Roman Missal outlines in detail the specifices of the deacon’s duties during Mass. They may be summarized as follows.

The spoken texts associated with a deacon include the proclamation of the gospel, the litanies (the Lord, have mercy and the general intercessions) and the directions to the assembly. Some examples of such directions are as follows: “Let us offer each other a sign of peace,” “Let us knell,” “Bow your heads and pray for God’s blessing” and “Go in Peace.” During the Easter Vigil, it is the deacon’s duty to proclaim Christ’s resurrection by singing the Exsultet.

The ritual activities associated with a deacon include caring the Book of the Gospels and for the cup. The care for the book is shown by the deacon carrying itwith reverence during the entrance and gospel processions. The care for the cup is shown by the deacon pouring the wine and water into it, while saying the proper prayer, during the preparaton of the gifts; by elevating the cup at the end of the eucharistic prayer, and by ministering communion at the assembly from the cup (and consuming what remains after communion.)

The deacon is the one to worry about the details of the worship taking place. He functions as a “right hand man” for a bishop, and two deacons normally should assist as “chaplains” to a bishop rather than two priests.

While assisting at the liturgy, the deacon does not usurp the role of presider (and concelebrating should not usurp the duties of a deacon). In fact, traditionally, the deacon never says any presidential prayers and does not make use of presidential gestures. For example, the deacon keeps his hands joined while greeting the assembly before the gospel and whenever giving directions to the assembly.

At noneucharistic celebrations, the deacon’s functions are similar to what occur during Mass if he assists someone else presiding. If, however, because of the absence of a bishop or priest a deacon presides at a baptism, wedding, funeral or blessing, he uses the same gestures and texts as a priest. Deacons, however, should be mindful that their role as presider in these cases is an innovation because of pastoral necessity. Thus, what is appropriate for deacons to do in the absence of a priest is not necessarily appropriate when priests are present.

Deacons are ordained ministers whose primary liturgical role is that of service. In this ministry, the deacon thus becomes a vivid icon of Christ, “who came not to be served, but to serve.”

Table of Contents:

Liturgy of the Word

Liturgy of the Eucharist

Concluding Rites