Live-streaming Mass - bowing to altar
  • I'm the music director of a very small parish in a rural state. Like so many churches right now, we've begun streaming Masses. I just learned today that since the brand-new sound system isn't hooked up to the brand-new camera system yet, I'll be singing the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday from the altar. That means I'll be on camera.

    Since the cantors have always been up in the loft at this church, I'll need to ask whether Father wants me to move from the lectern to the ambo for the Psalm. If so, I'll need to bow to the altar. I anticipate wearing dresses for both Masses; they will be an appropriate length, of course, but it still feels wrong to bow in such attire. When wearing dresses and gowns for secular performances, I typically bend at the knee to acknowledge applause.

    I'm unhappy at the prospect of making even a slight bow with my rear end broadcast on the internet, particularly in a dress. Is there a standard, more modest alternative to a bow to the altar? An inclination of the head, perhaps?
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    Perhaps your priest would allow you to genuflect?
  • That's a good idea. Thank you. I'll write it down to offer as a suggestion when I meet with him next week.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 690
    One thing you might do is wear a cassock or (alb) over your dress (or choir robe if you have them) this way if your derriere is hanging in the wind, you will at least look like you belong on the altar. I had to wear an alb one year for Easter and they can get pretty warm so dress accordingly.

    When I was a cantor we always bowed toward the tabernacle, provided the tabernacle is even on the altar, before we entered the sanctuary and the Psalm was always done from the ambo. If the tabernacle is not on the altar as some Catholic church's have it off to the side, then I would say bow to the tabernacle wherever it is, then proceed to the ambo.(imho).
  • One doesn’t genuflect to the altar. It isn’t appropriate. (Nor is it appropriate for women to wear clerical garb. I say this as a woman.) Genuflection is reserved for the Blessed Sacrament and the crucifix on Good Friday.

    One thing to be conscious about is that even if one’s dress/skirt is “appropriate length”, bending, bowing, etc will cause the back to ride up (depending on one’s build and if the dress hasn’t been altered accordingly, the back hemline will already be shorter than the front), to the point of indecent depending on the length. (and I’ve learned the hard way, don’t trust a saleswoman to give you honest feedback about this in the store before you buy it. They lie. Thankfully I was able to return the dress when my mom came to do alterations and informed me of the issue.)

    What I suggest is bowing as you should, but approach at a slight angle so your backside isn’t directly in front of the camera. Mention your concern and see if you can experiment early beforehand to find the most flattering way of doing this.

    Also, be wary of your neckline when bowing. I hate cowl/draped necklines.
  • One doesn’t genuflect to the altar. It isn’t appropriate.

    Not to nit-pick, but that isn't really accurate. In a Mass where the Blessed Sacrament is not reserved, the EF rubrics are that everyone except the celebrant genuflects in crossing the altar as they would if the Blessed Sacrament were reserved, this is known as reverencing the altar. The Celebrant alone does a profound bow.

    Moreover, this is appropriate - in the sacrifice of Calvary, Christ is Victim, Priest, and Altar, all three of which are needed for any sacrifice. There are many things that are done to signify the connection, not least of which is having altar cloths which represent the winding sheets when Christ was buried; the incensation of the altar several times during the Mass, etc..

    I can't comment on the OF rules - I'm not sure what they are. Nor can I comment on the mechanics of anything involving a dress! :)
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    I suppose I was considering that a tabernacle being centered, one could genuflect,
    but I guess you may be right that the bow at this point in the NO is to reverence the altar (especially since many don't have their tabernacle where it belongs).

    There is also a difference between bowing and bending over.
    All of these things may still need prior practice, so that any decision isn't awkward.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,176
    Given the unusual circumstances, perhaps it would just be best to sing the psalm from the lectern. The GIRM allows it to be sung from the ambo or another "suitable place", and certainly the lectern is suitable.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    My psalms are always sung from the loft, but they can be sung from anywhere in the building if necessary. I wouldn't lose sleep over this.
    Thanked by 2CCooze CHGiffen
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    Indeed. Throughout our live-streamed Masses, our music has been sung from the loft.
    (see minute 15:00+ here for the responsorial psalm: )
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 690
    Skirt tip mostly relevant in warmer climates - use not only a skirt that is at least below the knees, but also one that is made of a sturdy and thick fabric, not stretch-gymnastics fabrics, nor very light, thin rayons. Traditional skirts had slips or linings for a reason. :)

    One can also bow with the head and shoulders, without bending at the waist. Or do a schoolgirl curtsey - just tip one foot back, bend the knees a little, and bow the head. A full genuflection can be really difficult for older people, arthritic people, fat people, and women in fitted skirts (like business-suit skirts). :)
  • Catherine,

    I appreciate the idea that skirts should be modest, but may I go a step further than you do, and suggest that above the ankle is better than below the knee?

    I've never heard the curtsy you describe as a "schoolgirl curtsey", but it's apt. I've added to my vocabulary because I read it here. Thank you.
    Thanked by 1CatherineS
  • Tea-length skirts/dresses are ideal, but are difficult to come across. Dresses, I find, are either the right length, but immodest up top, or modest up top, but too short below.

    When it comes to modesty, it really does depend on how a woman is built. There are plenty of things women of a non-busty and non-curvy (and I mean in the correct sense of the term, not merely as a euphemism for being overweight, though one can be both, as I am) can get away with wearing that I could never wear. Dress for your body type, and before buying, bend, move, sit, etc as you would to test how things will fit. Also, don’t underestimate what a good seamstress can do to make something that isn’t quite modest become modest. Finally, ever woman should have a nice collection of cardigans and boleros.
    Thanked by 2CatherineS Carol
  • Carol
    Posts: 854
    Fashionable hemlines are midi this year anyway so shopping for modest skirts will be easier. I saw the Duchess of Cambridge in a beautiful green dress for a visit to Ireland several weeks ago.

    And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming...
  • About this whole bowing thing.....

    How can people claim that there are no substantial differences between the EF and the OF, when one is full of genuflections, and everyone who passes by the altar genuflects, reflexively, while genuflection in the OF is (putting it very politely) uncommon, and proscribed in the rubrics in some places?
  • This is all moot. 'Ministers' of the liturgy should always be wearing the vestments appropriate to their role. This includes cantors and lectors. I suggest that you wear whatever the choir in your parish wears. Failing that, the suggestion of an alb is a good one.

    At Walsingham's live streamed masses the cantor, who sings only the ordinary (Merbecke) and the propers (including the gradual and no RP) is 'off stage', not seen at all; and the lesson and epistle are read from the lectern by the deacon.

    Bowing vs. genuflection? Whenever the Blessed Sacrament is not on the altar one at any time he or she crosses it makes a profound bow (very low and from the waist with hands in the prayer posture) to the altar, which is at once the altar of sacrifice and God's throne. If the Sacrament is on the altar a genuflection is proper.
    Thanked by 3CHGiffen CharlesW Carol
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,164
    Bowing vs. genuflecting vs. pizzicato?
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Carol
  • I'm struggling to see how any dress is appropriate here. No matter how "modest" it is, the design / pattern / colour WILL be distracting. Stick to choral blacks (black tailored trousers, long sleeve black top) and you'll blend in and not have to worry about how you look.
  • Thank you all for your input. We resolved this by simply keeping me at the lectern. It was easiest for all involved, including the cameraman.

    My dress was thick black floor-length cotton with a modest round neckline - about as distraction-less as any clothing gets. I've found eshakti to be a good source for modest dresses, because they allow you to customize measurements, neckline, skirt length, and sleeve length, and it doesn't cost any more than buying something at a department store.

    I'll be grateful when we settle into the new normal and the cantors are back in the choir loft. I am not enjoying the production Mass has of necessity become in the short-term; it's so stressful that I can't in good conscience subject my non-musician cantors to the ordeal (they're already challenged by a normal Mass), so I'm all we've got until the new sound system is fully functional and integrated into the new camera system.

    We're going to come out of this with some pretty good stories though!