EF low Mass - Sitting during Epistle?
  • -b
    Posts: 46
    I have it from an FSSP priest that it is quite correct for the congregation at an EF low Mass to sit during the Epistle reading, as we do at the high Mass. Now living in a different state and attending the EF Mass as I did earlier, I seem to be the only one who's heard this instruction. Everyone kneels during the reading of the Epistle. Someone told me they were instructed to follow what the altar boys are doing, who, of course, are kneeling during the Epistle.
  • You follow the altar boys who are sitting in choir, not the ones actually serving. Even then, it’s not absolute. I have never heard of kneeling during the epistle.
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • -b,

    Postures of the laity within the EF are dictated by custom, not rubrics. That's why your FSSP priest didn't say, "The Congregation Shall Sit for the Epistle", bu "it is quite correct for the congregation.... to sit"
    Thanked by 3tomjaw CCooze Jahaza
  • stulte
    Posts: 252
    Other than standing for the Gospel, there really aren't any "rubrics" per se for the laity at Mass.
  • -b
    Posts: 46
    Thanks, all, for your responses. For a high Mass I'm singing in the choir loft where we have always been seated during the Epistle. Now I'm in a parish where the high Mass alternates with low Mass on Sundays and I'm down in the pew for the low Mass. A few times now at the low Mass I have sat for the Epistle (and Gradual and Alleluia), but naturally it's awkward when everyone else is kneeling. One comment above mentions "custom", in which case, it looks like I should kneel if everyone else is kneeling. As I somewhat doubt that that posture is an informed one, I suppose the next step for me would be to speak with the pastor about this. Particularly with a long Epistle, it seems wrong to be kneeling, as if in prayer, instead of sitting and listening attentively.
    Has anyone encountered/challenged this posture in practice?
    Signed: -b, the reluctant lemming
  • TCJ
    Posts: 638
    Where I used to work, everyone would kneel during the Epistle at the low Mass, but would sit when it was read in English.
  • At low Mass, the rubrics do not assume that anyone is present other than the celebrant and server. Where I am, people only sit during low Mass for the sermon and the offertory.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,528
    @-b I sit and stand at low Mass when I think it is appropriate, sometime I will kneel for most of the Mass.
    In Switzerland they kneel during the Offertory, I sit down. If they stand for the Pater Noster, I will usually be kneeling. Customs are not binding! and they are different depending on where you are.
    I quite understand that some people feel the need to conform, but for me I am quite happy to tell anyone who complains about posture in Mass that a) it is none of their business, and b) The rubrics are silent on the posture of those not in choir.
    Thanked by 2WGS Elmar
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,484
    The rubrics of the Tridentine missal give no directions to the congregation AFAIK.[NB corrected below] They rubrics do mention circumstantes and communicandi, but only to direct the priest and ministers. Thus vox clara means audible to those standing around, vox secreta means they cannot hear, and Ecce Agnus Dei ... is spoken to the communicants.
  • WGS
    Posts: 227
    It pleases me to be charitable and considerate if I choose to be seated at an E.F. Mass when the worshippers behind me are kneeling. Still, one should be especially aware of the children kneeling in the pew behind you.

    And at the elevation, when the celebrant makes the Body of Christ or the chalice of His Blood visible (above the rood screen if you have one) for all to worship, some worshippers in humility keep their eyes lowered.

    Similarly, when the celebrant shows the host to the congregation with the words Ecce Agnus Dei , for some it is such an august invitation that they instead avert their eyes.

    "Different strokes for different folks"

    N.b. There are no rubrics for the PiPs at the E.F. Mass
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Elmar
  • -b
    Posts: 46
    Thanks for these new comments on the subject of rubrics, or lack thereof, for the PiPs at the EF low Mass. I wonder that the habit of kneeling during the Epistle is so universal, and wonder what it would take to pronounce widely that sitting during the Epistle is quite appropriate. After all, we do this at the high Mass! I suspect that if I brought it up to the pastor of our parish he would feel unqualified to direct the people to sit instead of kneel. But maybe I'll approach him, and post the results here.
  • and wonder what it would take to pronounce widely that sitting during the Epistle is quite appropriate.


    There's nothing wrong with the posture of kneeling, so why does anyone need to advise the PIP's that sitting is (also) appropriate? Remember that there's no rubric which requires either posture.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,738
    A very close friend of mine advises that the ICK in Milwaukee is considering implementing "rules" for laity during Low Masses. Supposedly originated from a British document on the topic.

    Don't know if anyone really cares.
  • -b
    Posts: 46
    I'd like to see what 'rules' they issue. Might be better than having no guidelines because laity were not expected to be at the low Mass. When the low Mass is given in a parish on a Sunday, it's a different event from the original intention for this form. Local custom is all there is to go by. I think the prevalence of the low Mass on Sundays in parishes is what led to the woeful extremes that we got after Vatican II.
    Thanked by 3CharlesW CHGiffen Elmar
  • For the sake of some clarity, may I suggest that we consider what Low Mass is called in instructions? It's called Missa Privata. There's much to unpack here, but privata can be translated as "private", meaning without a congregation, or "deprived", in the sense of something missing. Private Masses, of course, had no music because no one but the priest and the altar boy was there. Deprived Masses had what was necessary for validity, but was lacking something which is necessary to convey in 4 dimensions the reality of the Mass -- namely, music.

    A Low Mass (i.e., one without a congregation of lay faithful) can't, obviously, instruct the faithful to stand or sit.... because when a tree falls in a forest......

    A Low Mass (i.e., one in which there is no singing) doesn't concern itself with what the lay faithful must do at x or y time because it gives instructions on how the Sacrifice of the Mass is to be conducted, not what postures or procedures must be followed, because, well, it would be wrong to assert an identical kind and level of external participation from a congregation of even a few, since they're not all at the same ability level to participated at Mass. (I'm indebted to Pius XII for this insight.)

    A priest saying Mass among a gaggle of Lutherans is the only earthly participant in the Mass, because non-Christians can't, properly, participate in the Mass, even though they can observe and make hand motions and body postures. [The whole court of heaven is there, so he's not alone.]
    Thanked by 1tomjaw

  • It has always been my understanding that the people sit during the Epistle as Ecclesia docta

    if we kneel during the Epistle, and stand during the Gospel,
    does it show a greater reverence for the Epistles (through which we are learning from the Apostles) than for the Gospels (in which we hear the words of the Savior Himself) ?
  • does it show a greater reverence for the Epistles... than for the Gospels


    No. Kneeling is a penitential act. Standing (in this case) is a sign of reverence - a way of acknowledging that we are hearing the words of Christ with attentiveness. If kneeling indicates greater reverence, we could make a similar argument for the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar compared to hearing the instructions of Christ.

    CGZ, I'm not sure that I agree with your distinctions. Missa Privata describes something else about the Mass - usually Low but not always. A private Low Mass may be celebrated by a priest alone; with a server (or 2); even with some people present in the pews.
    First, the term "private Mass" does not refer to Mass with neither a server nor a congregation, but rather to an unscheduled Mass, regardless of the number of faithful present and regardless of the degree of solemnity (a High Mass can still be a private Mass)...
    (http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2009/08/on-private-masses.html#.XY7NJ0bYqUk)

    Missa Lecta is (I believe) the standard term for the Low Mass, properly speaking. In the EF, the rubrics almost never define what the people do - whether a Missa Cantata or Missa Lecta. Typically, the assumption is that the people will more or less do what is defined for the liturgical choir, although there are obvious customs that are different.
    Thanked by 2Schönbergian Elmar
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,484
    The EF is supposed to follow the 1962 missal, and the rubrics there have been changed, the term Missa Privata has no current application.
    The traditional rubrics use Missa Privata to mean 'without Deacon and Subdeacon', as CGZ says.
    The 1962 rubrics use the term, in quotes, solely to deprecate saying Mass without a congregation (rubric 269).
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,528
    @a_f_hawkins There is no 1962 Missale Romanum... Changes happened regularly through the year including December.
    The only true 1962 Missale is the one produced by the FSSP a few years ago. We spent a long time sorting out the text to produce a copy that would incorporate all the changes until the end of 1962. But this is in no way a 'typical' edition...
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,484
    I was quoting from the version at http://media.musicasacra.com/pdf/missale62.pdf , whether that is what it claims to be, I do not know.
  • Unless he's in motion, the server kneels throughout Low Mass except during the Gospel, when he stands. He kneels for the Epistle and even the Creed if it's said. In many countries, it is customary for the faithful to kneel for the Offertory, but not in the Anglosphere. There is something to be said for the congregation imitating the postures of the server, but I don't think it would be desirable for the people to kneel throughout the Creed. If local custom is to kneel from the beginning of Low Mass until the Gospel, I say leave it alone.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 143
    I think this document is a very interesting on the subject of what to recommend as postures at the traditional Mass (this seems to be the latest version):

    Understanding when to kneel, sit, and stand by Richard Friend

    (mentioned earlier here)
    Full of references to Fortescue, O'Connel, Reid and others.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,484
    Three days ago I wrote -
    The rubrics of the Tridentine missal give no directions to the congregation AFAIK.
    I now know better : Rubricae generales missalis XVII#2 (in the 1862 and 1920 editions, but not 1574 or 1962) suggests that at Missa Privata they kneel throughout except for the Gospel -
    Circumstantes autem in Missis privatis semper genua flectunt, etiam Tempore Paschali, præterquam dum legitur Evangelium.
    [EDIT]I have now found a half sentence in the 1574 indicating the same (buried in a section about posture at Solemn Mass)
  • Elmar
    Posts: 143
    Does anyone know why (Richard Friend does mention the fact eo ipso) this has been removed from the rubrics after 1920? I would guess that this has to do with re-discovering the (somewhat neglected) role of the congregation in the Mass by the liturgical movement.
  • Hawkins,

    The very fact that it's a suggestion indicates that there is no required posture, surely?
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,484
    Having parroted what I have always been told and found that it is untrue, I am reluctant to venture a further opinion.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 143
    The very fact that it's a suggestion indicates that there is no required posture, surely?
    Which doesn't mean on the other hand that suggestions should be discarded on the ground that they aren't requirements. So the question remains.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,484
    I can offer a fact, back in the 1950s at Sunday Low Mass with sermon, I would stand, except at the Consecration, and the genuflection in the Creed. Rather wearing, but there were not enough pews and most men and teenage boys would stand.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 735
    I can't remember having ever knelt for the epistle or encountering a visitor at our Mass having done so.

    As I recently mentioned to a friend, however: at least at the TLM we always know what to expect of the Mass, it is only the minute local customs that differ.

    I tend to kneel through the Pater Noster, even at the Missa Cantata - during which, I also prefer to not join in until, "sed libera nos a malo."

    I don't know if anyone would ever feel the need to come and tell me to do otherwise.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • RPBurke
    Posts: 23
    In Boston in the 1950s and ‘60s, we knelt for the entire low Mass except for the two gospels and the offertory. Back when communion ran while Mass was going on in the background (which is how it appeared from the pews), there was no sitting except the collection; when that changed we did sit for the ablutions after communion.
    Thanked by 1Incardination