“In all ceremonies
strict precedence is observed.”  Proximity is a
sub-principle, or a necessary conclusion, of the principle of precedence.
And though it is not explicitly named in the rubric books, it cannot be
denied that its various rules exist.
WHEN WITH A SUPERIOR
is meant by a superior is usually the celebrant,
though this can also imply any of the sacred ministers.
WHEN THE SUPERIOR IS WEARING
ministers walk in front of and, depending on the circumstances, to the
left of superiors. The place of dignity in a liturgical procession is
at the end.
Inferior ministers stand or kneel
slightly behind a superior. Inferior ministers also
kneel one level below that of the celebrant or the sacred ministers. However, there are times
when both sacred and inferior
ministers kneel on the same level (e.g., during Benediction).
WHEN THE SACRED MINISTER IS
WEARING ONLY A SURPLICE AND STOLE
ministers walk behind the superior in surplice
and stole. The order of dignity is reversed for a non-liturgical
CONFLICT OF SPACE OCCURS
If two or more servers (e.g.,
the acolytes with the
crossbearer) come to a point
where only one or two may proceed through, the highest ranking
server(s) always goes first (i.e., Ac1 at Low Mass or the crossbearer
at High Mass, then Ac1).
WAY FOR A SUPERIOR
At certain times, an inferior
minister will be required to step back one step to allow someone of
higher rank (either a sacred or inferior
minister) to pass.
falls under the rules of proximity.
When Turning By Yourself
Always turn in the direction of the nearest object (e.g., the
altar) or personage that
holds the greater dignity (e.g., the celebrant versus the deacon).
In cases of conflict or of choice, turn to the right.
When With Another Person
When with another server or sacred minister,
always turn towards him. This is called an inward turn.
On Inward Turning
If proceeding to another part of
with another server, upon turning, the inside server must always allow
enough time for the outside server to keep up with the movement. Each
turn should be performed gracefully and simultaneously to show unity of
Under The Conditions Of in coram Sanctissimo
When the Blessed Sacrament is exposed do not completely
turn your back when descending from the predella.
These times occur:
the presentation of the cruets at the Offertory.
ministering the Lavabo.
after the Consecration action when the servers go
in plano to the center of the foot
- After ministering
changing the missal and the
In these cases, the servers turn slightly toward each other
and descend from the predella almost facing each
other (almost side-stepping). If the servers are to return to the
credence, upon reaching in
plano, the servers then turn inwards completely and perform
their duties as usual.
THE READING OF THE GOSPEL
During the reading of the
Gospel, all should be facing towards the book out
of respect for the Word of God. Extraneous actions should
not be performed during either the Gospel or the Last
Gospel. To do so shows a lack of
reverence for God’s Holy Word.
 L. O’Connell, pg. 29.
 E.g., during Psalm 42, the server should be about one foot away from the foot; this not only satisfies the rule of precedence, but it also gives the celebrant more room when he turns around upon descending from the predella.
 If one is serving at an altar that has just one step, i.e., the predella, the server should kneel in plano and not on the predella, except during the Consecration action, and when receiving Communion (i.e., when he normally would be on the predella).
 Following this rule of proximity, the Missale Romanum gives the direction for the celebrant during a Solemn High Mass to turn and bow toward the tabernacle (or altar cross) instead of toward the Gospel book.
 There is one exception to this rule: During a High, Solemn or Pontifical Mass, the servers line up for the Recessional after signing themselves. The reason for this is historical; at one time the text of the Last Gospel was said by the bishop or priest to himself while returning to the sacristy
as a private devotion. Later this was made an official part of the Mass
due to the influence of the Franciscans. During Low Mass, however, one
should wait until the end of the Last Gospel before retrieving the biretta or prayer card from the credence and/or the sedilia.
2007. Louis J. Tofari. All rights reserved.