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Lenten Prayer Over the People

Date: March 19, 2022
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.

Question: Is this the correct order (as the rubrics don’t seem to specify) for the concluding rite at Mass?

─ “The Lord be with you” ...

─ Prayer over the Faithful (during Lent)

─ “Bow down for the blessing” (said by a deacon or the principal celebrant or concelebrant)

─ Solemn blessing (if applicable)

─ “May almighty God bless you ….”

─ “The Mass is ended ….” (can this be said or sung by a concelebrant, according to the norm that concelebrants take the place of a deacon if there is none?) -- A.K., South Bend, Indiana

Answer: There are several elements involved regarding the form of the concluding rites and who does them. With respect to the Solemn Blessing and with respect to the optional Prayer over the Faithful found after the solemn blessings, the rite is indicated in the rubrics of the missal:

“The Deacon or, in his absence, the Priest himself, says the invitation: Bow down for the blessing. Then the Priest, with hands outstretched over the people, says the prayer, with all responding: Amen.”

The “Prayer over the People” with a specific prayer for each day during Lent is a liturgical element that was restored to the Roman rite from the earlier liturgical books after a 30-year absence. This prayer is optional on weekdays and required on Sundays.

As mentioned above, the missal also offers some prayers over the faithful which may be used at the end of Mass and on other occasions such as at the conclusion of a Liturgy of the Word or the Divine Office. 

There are some stylistic differences between the Prayer over the People and the solemn blessing. An example of the former, currently used for Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent, yet already present in the seventh- and eighth-century Gelasian and Veronese Sacramentary manuscripts, should suffice to illustrate this difference:

“Be gracious to your people, Lord, we pray,

that, as from day to day they reject what does not please you,

they may be filled instead with delight at your commands.

Through Christ our Lord.”

Note that this is a prayer addressed directly to God for the faithful.

The style of a solemn blessing is distinct -- addressed directly to the faithful imploring God’s blessing upon them. Let us take as an example the solemn blessing for the Passion of the Lord. As mentioned above, after the greeting, “The Lord be with you,” the deacon or priest says, “Bow down for the blessing.” “Then the Priest, with hands extended over the people, says the blessing, with all responding: Amen”:

“May God, the Father of mercies, who has given you an example of love in the Passion of his Only Begotten Son, grant that, by serving God and your neighbor, you may lay hold of the wondrous gift of his blessing. R. Amen.

“So that you may receive the reward of everlasting life from him, through whose earthly Death you believe that you escape eternal death. R. Amen.

“And by following the example of his self-abasement, may you possess a share in his Resurrection. R. Amen.

“And may the blessing of almighty God ….” “The Mass is ended .…”

And may the parts assigned to the deacon be said or sung by a concelebrant?

The general rule would indicate a positive response. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), No. 208, says:

“If a deacon is not present, his proper duties are to be carried out by some of the concelebrants. In the absence also of other ministers, their proper parts may be entrusted to other suitable members of the faithful; otherwise, they are carried out by some of the concelebrants.”

However, with respect to the concluding rites after communion the GIRM says:

“250. Everything else is done by the principal celebrant in the usual way until the end of Mass (cf. nos. 166-168), while the other concelebrants remain at their seats.”

Therefore, I think that the missal seems inclined to avoid undue movement of concelebrants at the end of Mass, and these would not usually be located next to the principal celebrant.

Because of this, I believe that, in the absence of a deacon, the preference would be for the principal celebrant to do all the concluding rites.

At the same time, I do not think that a concelebrant would be forbidden from taking the role of the deacon at this moment if suitably located or for some other good reason -- for example, if he were the most capable of singing the solemn dismissal.

Therefore, the rite involved is:

─ “The Lord be with you” …

─ “Bow down for the blessing” (said by a deacon, the principal celebrant or, for a good reason, a concelebrant)

─ Solemn blessing or Prayer over the Faithful

─ “May almighty God bless you ….”

─ “The Mass is ended ….” (said by a deacon, the principal celebrant or, for a good reason, a concelebrant).

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Readers may send questions to zenit.liturgy@gmail.com. Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city, and your state, province, or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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