Q: Please clarify why a concelebrating priest kisses/reverences the altar as part of the processional but not before recessing?
Thanks for your wonderful educational and pastoral ministry.
A: Well, the GIRM doesn’t explain why. It just says that concelebrants kiss the altar coming in (211) and don’t on their way out (251). It’s been that way since the first version of the GIRM in 1975.
I can give you two theories. One is that it’s a little cumbersome to get all the concelebrants to reverence the altar on the way out, so this makes some practical sense. The other is that the recession is less formal than the procession. For example, incense and the book of the gospels may be carried in the procession, but they are not carried out. The only exceptions for incense are at the Chrism Mass and the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, where it accompanies the consecrated chrism and the consecrated eucharist respectively. So I think it’s more a question of deemphasis at that point. What’s important about leaving the sanctuary is gong out into the world.