Items on the altar

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: I read your response to the statue on the altar (and agree).  Exactly what is permitted and/or required on the Altar?  Also, I believe there should be an even number of the candles on or around the Altar (except when a bishop is celebrating the Mass and an extra one is permitted).  At one point. for some time, there were three candles on our Altar.  Any justification for this?


A: I treat items on the altar in my book Let Us Pray at paragraphs 71 and 419:

“Apart from its cloth, nothing else is to be on the altar except possibly the candles, the cross, or the Book of the Gospels (GIRM 117, 306).”

“Ministers set the corporal, purificator, chalice, pall, and Missal on the altar (OM 21; GIRM 139). Prior to this time the altar should be clear of these items (GIRM 306).”

Regarding candles, I say this in paragraph 119: “At least two candles should be lit, but four or six may also be used, especially for Sundays and holydays. Seven candles are lit when the diocesan bishop presides (GIRM 117; CB 128).” I argue in the same paragraph that three or five candles may be acceptable if they are harmoniously arranged, but the documents are silent about that.