Q: Our deacon is training a couple of guys to lead communion services. He has told them that they are not allowed to sit in the priest’s chair nor the deacon’s chair when they are “presiding”. Your thoughts?
Is there a new format for leading a communion service?
A: They may and they should use the presider’s chair.
The confusion exists because the ritual book for Sundays without a Priest asks the presider of the service not to use the presider’s chair because the community has no priest. The directive appears only in the United States, and in no other liturgical book.
When a communion service takes place in a parish where there is a priest, but he is away for some reason, the presider uses the presider’s chair. If there is no priest and the parish is being run by a deacon or layperson, that person is supposed to leave the presider’s chair empty on Sunday after Sunday, reminding the people that they are awaiting a priest some day.
Regarding the format, it’s found in the book Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass.
Q: It is always a pleasure to read your blogs when they arrive in my inbox.
I wanted to reply to the one about lay leaders not using the Presidential chair during Sunday Celebration of the Word / Hours ( in the absence of a priest) to let you know what should be the general practice in Australia.
Our National Liturgical Commission published national resources in 2004 for Sunday Celebration of the Word/Hours (3 books). In the volume SundayCelebration of the Word, Sunday Celebration of the Hours, the Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of A Priest reads as follows:
Art. 40: (The lay leader) does not use the presidential chair, but another chair prepared outside the sanctuary in art. (GILH#258; DOL 426, no. 3688) Although that instruction appears in the GI for the Liturgy of the hours, the Directory seems to imply that this is standard for all lay led liturgical worship.
The Directive for the Dioceses of Australia has the following instruction:
Art. 58 A lay leader of prayer leads the assembly “as one among equals” and is always a member of the assembly.
The leader of prayer models the action of the assembly. The leader should be clearly seen and heard at all times, whether addressing the assembly or inviting them to pray, when she or he is listening to the Word of God, singing, or praying in silence.
The lay leader of prayer does not use the presidential chair; this remains empty as a visible sing of the absence of the community’s ordained minister. Placing a second chair in the sanctuary is preferable to having the leader seated in the front seats or pews. It is inappropriate to lead the prayer from the altar.
The Sunday directive on not using the presider’s chair is extended to weekday celebrations of the Word with Communion. The lay leader sits in the front pew when the readings are proclaimed or other parts of the ritual are done by others.
Many of our churches where lay led liturgies are celebrated are typically country churches that are smaller and therefore the front pews are quite close to the sanctuary.
The second volume of the set of resources for Sunday celebrations that was published by the Australian Bishops was entitled Lay Leaders of Liturgy with Sample rites for Sundays, Weekdays and Funerals. The only sample Liturgy of the Word and Communion is set out as a Sunday liturgy while the only Weekday samples are Liturgy of the Hours (Morning or Evening Prayer). In the rubrics for weekday Lit Hours, it says “the presider’s chair remains empty as this is the place for the priest at the eucharist. The lay leader of liturgy may sit in the front row.”
Now we know that most places would celebrate a Liturgy of the Word with Communion rather than Liturgy of the Hours, but I would maintain that the directive just quoted would hold for those as well. In addition, if some parishes do celebrate a lay-led liturgy on certain Sundays, it makes sense to be consistent to leave the presider’s chair vacant during the weekday lay-led celebrations as well.
A: Thank you for all this research and for enriching the information on my blog. Our resources in the United States do not offer this detail. The General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, which applies to the universal church, does indeed state that a lay person leading one of the offices does not use the presider’s chair (258).