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.
Q: I have a question with regards to the offertory of the gifts. I have been in a parish in Spain where the prayer over both gifts are merged together and said as one by the priest, while I have also seen another in which the deacons have to wait for the priest to pronounce the prayers over the host before he prepares the wine and the water. Can the deacon prepare both gifts before the priest says the prayer? Is it right for both prayers to be merged into one? Can the deacon recite the inaudible prayers of the rubrics that comes with mixing the water and the wine? — V.N., Vitoria, Spain
A: I have noticed this practice of uniting the prayers over the gifts as something particular to Spain. Not that it is everywhere, indeed most priests follow the missal faithfully, but I have seen it several times on visits to Spain over the years and in different regions and have not noticed it in other countries that I have visited.
As far as I am aware there is no special permission to do so, and the Spanish bishops’ conference translation of the missal makes no mention of such a practice.
It must be pointed out, however, that the Roman rite is somewhat unusual in presenting the gifts of bread and wine separately. Most other Catholic rites have prayers over both gifts. However, they also tend to have other moments in which the gifts are prepared, often with elaborate ceremonies, before the Mass proper has begun. Indeed, according to some experts, the moment of the preparation of the gifts is one of the factors that constitute the shape or structure of the world’s major Eucharistic rites.
Given this importance to the structure of the Mass itself, priests should not follow what might seem to be, in their opinion, more practical or pragmatic solutions.
Since our reader specifically asks about the deacon’s role, we can see this in part of the Mass is described in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal regarding Mass with a Deacon:
“178. After the Prayer of the Faithful, while the priest remains at the chair, the deacon prepares the altar, assisted by the acolyte, but it is the deacon’s place to take care of the sacred vessels himself. He also assists the priest in receiving the people’s gifts. Next, he hands the priest the paten with the bread to be consecrated, pours wine and a little water into the chalice, saying quietly: Per huius aquae (By the mystery of this water), and after this presents the chalice to the priest. He may also carry out the preparation of the chalice at the credence table. If incense is used, the deacon assists the priest during the incensation of the gifts, the cross, and the altar; afterward, the deacon himself or the acolyte incenses the priest and the people.”
I believe that the above passage clarifies our reader’s queries. The deacon is not required to wait until the priest finishes presenting the paten, and he can, and indeed should, recite the corresponding silent prayers.
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