Project Description

Beginning this weekend, we’ll make a change in how we purify the vessels at the end of Communion.  It’s a relatively minor change, but since it’s something very visible, I want to make sure you’re aware of what we’re doing and why.

“Purification” is what the priest or deacon does with the vessels used to distribute the Body and Blood of Christ.  Because small fragments of the Body of Christ or drops of the Precious Blood might remain in the vessels, it’s important that they be consumed before those vessels are washed.  This is done out of respect for the Eucharist, so that none of it goes down the drain.  Once the vessels are purified, they’re taken back to the sacristy, where our EMHC’s wash them and put them away.  (Thank you, EMHC’s!  We appreciate you doing that job!)

We’ve traditionally purified the vessels at the credence table right after Communion is done.  (The credence table is the small table off to the side of the sanctuary near the altar servers, and we use this table to store items that are being used for the Liturgy of the Eucharist at Mass.)  However, there were many comments in the parish survey that indicated that the way we purify the vessels is a big pet peeve shared by an awful lot of our parishioners!  The feedback that we got was that people felt like the process took a long time and that, because it dragged so much, it has created an awkward “dead space” in the Mass.  (By no means does this mean that we don’t want prayerful silence after Communion, but I completely understand their comments about an unexplained dead space versus an intentional prayerful silence.)

After much discussion within the Pastoral Team, we’ve decided that, beginning this weekend, we’ll start purifying the vessels from the altar instead of the credence table.  First of all, this should speed up the process by allowing the MC’s and altar servers to get a little more involved in taking the vessels after they’ve been purified.  Secondly, it should make this part of the Mass seem less disjointed.  Instead of the liturgical action taking place off to the side where no one can see it, it will take place on the altar.  Hopefully this will create a clearer distinction between this action and the intentional silence that we wish to have after we’ve received the Body of Christ so that we can pray in thanksgiving for the Eucharist.

I hope that (especially if you’re one of those folks who shared this particular pet peeve) this change will help this part of the Mass flow more smoothly.  After parishioners have received the Body of Christ, the last thing we want to do is distract (or even annoy) them, so I hope this change will make it easier for us to keep the focus where it belongs in that important moment of the Mass:  gratitude for the gift of the Eucharist freely given to us by the Lord, so that we might share in His eternal life.