Sources Used: THE NEW ROMAN MISSAL by Fr. Lasance Et Al,
Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, 1945; and
Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, 1943



1. Crucifix
2. Reredos [backdrop for the altar and tabernacle]
3. Tabernacle covered by a veil which is either white or od the color of the vestments worn that day, but at Requiem Masses, the veil is purple.
4-9. Large candlesticks for High Mass and Benediction At a high mass, at least six candles are used.
10, 11. Small candlesticks for Low Mass. There are usually two, but sometimes four. However, only two are lighted or used for Mass said by a priest, and four if a Bishop says the Mass.
12-14. Altar Cards. (The larger in the center contains prayers read at the Offertory and Canon. The smaller one on the Epistle side has the prayers which the priest reads when washing his hands. The other smaller one on the Gospel Bide has the Gospel of St. John, usually read at
the end of Mass.) Sometimes these are omitted if the priest has them memorized.
15. Mensa or Altar Table.
16. Altar Table Coverings. (One wax and three linen cloths cover the altar table. The fourth or top one of linen hangs down over the side of the altar to the floor.)
17. Antependium or Frontal. (A cloth which sometimes hangs down in front of the altar. Like the tabernacle veil, it takes the color of the Vestments.)
18. Gospel Side of the Altar.
19. Epistle Side of the Altar.
20. Sanctuary Floor.
21. First Altar Step.
22. Second Altar Step.
23. Predella or Altar Platform.
24. Credence Table. This is the table for the cruets. During a solemn High Mass, the chalice and burse and humeral veil for the subdeacon are also placed upon it when not in use at the altar.
25. Water and Wine Cruets.
26. Finger Basin.
27. Towel (white).
28. Communion Paten.
29. Sedilia or Priests' Bench.
30. Bell.
31. Communion Rail.

The Altar

The form of the Catholic altar has always been a table or a tomb. This double form has perpetuated through the ages the remembrance of the institution of the Eucharist and of the burial of Our Lord. The cloth that covered the table at the last supper, the winding-sheet of the Saviour's embalming, are recalled to our love by the white linens spread upon it. The altar, the Eucharistic table, the mystical tomb, is, above all, the holy mountain where Jesus transfigures and immolates Himself at the same time; raised as it is above the ground, it appears to us always as a Thabor and a Calvary. Happier we than the Apostle, for we can make for ourselves there a perpetual dwelling-place, even in the heart of the Divine Saviour. Church law prescribes an altar of stone for the Holy Sacrifice. If the altar be made of wood or of materials other than stone the Holy Sacrifice must be offered on an altar-stone set therein.


The little rectangle in the front center of the Altar Stone is the sepulcher or tomb, a hollowed part in which are contained the relics of Saints and Martyrs.

The Sacred Stone.---During the Mass the priest often kisses the middle of the altar. In this spot is a stone become, by the consecration of the bishop, a figure of Jesus Christ. Like the Word of God, it has received the sacred unction; like Him, it bears the mark of five wounds (five crosses are cut in the stone), and these are also made by the hammer and iron: like the Lamb of God, of Whom "not one of the bones was broken" (Ex. xii, 46), the sacred stone is entire, cut from a single piece. He who loves Our Lord will understand these kisses so often repeated; the Church wishes to make reparation during the Holy Sacrifice for all the outrages of the Passion---the derisive genuflections of the Jews replaced by the genuflections of the priest; the perfidious kiss of treason, by the respectful kiss of love. In the sacred stone is enclosed a little tomb, sealed by the arms of the bishop; herein with the relics of the Saints are laid three grains of incense. Here again is a reminder of the burial, and the different perfumes which Jesus Christ then received from the piety of His disciples---the aromatic herbs of Joseph of Arimathea, of Magdalen, and the holy women.

The Relics in the Altar.---In his marvelous vision St. John saw "under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God" (Apoc. 6, 9). The Church militant, heir of their
holy relics, has placed them under the altar of sacrifice. This custom, observed from the earliest days of Christianity, teaches us how we should receive Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. Our heart becomes an altar where Our Lord consummates His sacrifice, and upon this living altar He wishes to see the blessed wounds of a martyr. The Saints have tasted in Communion ineffable sweetness; recompense, we may be sure, of the immolation which they made of themselves each day. It is easy for us to experience this; let us prepare ourselves for such a solemn act by the sacrifice of our tastes, of our passions, as the Hebrews ate the paschal lamb with bitter herbs. The Eucharist will then bear in us the most abundant fruit; it will be the grain ot wheat sown in our hearts, to grow there till the resurrection, the day of blossoming and of harvest, the heavenly wine, which maketh virgin those hearts inclined to evil; the Divine fire, which will give to the weak the courage of the lion.

The Tabernacle.---The rich materials which cover the place where the Blessed Sacrament rests, even the name given it, recall the tabernacle of the Old Law, in which the ark of the covenant was kept, one of the prophetic figures of the Sacrament of our altars. Its most ordinary form is that of a tower; this symbol of strength could not be more suitably employed than in sheltering Him Whom St. Augustine so well calls "the bread of the strong."
The Cross.---Above the tabernacle is the Cross. Its presence alone in this place speaks simply and eloquently: "It is here that Jesus Christ renews the sacrifice of Calvary. The Cross raised by deicidal hands remains always laden; love forever fastens to it the Divine Victim. His arms extended call the sinner to return and to pardon; His lips never cease to utter the great prayer of mercy. 'Father, forgive them'; grace flows from His heart in torrents," Christian souls, all these things the Crucifix, by its wounds, says to you each day.

The Candles.---Doubtless they recall to us that the catacombs were the cradle of the Church and her first temple; that the Divine mysteries were there celebrated by the light of torches. This touching reminder of the persecuted Church should not be lost sight of.

But if it were merely as a reminder of the bloody period of the Church's martyrdom that candles were used, why demand wax for the altar-lights? The anxiety of the Church on this point shows us that there is here some mystery. "Wax," says Mgr. de Cony, summing up the teaching of all the liturgists, "is one of the most expressive symbols furnished the Church by nature to express allegorically the holy humanity of Jesus Christ. The earliest Doctors dwell on the virginity of the bees, and the purity of that substance drawn from the nectar of the most exquisite flowers, and compare these things to the conception of the Saviour in the pure womb of Mary. The whiteness of the wax, laboriously obtained, signifies again the glory of Jesus Christ, the result of His sufferings; then the flame, mounting from that column of wax which it consumes, is the Divinity of Jesus Christ, manifesting itself by the sacrifice of His humanity, and illuminating the world," (Cerem. Rom., 50, 1 c, 6.) It is not, then, to lighten the darkness of the sanctuary, let us say with St. Isidore, that the altar candles are lighted, because the sun is shining, but this light is a sign of joy, and it represents Him of Whom the Gospel says: "He is the true light." (Orig. 50, 1 C, 12.)

During the holy mysteries, when thick darkness clouds our souls, let us beg God, the eternal light, to scatter this gloomy night. If at the foot of this new Calvary our heart is indifferent and frozen, let us pray God, Infinite love, to melt it in His fires. There will come a day when this blessed light Will be, for those who have despised it, the fire of justice. O Lord, inspire my heart with such a profound horror of sin that I may escape the flames of Thy vengeance.
The Sanctuary Lamp.---In honor of Jesus Christ a lamp burns perpetually before the altar. The Christian soul longs to remain in constant adoration at the feet of Our Lord, there to be consumed by gratitude and love. In Heaven alone will this happiness be given to us, but here below, as an expression of our devout desires, we place a lamp in the sanctuary to take our place. In this little light St. Augustine shows us an image of the three Christian virtues. Its clearness is faith, which enlightens our mind; its warmth is love, which fills our heart; its flame, which, trembling and agitated, mounts upward till it finds rest in its center, is hope, with its aspirations toward Heaven, and its troubles outside of God. (Serm. 67, de Script.)

May our heart watch in the sanctuary under the eye of God! During the labors of the day nothing is easier than to fly there in thought, to offer to Jesus Christ our pain, our weariness, our actions.

At night let us place ourselves at the feet of Jesus, and say: While I sleep I wish to love Thee and bless Thee always; here would I take my rest. If many Christians were faithful to this pious practice it would not be merely a faint and solitary lamp which would illumine the holy place, but thousands of hearts would shed there their sparkling rays of light.

The Altar Candlesticks.---The heavenly Jerusalem has her sacrifice and also her altar. St. John thus describes it: "The altar of gold had seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst was the Son of man, shining like the snow by the whiteness of His garments, and more brilliant than the sun by reason of the splendor of His face." (Apoc. 1.) It is, then, reminders of Heaven which the Church constantly places before the eyes of her children; how can we help thinking of it when all around us speaks of it: the altar, the candlesticks, the Eucharist?

The Missal.---Upon the altar in Heaven was also a mysterious book, sealed with seven seals, and which no man could open. The lion of the tribe of Juda, Jesus Christ, came, and His triumphant hand broke the seals. The resemblance here is easily traced. The book which contains the prayers of the liturgy is placed upon the altar before the sacrifices, but it remains closed; only the priest, representing Jesus Christ, has the right to open it.
In the West, Latin is the language of the liturgy of the Church. However, certain Greek words, such as Kyrie eleison, and some Hebrew expressions, like alleluia, amen, sabaoth, have been enshrined in this rich casket, that the language of the Christian sacrifice may recall the inscription placed above the Saviour's Cross, which was written, says the evangelist, in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin.

The Chalice and Its Appurtenances


The Chalice: is a cup made of gold or silver, but if of silver, the interior must be gold-plated. It holds the wine for the Holy Sacrifice, and is a striking figure of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Paten: is a plate of gold or silver upon which the large bread for consecration rests until the offertory. If it is of silver, the upper side, at least, must be gold-plated. Of old it was necessarily larger than now, for it held all the breads to be consecrated.
"To seal an alliance the ancients at the end of the banquet caused to be passed from one to another of the guests a cup to which each touched his lips. Our Lord followed this custom at the last supper. The chalice used at the altar is made upon the model of the one from which Jesus Christ drank on the eve of His death. While the chalice receives the blood of Jesus Christ, the paten is reserved for His Divine body. It is a large plate, of gold or silver like the chalice, but always golden in that portion which comes in contact with the holy species. Like the chalice, before it is used in the sacred mysteries it is consecrated by chrism and special prayers said by the bishop. Let us receive from the gold, the holy chrism, and the particular benediction of the prelate given to those vessels upon which the Holy of holies rests but an instant, the lesson which the Church teaches us. In Communion our hearts become living chalices; our tongue is another paten upon which the priest lays Jesus Christ. May Our Lord always find our tongue and heart bright with the gold of charity; let us consecrate this mystical chalice and paten with the unction of Christian sweetness and the perfume of prayer.

The Pall: A square pocket-shaped piece of linen with a cardboard inserted in order to stiffen it. It is placed over the chalice to prevent dust or other matter falling into it.
The Purificator: A linen cloth used for wiping the chalice, and the fingers and mouth of the celebrant after Communion.

It is spread over the cup of the chalice at the beginning and end of Mass.

The Corporal: A square piece of linen. In size and appearance it resembles a small napkin. It is spread out on the altar, and the chalice is placed upon it. During the Mass the Sacred Host rests for a time on the Corporal.

The Burse: is a square container for the Corporal. It is made of the same material and color as the vestments.
The Chalice Veil: is the cloth which covers the chalice until the Offertory, and again after the Communion. It also is made of the same material and color as the vestments. (If one is not present at Sunday Mass before the veil is removed from the chalice, one is obliged to hear another Mass).


The Vestments of the Celebrant

By God's command the Jewish priests wore a distinctive garb when they ministered in the Temple. The Bible tells us they were vested in violet and purple, scarlet twice dyed, and fine linen. Gold and precious stones were also used to give the person of the priest that dignity demanded by his exalted office.

No special dress was at first prescribed for the Christian priesthood. During the early days the garments worn at the Holy Sacrifice were not dissimilar in form to the clothing of civilians. They were distinguished, however, from profane apparel in richness and beauty of decorations; and of course, their use was restricted to Divine worship.
Secular fashion changed, but the Church clung to the old style. Thus it was that garments once common to all, presently became the privileged dress of the clergy. Faith then saw in each particular vestment a symbol relating to the Passion of Our Lord, and a reminder of some Christian duty.
The priest's vestments may be considered now: (a) According to their present use.
(b) According to their historical origin.
c) According to their symbolism.



The amice is a piece of fine linen in the form of an oblong. The priest places it for a moment on his head, and then allows it to rest upon his shoulders. As he does so he prays: "Place, O Lord, on my head the helmet of salvation, that so I may resist the assaults of the devil."

Historical Origin:
A covering for the head and neck worn like a hood. When indoors it was lowered and thrown over the shoulders.

Symbolic Reference:
(a) The linen cloth that the soldiers put over Our Lord's head; when thus blindfolded He was mockingly asked who struck Him.
(b) The helmet of Salvation. Cf. Ephes. vi, 17.


A wide linen robe reaching to the feet and covering the whole body. The word "Alb" is derived from the Latin, alba (vestis understood), or white vestment. The vesting prayer is: "Make me white, O Lord, and cleanse my heart; that being made white in the Blood of the Lamb I may deserve an eternal reward."

Historical Origin:
The alb, or tunic, was worn in ancient times by all who enjoyed any dignity. The lace alb is a 17th century development.

Symbolic Reference:
(a) The garment with which Herod clothed Our Lord.
(b) Signifies the purity of conscience demanded of God's priest.


The cincture, or girdle, is a cord of linen fastened about the waist to confine the alb. The vesting prayer is: "Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, that the virtue of continence and chastity may abide in me."

Historical Origin:
Walking and active exertion made it necessary for one to gird up a long garment like the alb. Hence the cincture was an essential article of dress.

Symbolic Reference:
(a) The cord that bound Our Lord to the pillar when He was being scourged.
(b) Symbolizes modesty, and also readiness for hard work in God's service.

A strip of silken cloth worn on the left arm of the priest. The vesting prayer is: "May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of weeping and sorrow in order that I may joyfully reap the reward of my labors."

Historical Origin:
Originally a strip of linen worn over the arm. During the long services, and in the intense heat of southern countries its use was frequently necessary to wipe the perspiration from the face and brow.

Symbolic Reference:
(a) The rope whereby Our Lord was led, and the chains which bound His sacred hands.
(b) An emblem of the tears of penance, the fatigue of the priestly penance and its joyful reward in Heaven.

A long band of silk of the same width as the maniple, but three times its length. It is worn around the neck and crossed on the breast. The vesting prayer is: "Restore to me, O Lord, the state of immortality which I lost through the sin of my first parents and, although unworthy to approach Thy Sacred Mysteries, may I deserve nevertheless eternal joy."
Historical Origin:
A kind of neck-piece or kerchief; a part of the dress of the upper classes. It gradually became the distinctive mark of spiritual authority in the higher clerics, viz., the priest and deacon.
Symbolic Reference:
(a) The cords with which Jesus was tied. Worn as it is over the shoulders, it reminds us, too, of the Cross Our Lord carried.
(b) A reminder of the Yoke of Christ. The priest's burden is a heavy one, which Christ nevertheless makes sweet and light.


The chasuble is the outer and chief vestment of the priest. It Is essentially the Mass vestment and is now exclusively reserved to the priest. The vestment is familiar to all by reason of the Cross usually embroidered on it. The word "chasuble" is derived from the Latin, casula, a little house. The ancient vestment completely enveloped the priest, and was somewhat like a tent. The vesting prayer is: "O Lord, Who hast said, 'My yoke is sweet and My burden light,' grant that I may so carry it as to merit Thy grace."

Historical Origin:
Imagine a large circular cloth with a hole cut in the center for the head. This will help one to visualize the ancient chasuble, which was an immense cloak, without opening in front, and without sleeves. It was put on over the head and completely enveloped the body. When it was necessary to use the hands, the garment had to be folded up on each side over the arms. Because of its inconvenience (for two assistants were needed to manipulate it), the vestment was gradually cut and altered until it now has its present shape.

Symbolic Reference:
(a) The purple cloak worn by Our Lord when He stood before Pilate.
(b) An emblem of love. When the ordaining bishop gives it to the new priest, he says: "Receive the priestly garment, for the Lord is powerful to increase in you love and perfection."


Vestments of the Deacon and Subdeacon and Their Office

The Deacon: This word means servitor. One of the principle duties of this sacred minister is to assist the priest during Solemn High Mass and other solemn ceremonies. He is always at his side, and, by the place of honor which he occupies, he reminds us of the Beloved Disciple leaning on the Heart of Jesus during the Last Supper, and standing under the Cross of Calvary.

The deacon chants the Gospel, and dismisses the people at the end of Mass by intoning: "Ite, Missa est."

His vestments are the amice, alb, cincture, stole, and dalmatic; except the latter, all have already been explained.

The Dalmatic: This vestment was originally worn at Dalmatia, whence it was brought to Rome. It is a long and ample garment, with very large but short sleeves, descending only to the elbow. From the second century among the Romans it was the vestment of the emperors: the Church adopted it for the Sovereign Pontiff and the bishops. The deacons received it from Pope Sylvester, but the privilege of wearing it was confined to the deacons of the Church at Rome, and for them only granted on festival days as a sign of joy; consequently, it was laid aside during Advent, Lent, and fast days, periods of sadness and mourning in the Church.
The dalmatic is of the same color as the chasuble of the priest.

The deacon does not wear the stole in the same manner as the priest; he places it on the left shoulder, and brings the extremities under the right arm.

The Subdeacon: This minister is charged with the preparation of the sacred vessels, the bread and wine of the sacrifice, giving the water to the celebrant when he washes his hands, and reading the Epistle. His vestments are the amice, alb, girdle, maniple, and tunic. The tunic was formerly distinguished from the dalmatic by its form and material; now it is in all respects like it. The Subdeacon does not wear the stole.

From the "Offertory" until the "Pater Noster" at Solemn Mass he wears the humeral veil like a shawl over his shoulders, in the folds of which he holds the paten. This veil is an oblong piece of silk of the color of the vestments of the day. It has strings to tie it in front.