Interrupting the order here to answer questions I’d received from earlier in the “How Anglicans Worship” series.
Let me begin by observing that there are six general types of processions: Entrance, Gospel, Offertory, Exit, Holy Day, and Special Occasion. Order in processions ought be pretty straightforward. Older manuals used to prescribe slightly different orders for different types of processions, but in practice, as those older rules tended to be easily forgotten, it’s better to stick with one invariable order, and to make that invariable order the one most often seen, the Entrance. The following assumes that there is no Asperges or other rite preceding the Mass.
It has become commonplace in those places that have been infected by the liturgical sloppiness of the 1960s and since, to begin every celebration of the Divine Liturgy with a lengthy Entrance procession of choir and ministers and clergy. This is neither necessary nor traditional, and frankly, not even desirable. To begin with, an entrance procession really should not include a choir. We are not speaking here of “clergy in choir,” but of the choir of singers. The vocalists, like other musicians, whether vested or not, should be encouraged to take their places informally and quietly before the liturgy begins, and if possible before any instrumental prelude, even if the choir are seated in stalls in quire. As each person takes his or her seat, it is appropriate to kneel and pray in silence for a few moments or minutes, using the same pre-service prayers as other laity in the congregation. All should be in place before the end of the prelude, if there is one.
Incense is put on without ceremony by the thurifer, and then acolytes and clergy enter up the center where possible, in the following order:
(candle) (crucifer) (candle)
torchbearers (in pairs)
Clergy in choir
If there is a boat bearer, he should be at the thurifer’s left, unless the thurifer is given to elaborate swings, in which case, for safety’s sake, the boat can be borne after the cross. It may be most convenient for the boat simply to be waiting on the credence.
If there is no crucifer, the candlebearers follow the thurifer side by side. If there are no candlebearers, two of the torchbearers may take their place. If there are three readings, a licensed and trained lay lector may vest in cassock and cotta and process after the torches and before the Master of Ceremonies. Any clergy in choir, that is, clergy who are not administering communion but are present, vest in choir habit (one would think that obvious) of cassock, surplice, hood, tippet, (and biretta,) and follow the MC but precede the Sacred Ministers. Any assisting clergy, such as may be assisting with communion would follow the clergy in choir and precede the subdeacon. (They may instead simply enter by a convenient short way at the communion time and withdraw the same way afterwards.)
There are some Anglican bodies that have restored the subdiaconate, and those subdeacons should vest in amice, alb, cincture, maniple, (and tunicle if possible, and biretta.) It has long been customary in Anglican circles to consider parish clerks or licensed lay-readers as “lay subdeacons,” and they may vest in amice, alb, cincture, (and tunicle if possible, and bladeless biretta.) Either subdeacon or lay subdeacon will precede the deacon.
The deacon, vested in amice, alb, cincture, maniple, stole, (biretta), and dalmatic if possible, immediately precedes the celebrant. Despite trendy modern practices, it is best not to include a gospel book in the procession, but to have it waiting at the credence or a shelf below it. It is never appropriate to include a lectionary or Bible in an entrance.
The celebrant, vested in amice, alb, cincture, maniple, stole, (biretta), and cope or chasuble is at the end of the procession, unless there is a bishop present, in which case the bishop will be at the end, but ceremonies with bishops are beyond the scope of this article, so it is best to consult one of the usual sources. Even a lesser prelate who is not the celebrant will not follow the celebrant in the bishop’s position, but instead enter with the clergy in choir or assisting clergy, as described above.
If there are not sufficient clergy to administer the sacrament, it may be necessary to have one or two laymen licensed as extraordinary eucharistic ministers. If these absolutely must be used, they should vest in amice, alb, and cincture (or better, cassock and cotta,) follow the lector and precede the MC.
Arriving at the steps to the choir (or gate in the altar rail), the cross and candlebearers pivot to their right so they are facing south and the rest of the ministers and altar party enter the sanctuary, lining up facing the altar, leaving room in the center for the sacred ministers. SD and D separate to north and south respectively, and assist the celebrant in entering (which may include grasping cope and drawing him in.) After the sacred ministers arrive, they remove birettas and pass them to the right to the MC as the crucifer and candlebearers pivot back to their left and enter to stand behind the celebrant in the center, then all except crucifer and candlebearers make the appropriate reverence together at the same time: genuflecting if the Blessed Sacrament is present, bowing otherwise. Then all go to their places, except the sacred ministers and MC.
If they have not already been said in the sacristy, the preparation prayers are said, culminating in the Collect for Purity, then the sacred ministers ascend the altar for the censing.
Note: All the preceding references to thurifer and boat assume that incense is used at every Eucharist. If the custom of the place is to employ incense only occasionally, one should note that there are only two smells in eternity that are mentioned in Scripture: brimstone and incense. It is the invariable practice in the Eastern church that there is no divine liturgy wherein incense is not offered, and this should be our practice as well.
The exit procession (never “recession,” is essentially the reverse of the entrance, logically enough.
A word about pace is appropriate here. When entering, the speed should be stately and solemn, about a second per step, and participants four to six feet apart. When leaving, the speed may be a normal walking pace, but the spacing again the same, four to six feet apart. Consider the speeds of processions at typical weddings: slow in, normal out, which developed in imitation of the normal liturgical entrance and exit processions.
Gospel and offertory processions, and processions for specific holy days will be considered in another article later.