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Ratione accommodationis:
example of romanitas in Roman Liturgy

Louis J. Tofari


Ever wondered why the Roman Rite is called Roman? You might say, “because it comes from Rome,” and this is true. But there is an even deeper reason. The main characteristic of the Roman Rite is románitas (pronounced roh-mah-nee-tahs), a Latin term that means to be Roman. To be Roman is to engender the ideals of the ancient Romans of which there were two main elements: practicality and logic (to do things because they make sense).


The Roman Rite is consequently imbued with romanitas, especially through its general principles which govern the liturgical ceremonies. The principle that we will be examining here particularly exemplifies the element of logic, as even its name suggests. Its Latin name is ratióne accommodátionis (rah-tsee-oh-neh  ah-cohm-moh-dah-tsee-oh-nees), which in English means by reason of accommodation. In summary, ratione accommodationis is a principle of exception to the usual rules of when to make a reverence[1] for the sake of preserving unity between ministers performing a common action. So how does it work in practice?


As we know there are certain rules—or principles—that dictate when a reverence (such as a bow or genuflection) is made during the sacred ceremonies. For instance, it is usually required to genuflect when crossing the center of the altar, or to bow when the Holy Name is said aloud. These principles are applicable to all ministers. However, sometimes a principle is applicable to one minister but not to another.


This is even truer for sacred ministers, who enjoy certain privileges due to the dignity of their liturgical offices. Hence there is a special set of principles[2] that apply only to sacred ministers. Consequently, there are times during the ceremonies when a minister will have to alter how he would normally act when accompanying another minister, be it an inferior or sacred minister. I will give some examples of this in a moment.


You have probably guessed by now the reason why this is done: for the sake of uniformity of action. Otherwise certain actions would look rather odd with one minister genuflecting while the other accompanying one does not; again this is done because it makes sense. Now that I have explained the reason for the principle of ratione accommodationis, let’s see how it works in practice with a few examples.



When kneeling, an inferior minister usually bows at the mention of various names or phrases said aloud by the celebrant (e.g., “Jesus,” “Maria,” “Oremus,” or during the Gloria and Credo).[3] This rule is different though for a sacred minister who does not normally bow when kneeling.[4] The difference is that kneeling is usually a position of deportment (or posture) for inferior ministers, but one of reverence for sacred ministers.


So when an inferior minister is kneeling next to a kneeling sacred minister and a word is said aloud that the inferior minister would normally bow for, nonetheless, he does not bow by reason of accommodation to the sacred minister.[5] This regularly occurs after Low Mass during the Leonine Prayers (or Prayers for the Conversion of Russia) when the priest invokes the Holy Name during the concluding ejaculation: “Most Sacred Heart of Jesus….”



The rules concerning genuflecting can also be slightly different between the two types of ministers. For instance inferior ministers do not have the privilege of genuflecting on the predella,[6] though sacred ministers do. This is why even when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, the inferior ministers always genuflect in plano[7] before ascending to and after descending from the predella.[8]


An inferior minister may only genuflect on the predella (the altar platform) when he is accompanying a sacred minister. We see the application of this rule at every High Mass when the master of ceremonies and thurifer genuflect on the predella while assisting the celebrant during the incensations of the altar.


We also see the principle of ratione accommodationis exercised during Low Mass when both acolytes genuflect together at the foot of the altar before proceeding to the credence for the Offertory. In this case, though the second acolyte (on the Gospel side) will have to cross the center of the altar to reach the credence, the first acolyte (on the Epistle side) will not. However, because they are proceeding to the same location together, the first acolyte goes to the center to genuflect with the second, then both (after turning inwards) proceed to the credence together shoulder to shoulder.


As a side note to make a proper distinction, the principle of ratione accommodationis would not apply to the action of the acolyte switching the missal in preparation for the Gospel. In this case, only one acolyte is required for this task,[9] so only the single server involved actually moves, while the other remains stationary.[10]


Delaying or even omitting a reverence

It can also occur that a minister may have to omit, or delay, a reverence when accompanying another minister. One example of when ratione accommodationis is enacted for this case is when a group of ministers are lining up recta linea (in a straight line) at the foot, causing some to cross the center of the altar. However, none of the ministers genuflect (not even those crossing the center) until all are arranged and ready. This is practiced at High Mass by the servers when they line up at the foot for the Gospel action or when the torchbearers enter and leave the sanctuary.


Gestures need not apply

Though the principle of ratione accommodationis can alter how a reverence is made, this rule does not affect the making of the various liturgical gestures (i.e., signing the cross and striking the breast). Hence, when a minister is impeded from making a gesture, because he is following the principle that a gesture is not made when holding an object (e.g., a candle, thurible, torch, Communion plate), ratione accommodationis does not apply. So those ministers not holding an object will make the gestures as usual even when next to a minister who cannot.


In conclusion

This fairly covers the principle of ratione accommodationis which hopefully is now better understood, if not simply recognized by certain actions that take place during the sacred liturgy.



1 A bow or genuflection.


2 They are actually all part of the same set of general principles. Rubricians however usually mention the general principles for all in one section, and the particular rules for sacred ministers within their explanations about the sacred ministers’ positions during Solemn and Pontifical Mass.


3 This is a general principle and is specifically mentioned in regards to the acolyte at Low Mass by L. O’Connell, The Book of Ceremonies (1958), p 156-163 and p 93, J.B. O’Connell in The Celebration of Mass: A Study of the Rubrics of the Roman Missal (1964—for 1962 Missale Romanum), p 354 and 357-360, and by most other major rubricians as well.


4 Nonetheless, there are four exceptions to this rule for sacred ministers. The first is during Mass: if the sacred ministers kneel for the sung Credo, they are required to bow for the words “Et homo factus est”; J.B. O’Connell regarding the ceremonies of Solemn Mass, p 486 citing SRC 2915,6. All other rubricists can also be cited by application of the rule that must be followed for the feasts of the Nativity and Annunciation). The other three times occur during Benediction: 1) before standing to impose incense; 2) before and after incensing the Blessed Sacrament; 3) at the words “veneremur cernui” during the Tantum ergo.


5 They would of course bow with the sacred ministers for the exceptions given in ff 4 above.


6 This is true even when these positions are being exercised by major clerics as is assumed to be the case during a Pontifical Mass, when it is assumed that the head master of ceremonies is at least a priest, with the second a subdeacon, though this is not always the case.


7 Meaning “on the floor.”


8 L. O’Connell, p 38, ff 18, d., citing SRC 4135-3, Callewaert, Caeremoniale in Missa Privata et Solemni (1941), p 28, and J.B. O’Connell, p 364 citing SRC 3975-1 in ff 66).


9 By custom in the United States, usually the second acolyte does this, though in some places it is the first acolyte instead.


10 This practice is in conformity with the general principles of genuflecting and is specifically outlined by L. O’Connell, p 166.

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