This question arrived in my e-mail today:
Last evening, we had a good number of permanent deacons at the ordination of a couple of transitional deacons. We were vested and seated together near the front of the church. Here is my question: What actions should deacons with no liturgical role take at such Masses? We had some confusion last evening. Basically, most of us stood, knelt or sat when the deacons that had liturgical roles did. A couple of our group followed the lead of the people in the pews and knelt at the very beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer rather than wait until the Epiclesis. It didn’t look so good. So, I’m trying to get a sense of what deacons should do in such situations.
This is a common problem when you have large numbers of clergy gathered for Mass. Priests who are vested and assembled in the pews will use the same gestures and quietly speak the same words as priests in the sanctuary—so, the reasoning goes, shouldn’t deacons?
While the GIRM is silent about deacons in this kind of situation, it bears noting: these priests are concelebrating the liturgy. Deacons are not. In this context, they are a part of the congregation and are not assisting at Mass the way a Deacon of the Altar normally would.
If they are vested and in the pews (say, at an ordination or a Chrism Mass or a funeral), deacons should follow the same gestures and postures as the people in the pews—kneeling throughout the entire Eucharistic Prayer, etc.