The question of celebrating Mass by oneself has vexed me for a long time. Can one do it? Does it make any sense? Here's what goes into my reflection:
On the one hand:
1. Both the current and 1962 liturgical rubrics specify that a priest is not to offer Mass without at least one other minister, to serve at the altar and to make the responses.
2. On even the surface level it would seem a little absurd to perform the ritual by yourself. "The Lord be with you; and also with....me?" Etc.
3. More deeply, the Mass is the act of the gathered assembly, is it not? So how does it make sense as a solitary kind of prayer?
On the other hand:
Contra 1. I have routinely observed priests offering Mass alone, without such a minister, all through my religious life. The practice seems to be fairly common, especially among the older generation. Some seem to have a "just cause," while it's hard to imagine such a cause for others. Is this one of those things in which the law speaks to the perfect ideal, with the expectation that practice will be short of it?
Even more, my instructional video for learning the Extraordinary Form has an entire section devoted to detailed adjustments to be made when offering the Mass without a server. This would suggest that it's not only a possibility, but something one needs to know how to do.
Contra 2 and 3: The priest offering Mass is not alone. At the very least, the saints and angels are present, as well as the church suffering in purgatory. Almost all of the regular Masses in the parish where I work are offered on behalf of the Church Expectant, so why would I imagine that they are absent? (This is why, for example, you still say "brothers and sisters" even if only one sex is visibly present)
This has become a question for me because of my current effort to learn the Extraordinary Form. When a day rolls around on which I am not scheduled to offer Mass for the pastoral benefit of the people, I will have a chance to try my first EF Mass. I don't have a server lying around, though, and for various very good reasons I want to keep this whole effort a little secret. So, can I offer the Mass without someone else there?
What do you think?