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Parts of the Mass: Preparation of the Gifts
Parishes, RCIA groups, RE teachers and others will hopefully find Liturgy Lines over the next few weeks a useful accompaniment to Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s multi-part series on the Catholic Mass at https://brisbanecatholic.org.au/beliefs-and-works/mass/.
The Liturgy of the Word at Mass is followed by the ‘Preparation of the Offerings’, or what the 1970 Missal called ‘Preparation of the Gifts’. Both terms are better than the old name ‘The Offertory’ because they more clearly describe the purpose of the rite: to prepare the altar, the bread and wine and the assembly for the offering that takes place during the Eucharistic Prayer.
To use the term ‘offertory’ for this part of the Mass suggests that it is when the sacrifice is offered, whereas it is during the Eucharistic Prayer that Jesus self-offering is recalled and re-presented. We are joined to Christ’s sacrifice when, as members of the body of Christ, the Church, we offer the consecrated bread and wine to the Father.
This might sound like nit-picking, but being careful to use the correct terminology in liturgy can help over time to shape the assembly’s understanding of what we are doing at worship.
The Preparation of the Offerings/Gifts has a long history. In the early Church, people brought bread and wine from home and gave them to the presider to use in the celebration of the Eucharist. They also contributed other gifts of food or money to help the work of the Church. It was a concrete way for everyone to participate in the real offering of the Mass.
The primary elements of the Preparation of the Offerings are the bringing forward of the gifts, placing the gifts on the altar and the prayer said over them. Other elements such as an accompanying song are secondary.
The procession with the gifts by members of the assembly is a powerful expression of the assembly’s participation in the eucharistic action. The General Instruction mentions only bread, wine and money (or other gifts for the poor and the Church) in the procession. It is a procession of gifts: you can’t take them back again afterwards! Other objects can be included in the entrance procession if they are of sufficient liturgical significance.
The Order of Mass says this about the prayers of preparation over the bread (and wine):
"The priest, standing at the altar, takes the paten with the bread and, holding is slightly raised above the altar, says inaudibly: ‘Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation…..’. Then he places the paten with the bread on the corporal. If no offertory song is sung, the priest may say the preceding words in a low voice; then the people may respond: ‘Blessed be God for ever’."
After the priest has washed his hands and the music is finished, he invites the people to join in prayer: ‘Pray, brothers and sisters that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father’. After the people stand and respond, the presider sings or says the Prayer over the Offerings, a collect which is part of the Proper of the Mass, meaning that it varies for each Mass.
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