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Preparation of the Gifts
PREPARATION OF THE GIFTS
The Liturgy of the Word at Mass is followed by what is called the ‘Preparation of the Gifts’. This term replaces what was previously known as the ‘Offertory’.
To use the term ‘offertory’ suggests that this is the part of the Mass when the sacrifice is offered, whereas it is during the Eucharistic Prayer that the self-offering of Jesus 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.
Unfortunately the rubrics of the present Sacramentary still uses the term ‘offertory song’ for the chant sung during the procession of the gifts. Hopefully this will be corrected in the revised Missal.
The title ‘Preparation of the Gifts’ clearly describes the purpose of the rite, which is simply to prepare the altar, the gifts and the assembly for the offering of the whole Church that takes place during the Eucharistic Prayer.
The altar is prepared at the beginning of the rite when the server or acolyte places the corporal, purificator, chalice and missal on the altar.
The primary elements of the Preparation of the Gifts are the bringing forward of the gifts, placing them on the altar and the prayer said over them. Other elements such as an accompanying song and the prayers of preparation 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: only what stays goes in the procession. You can’t take it back again afterwards! Other objects could be included in the entrance procession if they are of sufficient liturgical significance.
In some places, lighted candles accompany the procession of gifts. I believe that is an unnecessary elaboration which adds to the confusion in the minds of some worshippers between unconsecrated and consecrated elements.
One vessel with sufficient altar bread for the assembly, one large container of wine, and a basket with the collection are all that need be presented. Having one vessel for each element symbolises the unity of the one bread and one cup. Including offerings for the poor and the Church is of ancient origin and deep significance.
As the preparation of the gifts is a secondary rite - a low-key moment between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist - it is not a time when singing by the assembly in song has high priority. A choir piece or instrumental music could effectively accompany the procession and keep this part of the Mass in proper perspective. Any music ‘continues at least until the gifts have been placed on the altar’ (GIRM # 74). Silence might be an even better option. The assembly could be invited to use this quiet time to prepare their hearts and minds as the altar and gifts are made ready.
In the past, people were exhorted to place themselves on the paten along with the bread. A better way of understanding the assembly’s participation in this part of the Mass is as a time when we prepare to unite ourselves with Christ’s offering.