At the preparation
of the altar, the Missal is placed on the altar as well as the chalice,
sometimes the paten (a flat, usually precious metal dish) and various
linens. These linens include the purificator for cleansing the chalice,
and also perhaps a square pall (a piece of stiff linen), that covers
the chalice contents. The chalice may be covered with a chalice
veil, which can be white or match the color of the day's vestments.
If no deacon is present, the servers may prepare the altar up to
The collection of
financial offerings now takes place. In the early Church, each individual
or family brought up in procession either offerings of the bread or wine
to be used at Mass, or contributions for the poor and the Church. As time
went on and the number of faithful increased, the processions became symbolic.
However, their meaning remains the same. The gifts of bread and wine are
offered by the baptized, along with donations for the support of the Church
and her works. The act of presenting the gifts allows each of us to make
an offering of ourselves, in our own gifts and limitations, so that we may
be transformed like the bread and wine.
The priest or deacon
accepts the gifts and places them on the altar. Music may accompany this
time of presentation and preparation. If so, the priest may quietly pray
the prayers. Otherwise, the assembly joins in responding to him. The prayers
acknowledge that elements of the earth, made into bread and wine by "the
work of human hands," are imperfect, but we ask that they be taken
up into the perfect praise of Christ. This part of the Mass is another invitation
for us to offer our lives in a sacrifice of praise to God. Here the common
priesthood actively engages in the sacrifice taking place.
Did you ever wonder
why the priest or deacon adds just a drop of water to the chalice? The symbolism
here points to the marriage of divinity and humanity. As the drop of water
disperses into the wine, we recall that created humanity was indissolubly
united with God when Jesus became man. The wine in the chalice, including
that small drop of water, will be transformed into the blood of our Lord.
Can we see ourselves
as that drop of water, willing to offer ourselves with Christ? You'll notice,
too, that the priest symbolically washes his hands. His prays quietly that
he may be interiorly cleansed as the Eucharistic Prayer approaches. Your
own silent prayer may be the same.
The celebrant then
invites the assembly: "Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice...."
In years past, we've remained seated as we make the response. Now the new
General Instruction asks us to stand as the priest finishes this invitation,
and we respond: "May the Lord accept this sacrifice...."
Why the change? Because
immediately following the assembly's response, the priest will pray the
Prayer over the Gifts. This ranks as one of the central prayers of the Mass.
As you remember, we've already discussed the Opening Prayer or Collect of
the Mass, now we have the Prayer over the Gifts. To give the emphasis this
prayer deserves, all should stand attentively, uniting their hearts to the
words of the priest.
Each Prayer over the
Gifts is specific for the time of the liturgical year. Just as with the
Opening Prayer and the Prayer after Communion, the particular eucharistic
sacrifice in which you take part happens within the context of the Church's
on-going celebration of the liturgical year. No Eucharist ever occurs in
isolation, outside this unity with every other eucharistic celebration of
the year. And as before, the assembly's "Amen" makes it their
The archbishop's thoughts
on the liturgy will continue next week.