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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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The most radical change between the old and the current missal is in the Offertory Prayers.  Many notable liturgists thought that the old prayers overly anticipated the Eucharist.  Indeed, commenters once spoke of it as a natural offering prefiguring the supernatural oblation.  Notable was the removal of a clear invocation of the Holy Spirit that was only implied in the Roman Canon:  “Come, Thou, the Sanctifier, God, almighty and everlasting: bless (+) this sacrifice which is prepared for the glory of Thy holy name.”  The new Eucharistic prayers would each have a clear epiclesis making this prayer redundant. Also subtracted was a prayer addressed to the Trinity:  “Receive, O holy Trinity, this oblation offered up by us to You in memory of the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honor of blessed Mary, ever a virgin, of blessed John the Baptist, of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, of these, and of all the saints, that it may be available to their honor and to our salvation; and may they whose memory we celebrate on earth vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven.”

The offertory is much simplified.  Indeed, it has been relabeled the Preparation of the Gifts.  The altar table is set with corporal, purificator, chalice, pall and the Roman Missal.  There are already candles on either side of the altar and a visible crucifix.  While the gravity is given to the Mass as a sacrifice, it is also regarded as a meal or a share in the banquet table of heaven.   

A collection is taken on Sunday for the support of the parish, the priest and the works of the Church. The sacrifice of treasure signifies our self-offering.  Along with the gifts of bread and wine, gift bearers and ushers bring the offertory to the altar.  We enter into a special rhythm:  God gives us grain and grapes— we take these gifts and transform them into bread and wine— we give or dedicate the bread and wine to God.  This is the offertory.  The Eucharistic prayer that follows has God giving us the gifts transformed into the body and blood of his Son— united to Christ we offer ourselves with Jesus back to the Father, that we might be sanctified and transformed.  The gifts represent us and just as the bread and wine will be destroyed and consecrated into the body and blood of Christ; we want to be transformed as well into the likeness of our Lord. We must die to our old selves so as to be made brand new.   

Water will also sometimes be brought forward but is not technically considered a gift.  Of course, this view might be challenged in a world where many lack clean drinking water.  Water is a powerful symbol of life and death. 

The priest offers the bread and the wine to God, so that it might be made holy.  The revised prayers are literally Jewish table blessings.  Our Lord would have employed similar prayers at the Seder of the Last Supper:  “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life. / Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.” The congregation responds each time, “Blessed be God forever.”

Prior to the blessing of the cup, a drop of water is mixed with the wine and the minister quietly prays, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”  The water signifies both the humanity of Christ and our incorporation into him.  The gift of the Eucharist will raise up, even divinize our humanity by grace. 

I suspect that the offertory is a particular section of the Mass that needs to be revisited by liturgists and upon which better catechesis should be given.  Do the people in the pews really understand their role in this?  Are they offering themselves with all their hopes and dreams, with all their joys and sorrows?  If the Eucharist celebrates the surrender of Christ into the hands of sinful men all so that we might be redeemed; do we see this stage of the Mass as an opportunity to prayerfully surrender ourselves with him?  We need to join or graft ourselves to Christ.  This way the heavenly Father will receive us with his Son and give us a share in his Son’s reward. 

While not a personal prayer, the priest quietly or inaudibly prays for all assembled, “With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God.” The prayer is said quietly so as not to detract from the two-fold offerings and the Prayer Over the Gifts. Aware of his sinfulness and shortcomings, the priest washes his fingers at the Lavabo.  He prays, “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”  This is a brief but important gesture and prayer.  The priest is intensely aware that he is just a man; and yet, at the altar he is another Christ, a sharer in Christ’s one High Priesthood. He is only a creature and yet he has been configured to Christ for this great sacrament.  He has the authority to forgive sins. He has the power to call God down from heaven and to make him substantially present in the consecrated host and chalice.  He is Christ arriving at Calvary so that we might all be present at our Lord’s redemptive sacrifice.

The “Orate Fratres” has the priest turning to the people and saying, “Brethren, pray that my sacrifice and yours may be well pleasing to God the Father almighty.” Everyone is invited to pray. The people respond, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.” This is where we usually speak of the fruits of the Mass.  The priest has his which can be offered for special intentions gathered from others.  Each congregant also has his own fruits.  Together, the celebration is rendered as efficacious.

Just as Jesus offers his sacrifice in love; we return this love with our own. The whole meaning behind the Lord’s command to take up the cross and follow him is not that misery loves company but that divine love in this world is inherently sacrificial.  I wonder if people actually contemplate, that when they come to Mass they are to lay down their lives spiritually with Christ for others?  Indeed, we are to view the Mass as a confirmation and empowerment of our discipleship outside the church doors— lives of loving service— lives of sacrifice.

During the pandemic I suggested that those attending services remember the many who were missing out of caution, sickness and fear.  We are privileged to have the opportunity to come to Mass and to receive the sacraments. (Remember, the Virgin Mary, the apostle John and Mary Magdalene were our emissaries at the cross.  The other apostles were in hiding.) We can come, mentally and spiritually bringing others with us, letting them know that they are not forgotten. Indeed, we can do this for those around the world, especially where Christians are persecuted and where going to Mass is either impossible or against the law.  

Along with the Collect and the Prayer after Communion, the Prayer Over the Gifts is variable from week to week or even changes daily during the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, as well as during the sanctoral days.  There is no invitation to pray because it has already been given with the “Orate Fratres.” The priest prays over the gifts and the people respond, “Amen.” As he will do throughout the liturgy, he prays with his hands extended.  This is his primary sacerdotal gesture. He prays not just for himself but for the entire gathered community.

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