Q. What is the purpose of bringing up the gifts at Mass?
A. The offertory procession is held within the context of the offertory, the part of the Mass in which the unconsecrated bread and wine are offered to God.
An offertory is something that is sacrificial. In the Old Testament, the priests would offer a sacrifice to atone for their own sins and the sins of all the Israelites. It was a means of seeking unity with God. But, the offerings of old were imperfect and always begging for a perfect sacrifice.
The Old Testament gives us many “types” or foreshadowing of the sacrificial offering of Christ. For example, we recall that God told Abraham to take his only son Isaac up Mt. Moriah to be offered as a sacrifice. The angel of the Lord intervened, sparing the life of Isaac. The Lord, of course, never really wanted Isaac to be sacrificed, but only wanted to test Abraham’s faith. This was also a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of the Heavenly Father who was not spared. As an unblemished, sinless man, Jesus was the perfect sacrifice that the Israelites longed for.
The offertory is the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, where the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ is re-presented by the priest, who acts in the person of Christ. The priest offers the bread on the paten, a saucer-like dish, and then he offers the wine in the chalice. The priest says while offering the bread and the wine: “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread [wine] to offer fruit of the earth [vine] and work of human hands it will become for us the bread of life [our spiritual drink].”
The taking up of the collection is representative of our offerings that we give back to the Lord. It’s a way, liturgically, to express our stewardship. In the early Church many things were brought up at the offertory—bread, wine, medicine, flowers, clothing—anything that could help the community of the Church.
The offertory procession is an optional part of the Mass. It usually doesn’t take place during weekday Masses. It is a good, visual reminder for all who are actively participating in the Mass. It’s a reminder that in all that we do, we are to unite ourselves to the perfect sacrifice of Christ.
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