Thursday, May 31, 2018

Liturgy of the Traditional Mass, Part 6: The Offertory

Previous parts in this series:
Part 3: The incensations, Kyrie, Gloria, and collects
Part 4: The Epistle, Gospel, and what occurs in between
Part 5: The Nicene Creed

At this point, the faithful have been duly prepared, by both prayer and instruction, to assist in the Mass of the day. In centuries past, the catechumens, those not yet part of the Church, would be dismissed at this time and not even been permitted to assist in offering the sacrifice (Matthew 7:6, 1 Corinthians 11:27-29). This rule applies today only with regards to receiving Communion. Because of the old rule, this next part of the Mass is called the Mass of the Faithful, and it begins, as such a major division of the Mass should, with the greeting Dominus vobiscum by the priest.

Dóminus vobíscum.
Et cum spíritu tuo.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Let us pray.

He says this turning toward the people, kissing the altar beforehand as always to honor the relics of saints there. The choir then sings the Offertory verse, a few verses from a psalm proper to the day, which the priest says quietly to himself. Just as the deacon serves the priest, the subdeacon serves the deacon. He does so at this time by bringing the veiled chalice to the deacon at the altar. Recall from the first part of this series that everything is veiled and covered until we enter into the liturgy and uncover it. The chalice, in which the Precious Blood is to be offered, has remained veiled until now, when we are duly prepared to enter into the offering up of the sacrifice.

Atop the chalice and also veiled is the paten, the small gold plate on which the Sacred Host lies. The host is now merely a piece of unleavened bread, but soon it will be transformed into God himself. The deacon, who is charged with care of the sacred vessels, unveils the chalice and gives the priest the paten with the host on it. Though the deacon cannot consecrate, he still is ordained to the first degree of the sacrificial priesthood, so it belongs to him to present the oblations to the priest to be offered. The priest takes the paten and offers the host to God. He also offers the smaller particles for the Communion of the Faithful. These are in the ciborium, another vessel much like a chalice that is placed on the altar when the chalice is brought up.

Suscipe, sancte Pater, omnipotens ætérne Deus, hanc immaculátam hóstiam, quam ego indígnus fámulus tuus óffero tibi Deo meo vivo et vero, pro innumerabílibus peccátis, et offensiónibus, et neglegéntiis meis, et pro ómnibus circumstántibus, sed et pro ómnibus fidélibus christiánis vivis atque defúnctis: ut mihi, et illis profíciat ad salútem in vitam ætérnam. Amen.
Accept, O holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this unspotted host, which I, thy unworthy servant, offer unto thee, my living and true God, for my innumerable sins, offenses, and negligences, and for all here present: as also for all faithful Christians, both living and dead, that it may avail both me and them for salvation unto life everlasting. Amen.

In the prayer said here, the Father is addressed, who was the recipient of all sacrifices of the Old Covenant and is likewise the recipient of this sacrifice. Like all Offertory prayers, it is said silently. The host's spotlessness is mentioned, as animals sacrificed under the Old Covenant were required to be pure and without blemish (Exodus 12:5, Leviticus 1:3). The host is offered to account for the "innumerable sins" of the priest and the congregation, as Christ's sacrifice was made for the forgiveness of our sins, and the Mass is that same sacrifice. The priest prays for all faithful Christians living and dead, the latter referring to the poor souls in Purgatory, who can be helped by our prayers (2 Maccabees 12:42-46).

After the prayer has been said, the priest makes the Sign of the Cross with the paten, expressing the unity and sameness with the sacrifice of the Cross. This and all the Offertory prayers anticipate the host actually becoming our Lord, which occurs later. The host is placed directly on the corporal.

The subdeacon wipes the inside of the chalice and hands it to the deacon. Serving the deacon and subdeacon is the acolyte, fourth in the hierarchy of service at the altar, who then presents the cruets of water and wine. The stronger wine represents Christ's divine nature and is poured into the chalice by the deacon, whereas the weaker water represents his human nature and is poured by the subdeacon. During his first miracle at the Wedding at Cana, Jesus turned water into wine, hence the wine representing the divine nature. Also, after he died, blood and water flowed from Jesus' side. All this occurs on the Epistle side of the altar, not in the middle, as the union between Christ's dual natures occurred upon his coming from heaven to earth. This descent from heaven to earth is represented in the movement from the center of the altar to the side. Accompanying this ceremony is an ancient prayer.

Deus, qui humánæ substántiæ dignitátem mirabíliter condidísti, et mirabílius reformásti: da nobis per huius aquæ et vini mystérium, eius divinitátis esse consórtes, qui humanitátis nostræ fíeri dignátus est párticeps, Iesus Christus, Fílius tuus, Dóminus noster: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sancti Deus: per ómnia saecula sæculórum. Amen.
O God, who, in creating human nature, didst wonderfully dignify it, and still more wonderfully restore it, grant that, by the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of his divine nature, who vouchsafed to be made partaker of our human nature, even Jesus Christ our Lord, thy Son, who with thee, liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God: world without end. Amen.

The priest first praises God for having dignified human nature at the creation (Genesis 1:26, Psalm 8:6) and then restoring it even more wonderfully by taking it upon himself. Next, he prays that, just as Jesus took on our human nature, we might, by these mysteries, take part in his divine nature, which we do by partaking of this Blessed Sacrament as Jesus promised (John 6:57).

The deacon hands the chalice to the priest, who offers it to God in the same manner as with the host. The deacon supports the foot of the chalice and says the prayer with the priest as another exercise of the first degree of the priesthood. Hence, whereas the prayer with the host, said by the priest alone, uses the words, “I offer,” the prayer with the chalice, said by the priest and deacon, uses the plural, “We offer.”

Offérimus tibi, Dómine, cálicem salutáris, tuam deprecántes cleméntiam: ut in conspéctu divínæ maiestátis tuæ, pro nostra et totíus mundi salute, cum odóre suavitátis ascéndat. Amen.
We offer unto thee, O Lord, the chalice of salvation, beseeching thy clemency, that it may ascend before thy divine majesty, as a sweet savor, for our salvation, and for that of the whole world. Amen.

The prayer used to offer the chalice is similar to the one for the host, praying for acceptance of the sacrifice and that all may receive the benefits thereof. Like with the paten, the priest makes the Sign of the Cross with the chalice. When the chalice is resting on the altar, the deacon covers it with the pall, a small, stiff square cloth that is placed over the chalice as both a practical measure to protect its contents and a sign of the sacredness of the sacrament.

After covering the chalice, the deacon hands the paten to the subdeacon, who holds it at the bottom of the altar steps before his eyes, covered by the humeral veil, a large cloth in the color of the day worn over his shoulders. This custom originated when the paten was much larger and thus had to be removed when not needed. Even today, only what is strictly necessary for the sacrifice is on the corporal when it is offered. There is also the symbolism of the subdeacon covering his eyes in the manner of the Seraphim covering their eyes with their wings before the throne of God (Isaiah 6:1-2). Thus, yet again, we unite ourselves with the holy angels in the Mass.

Here we see especially that the Offertory prayers follow roughly the structure of an ancient anaphora; that is, the long prayer in which the oblations are truly offered and become our Lord. Though the actual sacrifice occurs a little bit later, it has already been seen that the Offertory prayers are an anticipation, and so they follow this structure. In the prayer at the mixing of water and wine, the priest gives thanksgiving for the work of salvation. In the other prayers that have been said thus far, the priest makes the oblation, which is concluded in this next prayer, in which the priest bows down and humbles himself in petitioning for acceptance of this Sacrifice.

In spíritu humilitátis et in ánimo contríto suscipiámur a te, Dómine: et sic fiat sacrifícium nostrum in conspéctu tuo hódie, ut pláceat tibi, Dómine Deus.
Accept us, O Lord, in the spirit of humility and contrition of heart, and grant that the sacrifice which we offer this day in thy sight may be pleasing to thee, O Lord God.

He proceeds with a sort of epiclesis, in which he prays that the Holy Ghost, the giver of life, will come down and give life to the oblations to make them the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. Of course, this transformation does not occur yet, but the Holy Ghost has been invoked and is present, raising the oblations above the level of earthly things. When saying this prayer, the priest raises his eyes to God to ask for his blessing, and then blesses the oblations with the Sign of the Cross.

Veni, sanctificátor omnípotens ætérne Deus: et bene ☩ dic hoc sacrifícium, tuo sancto nómini præparátum.
Come, O almighty and eternal God, the sanctifier, and bless ☩ this sacrifice, prepared for the glory of thy holy Name.

They are further raised above earthly things by the honor of blessed incense. The altar has already been incensed at the beginning of the Mass, but now that we are entering into the actual sacrifice, the oblations, the altar, the sacred ministers, and all of the faithful are honored again with incense. The incense is blessed by the priest in a longer prayer invoking the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel, the prince of the heavenly host who holds a golden thurible by the altar of God, and of all the saints, whose prayers are represented in the burning of incense (Apocalypse 8:3-4).

Per intercessiónem beáti Michaélis Archángeli, stantis a dextris altáris incénsi, et ómnium electórum suórum, incénsum istud dignétur Dóminus bene ☩ dícere, et in odórem suavitátis accípere. Per Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Amen.
May the Lord, by the intercession of blessed Michael the Archangel, who standeth at the right side of the altar of incense, and of all his elect, vouchsafe to bless ☩ this incense and receive it as an odor of sweetness: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The priest incenses the oblations in a very special way. He makes three Signs of the Cross with the thurible over the oblations, representing again the unity between the Cross and the Mass, and then three circles, two counter-clockwise and one clockwise, representing the Trinity. He says a short, poetic prayer while incensing the oblations.

Incénsum istud a te benedíctum ascéndat ad te, Dómine: et descéndat super nos misericórdia tua.
May this incense, which thou hast blessed, O Lord, ascend to thee, and may thy mercy descend upon us.

Then, while incensing the crucifix and the altar in the same manner as at the beginning of Mass, the priest recites a portion of Psalm 140, comparing our prayers to the rising up of incense and praying against himself falling into sin.

Dirigátur, Dómine, orátio mea, sicut incénsum, in conspéctu tuo: elevátio mánuum meárum sacrifícium vespertínum. Pone, Dómine, custódiam ori meo, et óstium circumstántiæ lábiis meis: ut non declínet cor meum in verba malítiæ, ad excusándas excusatiónes in peccátis.
Let my prayer, O Lord, be directed as incense in thy sight: the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and a door round about my lips. May my heart not incline to evil words, to make excuses for sins.

The priest recites yet another prayer as he hands the thurible to the deacon, this one speaking of the fire of God's love.

Accéndat in nobis Dóminus ignem sui amóris, et flammam ætérnæ caritátis. Amen.
May the Lord enkindle within us the fire of his love, and the flame of everlasting charity. Amen.

The deacon incenses the priest as before, and this time the choir, clergy, and congregation are also incensed, because although the faithful gathered in the church are not ordained priests, all baptized Christians are ordained into Christ's royal priesthood, so we can all unite ourselves to the Mass and offer it with the priest (1 Peter 2:5).

Notice how, when the altar was incensed at the beginning of the Mass, there was only a simple prayer to bless the incense, and everything else was in silence; but now, the priest recites prayers constantly. Clearly, everything is much more solemn now, for we are about to have God himself become truly present. At this point, if the priest were to drop dead at the altar, the host and chalice would have to be treated as sacred objects, even though they are not yet the Body and Blood of Christ.

Next, the priest washes his hands. To wash the priest's hands is not the function of a fellow priest or a fellow sacred minister, so it is not done by the deacon or subdeacon. Rather, it is the function of a servant, so it is done by the acolytes, the servants at the altar. The word “acolyte” means “follower” or “attendant.”

The washing of hands is reminiscent of our Lord washing the feet of the apostles and symbolizes the purity necessary to offer such a perfect sacrifice (John 13:5-10). Everything related to sacrifices in the Old Covenant was required to be perfectly pure, so the priest of the sacrifice of the New Covenant must also be pure (Exodus 25:29, Leviticus 24:4, 1 Chronicles 28:18, 2 Chronicles 4:20). Doing it at this time also has the practical value of washing off any filth that may have gotten on his hands during the incensations. Like many things in liturgy, there is both a practical and a symbolic purpose. Once again, the prayer at this time is supplied by a psalm, in this case Psalm 25.

Lavábo inter innocéntes manus meas: et circúmdabo altáre tuum. Dómine: Ut áudiam vocem laudis, et enárrem univérsa mirabília tua. Dómine, diléxi decórem domus tuæ et locum habitatiónis glóriæ tuæ. Ne perdas cum ímpiis, Deus, ánimam meam, et cum viris sánguinum vitam meam: In quorum mánibus iniquitátes sunt: déxtera eórum repléta est munéribus. Ego autem in innocéntia mea ingréssus sum: rédime me et miserére mei. Pes meus stetit in dirécto: in ecclésiis benedícam te, Dómine.
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculórum. Amen.
I will wash my hands among the innocent: and I will compass thine altar, O Lord. That I may hear the voice of praise: and tell of all thy wondrous works. I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house and the place where thy glory dwelleth. Take not away my soul, O God, with the wicked: nor my life with blood-thirsty men. In whose hands are iniquities, their right hand is filled with gifts. But I have walked in my innocence: redeem me, and have mercy on me. My foot hath stood in the direct way, in the churches I will bless thee, O Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

As King David writes, the priest washes his hands “among the innocent,” for purity to stand before the altar of God. The priest also adores the Church in the words of the psalm, as the place where God's glory dwells. Throughout the psalm, the priest places himself with the innocent and those in God's favor, not with the evildoers, as he says, “But I have walked in my innocence.” Of course, it is truly Christ who offers himself up, with the priest acting, as said before, in persona Christi. Christ is really the one saying the psalm here, speaking through the priest, as only Christ and his Blessed Mother have truly walked in their innocence. However, the priest himself must be innocent at least of mortal sin, and he must have tremendous spiritual strength and personal sanctity to fulfill his office and offer the holy sacrifice.

The pseudo-anaphora in the Offertory concludes with the anamnesis: the memorial of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord. The Mass is, after all, the same Sacrifice that Christ offered, so, in addition to all the symbolism, the Passion must also be directly recalled. Christ's death was not the end, though, as on the third day of his death, he resurrected in hope that we might do the same. Being the necessary complement of his Passion and a necessity to have the Mass or the Church, the Resurrection is recalled. Finally, the Lord's ministry on earth was completed with his glorious Ascension into heaven, which is also recalled.

Súscipe, sancta Trinitas, hanc oblatiónem, quam tibi offérimus ob memóriam passiónis, resurrectiónis, et ascensiónis Iesu Christi, Dómini nostri: et in honórem beátæ Maríæ semper Vírginis, et beáti Ioannis Baptistæ, et sanctórum Apostolórum Petri et Pauli, et istórum et ómnium Sanctórum: ut illis profíciat ad honórem, nobis autem ad salútem: et illi pro nobis intercédere dignéntur in coelis, quorum memóriam ágimus in terris. Per eúndem Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Amen.
Receive, O holy Trinity, this oblation which we make to thee, in memory of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honor of Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, these, and all the saints, that it may avail unto their honor and our salvation, and may they vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven, whose memory we celebrate on earth. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Also in this prayer, the saints are commemorated. Mentioned explicitly first is the Blessed Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Christ and later wept at the foot of the Cross, both of which relate closely to the Mass. St. John the Baptist is also explicitly mentioned, as are Ss. Peter and Paul. These are mostly the same saints invoked in the Confiteor for the same reasons. Next, the priest invokes the saints whose relics are in the altar by the simple phrase, “et istorum,” meaning, “and these.” Use of such a simple and familiar pronoun here indicates very close participation in the sacrament of the altar and the significance of the altar itself to the sacrifice. It is further indication of Christ speaking through the priest, as Christ is represented in a way in the altar itself as well as the Mass offered thereon.

The Church finally invokes all the saints, with the desire to honor them. Certainly, the Mass must be pleasing, not only to our Lord, but also to our Lady, the Mediatrix of all graces. Ss. Peter and Paul also deserve special mention here: as the founders of the Church, we desire her most solemn worship to be give honor to them also as a continuation of their ministry of worship to God. The second desired result is, of course, our own salvation, attained through the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ and through the merits and intercession of the saints: overall, most perfectly through the Mass.

Kissing the altar and turning toward the people, the priest says in a slightly elevated voice, “Orate, fratres,” and the continues silently while turning back to the altar.

Oráte, fratres: ut meum ac vestrum sacrifícium acceptábile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipoténtem.
Suscípiat Dóminus sacrifícium de mánibus tuis ad laudem et glóriam nominis sui, ad utilitátem quoque nostram, totiúsque Ecclésiæ suæ sanctæ.
Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father almighty.
May the Lord receive the sacrifice from thy hands, to the praise and glory of his name, to our benefit and that of all his holy Church.

This originated in the Middle Ages, relatively recently, hence the anomaly of it being whispered despite being addressed to the people. It is an expanded form of “Oremus,” which precedes other prayers, and is the last time the priest turns to the people before the sacrifice is offered and Christ is on the altar. As an interesting sidenote, every other time the priest turns to the faithful, he turns around to his right and then turns back to his left, but here, he turns back to his right and completes the circle.

Here, the priest invites the people, who have Christ's royal priesthood, to assistance in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Jesus instituted this Sacrament “for many,” thus the people must be able to assist in it (Matthew 26:28). The deacon responds on behalf of the congregation, praying for the acceptance of the sacrifice to the benefit of the congregation and the whole Church.

Just as the prayerful preparation at the beginning of the Mass concluded with the priest collecting the prayers of the faithful in the collects, the Offertory concludes with the secret prayer, which is proper to the day. This was originally the only Offertory prayer and thus the only one said silently, giving it the name “secret.” Rest assured, its text is publicly available. The number of secrets is always the same as the number of collects, and saints are commemorated likewise in the secrets. Whereas in the collects the priest prayed for holiness and mercy, in the secrets he prays once more for acceptance of the sacrifice. The last secret is concluded singing aloud.

Per omnia saecula saeculorum.
World without end.

New terms
  • Offertory verse – The verse from a psalm that the choir sings at the beginning of the Offertory.
  • Chalice – The silver and gold cup in which the wine is offered to God and transformed into his Precious Blood.
  • Paten – The small silver and gold plate on which the host lies.
  • Host – The bread that is transformed into the Body of Christ.
  • Ciborium – A silver and gold cup similar to a chalice in which additional hosts are kept. It is covered with a lid when not needed.
  • Acolyte – A server who assists the priest, deacon, and subdeacon by presenting the cruets of wine and water and by washing the priest's hands.
  • Humeral veil – A large cloth veil in the color of the day that the subdeacon wears around his shoulders and uses to cover the paten while he is holding it at the foot of the altar.
  • Anaphora – The long prayer in which the bread and wine are offered to God and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Epiclesis The part of the anaphora in which the priest prays for the Holy Ghost to come and bless the host and chalice.
  • Anamnesis – The part of the anaphora in which the priest recalls the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ.
  • SecretAn offertory prayer proper to the day that is said silently.

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