The Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar |
Part Sixteen: The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
The Mass of the Faithful part one - The Offertory
The Offertory begins with the Offertory prayer; then the priest uncovers the chalice. During the Mass of the Catechumens we have spoken to God and He has spoken to us in the Holy Readings of Sacred Scripture. Now at the outset of the Mass of the Faithful we offer ourselves to to God.
The Offertory is the first of the three principal parts of the Mass. It represents Our Lord's preparation for His Passion, and His willingness to surrender His life. The people should unite themselves with the priest in making this offering. They should also offer themselves and all they have to God. Those who come after this point have missed Mass, and must stay to hear another. While this is the letter of the law, the spirit of the law, so to speak, should be that the faithful should arrive well in advance of Holy Mass to have time to pray and prepare for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
While not really part of the Offertory, the Mass of Paul VI or Novus Ordo has taken the petitions out of the Mass of the Catechumens at the Collect and personalized the petitions to fit into a no-man's zone between the Credo and the Offertory. Rather than going right into the Mass of the Faithful after the Credo this procedure now has become a type of causeway between the two, which is now referred to in the new Mass as the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Past installments have detailed why that is a misnomer as well as Fr. Wathen's series have delineated often.
The Offertory consists of two parts: the offering of the bread and the offering of the wine. The priest offers the bread on the paten, and the wine in the chalice. Notice that for 1900 plus years the priest offered the bread and wine with the people offering up the bread and wine through him. With the Novus Ordo the people began taking a more sacerdotal role. This is something that dilutes the alter Christus and makes the distinction between priest and the people fuzzy. This is a time when all should be focused on what is happening on the altar, when after the priest has said the Offertory antiphon and while the altar server brings the cruets, the priest offers the bread on the paten. It is at this time that the faithful should offer themselves on the paten as small hosts near the large host, remembering always the intent of the oblation. In the Novus Ordo this is most often difficult to do since a hymn usually gobbles up most of the time and if you are not singing along with everyone else - God help you. How dare you pay attention to the Offertory and ignore the community's unity. Nevermind the fact the vital importance of the bread and wine that soon will be transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Soul and Divinity. Man's agenda, directed by the suffocating parish liturgists, have seen to it that this is de-emphasized by over-emphasizing Saint Augustine's words that when one sings, he prays twice. The problem with that application is that often times the modern sounds emanating from the Novus Ordo pews are not prayers. Indeed, the good Doctor of the Church must be cringing at the banality of so much music that blurs and detracts from the main purpose of the Offertory.
Water is mixed with the wine because Christ did so at the Last Supper. Sadly many Catholics assimilate the entire Mass to a commemoration of Our Lord's Supper, which, in truth, is a Protestant concept. The emphasis then is on the 'meal' aspect rather than the unbloody sacrifice of the Altar. The water, while so often trivialized in the Novus Ordo, represents the faithful who will be united to Christ at Communion; this in the same way the drops of water are united with the wine which the priest pours into the chalice, offered by the altar server. Sadly many times in the New Order Mass extra chalices are included because of their penchant for giving Communion in both species, another further blurring of the priest's privilege of receiving the Body and Blood alone. Because of all the containers, many priests fail to add the water to each one and consecrate only the main chalice, thus bringing into question whether the wine in and of itself in the other chalices is the Blood of our Savior or still just wine, since the water was left out of those chalices, pitchers or goblets. Regardless, it adds to the lack of reverence for the Precious Blood that permeates to the entire gathering.
In offering the chalice, the priest says: Offerimus tibi, Domine, calicem salutaris, tuam deprecantes clementiam: ut in conspectu divinae majestatis tuae, pro nostra, et totius mundi salute cum odore suavitatis ascendat. 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."
Too often, the new priests will offer both the bread and wine together without elevating each; the bread first, then the wine. Again the blur and disregard for ritual. Prior to the advent of the Novus Ordo the priest, after making the Sign of the Cross over the chalice, covered it with the corporal and then, on behalf of the faithful, asked God to accept our self-offering with the prayer In spiritu humilitatis, et in animo contrito suscipiamur a te, Domine: et sic fiat sacrificium nostrum in conspectu tuo hodie, ut placeat tibi, Domine Deus. - "In the spirit of humility and with a contrite heart receive us, O Lord, and grant that the sacrifice which we offer this day in Thy sight, may be pleasing unto Thee, O Lord God." This is taken from the prayer of the three young men of Israel Shadrach, Misach, and Abdenago in the fiery furnace in Daniel 3: 39-40.
Then, still praying from the center altar tablet or card on the altar, the priest invokes the Holy Ghost while blessing the offerings with the words Veni, sanctificator omnipotens, aeterne Deus; et benedic hoc sacrificium tuo sancto nomini preparatum. - "Come, O Sanctifier, almighty and eternal God, and bless this sacrifice prepared for Thy holy name."
The Lavabo, Orate Fratres and Secret
After the Offertory, the priest washes his fingers, as a mark of the purity of body and soul that is required for the Holy Sacrifice. This is the Lavabo. Few priests in the Novus Ordo still hold their hands in the same reverent manner the priests do and did in the Roman Rite Latin Mass where the index finger touches the thumb as exacted to do so out of reverence for the august responsibility and privilege the consecrated one - the alter Christus is called on to carry out. Only the priest's hands are consecrated. No 'Eucharistic Minister's hands or server's hands are consecrated. To emphasize this the priest washes his fingers saying Psalm 25, verses 6-12 while wahsing his fingers out of respect for the Body of Christ, which he is about to touch after confecting the bread and wine into the Body and Blood at the Consecration. This part of the Mass - the Lavabo takes its name from the first word of the Psalm - "I will wash." The priest is supposed to cleanse the tips of the first fingers of each hand, not the entire hand as many presiders in the New Order Mass do. In addition what has been lost is that this ceremony is a sacramental which purifies our hearts and prepares us for the Holy Sacrifice and receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. This brings to mind another of St. Augustine's quotes which many in the Conciliar Church overlook. That would be that the Lavabo "washes away the last traces of our impurities" making us more willing and pure receptacles to receive Our Lord.
After the Lavabo the priest returns to the center of the altar where he recites the Prayer to the Most Holy Trinity: Suscipe, sancta Trinitas, hanc oblationem quam tibi offerimus ob memoriam passionis, resurrectionis et ascensionis Jesu Christi Domini nostri: et in honorem beatae Mariae semper Virginis, et beati Joannis Baptistae, et sanctorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli, et istorum, et omnium Sanctorum: ut illis proficiat ad honorem nobis autem ad salutem: et illi pro nobis intercedere dignentur in caelis, quorum memoriam agimus in terris. Per eundum Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen. - "Receive, O Holy Trinity, this oblation which we make to Thee in remembrance of the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honor of blessed Mary ever Virgin, of blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, of these [Here he includes those martyrs whose relics are contained in the altar stone. Note this is another aspect that has been lost in the Novus Ordo since tables have replaced altars. The reason these relics were placed there in the first place was to associate them with the Divine Martyr on Calgary. In many ways the Mystical Body of Christ - the faithful - are victims of this Holy Sacrifice since Christ has completed His suffering. We however must continue to offer our sufferings to God in union with those of Our Lord and Savior.] and of all the saints, that it may avail to their honor and our salvation: and that they may vouchsafe to intercede for us in Heaven, whose memory we now keep on earth. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen." It is so sad how so many of these meaningful prayers have been eliminated by Paul VI who had assured all that the traditions would not be altered or changed in any way. A comparison with the Latin Mass set in stone by the Council of Trent and the New Mass after April 3, 1969 would beg to differ with the 262nd successor of Peter.
After reciting the Suscipe, the priest turns towards the people, extends and joins his hands, and audibly invites them to pray, saying: Orate fratres: ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem. - "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father almighty." The server makes the reply for the people. This prayer has mostly remained the same in the Tridentine Mass and the New Order Mass. In the latter the priest combines "my sacrifice and yours" to "our sacrifice" and the people vocally take the place of the server saying, "May the Lord receive the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His name, for our good, and the good of all His Church." In the Novus Ordo the celebrant goes right into the prayers of the Canon which are termed the "Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer." In the Traditional Latin Mass said for centuries, the server prayed on behalf of the people, Suscipiat Dominus sacrificum de manibus tuis, ad laudem, et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostram, totiusque Ecclesiae suae sanctae. While the altar boy was saying this, the priest prayed the Secret - one or more prayers forming the Secret - prayers of petition similar to the Collect corresponding to the Proper of the Mass. The terminology comes from Secreta because the priest reads the prayer in silence - "Secret prayers" in which he prays over all the offerings from the faithful and then, to conclude the Offertory says aloud per omnia saecula saeculorum to which the server replies Amen. This thus ends the Offertory and leads into the fourth part of the Mass with the Prayers of the Canon.
November 5-11, 2001
volume 12, no. 155
APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF THE FAITH