Monday, 6 April 2009


Fr Ray (of St Mary Magdalene's) and I met up today, and over lunch we discussed a number of issues, but one subject that came up was of particular interest to me. It concerns the offertory of the Mass (or, if you prefer, the preparation of the gifts). I expressed a hope that a new edition of the Missale Romanum might provide the possibility of using the traditional offertory prayers within the Ordinary Form Mass.
The Consilium who drew up the Novus Ordo Missæ originally planned simply to have the bread and wine placed on the altar and then a prayer over the gifts said. The reason was probably that offering a 'Spotless Victim' before the said Victim was actually present was thought a bit odd. But many felt that apparently abandoning any sort of an offertory was a step too far, and so the berakah prayers ('Blessed are you, Lord') were composed and then the orate fratres reinstated.
My quibble is that although the new berakah prayers are oblationary, what they offer is not the spotless Victim, but bread and wine. In what sense do we offer bread and wine to God, and why? The Mass offers Christ, the spotless victim; the people offer praise and thanksgiving, and their whole lives: their sacrifice is obvious. But is bread and wine a New Testament sacrifice? In this context, the Anglican fudge statement of we 'bring before you' this bread and wine (or whatever) would be much better for the 'offertory'.
It has been a modern (probably since Thomas Aquinas, or Peter Lombard perhaps) trend to identify particular moments in the Mass; now is the consecration, now is the calling down of the Holy Spirit, this is the oblation—I'm not really sure that the historical liturgy saw it quite that way, but rather that the Immaculate Victim was offered from the offertory to the communion (in time, while eternally out of time). A sacrifice of bread and wine simply doesn't come into it.
What do you think?
p.s. I hope you like the picture!


Arnaud said...

Wonderful picture Father! Captures the NO perhaps a bit more than one cares to admit.

The Victim is the heart of it! It is something we have lost in the liturgy and the physical building too. It is the link with Temple; the Old Testament, that we have lost. Lost at our peril! The historical liturgy ‘got/gets this’, and not only in the Mass but in all aspects of liturgical practice. We need to look once more towards the Temple and not the synagogue. The liturgy and all that surrounds it should reflect the connection between the church as analogue of the Temple and Christ as High Priest. I could write pages on the symbols, structures and medieval liturgy that all shouts this, but you I am sure know it all to well Father!

It is so far from the ‘meal’ (as the image illustrates) as one could possibly imagine. Rather, ‘it is the ritual of atonement that is signified by the offering of the Mass, where Christ is at one and the same time priest and victim.’ It is about atonement.

In the liturgy that surrounds Easter this becomes abundantly clear with the connections between Christ and the Temple in Jerusalem. His body is identified mystically as being the Temple. The historical liturgy and the early Christians certainly saw themselves as inheritors of the Temple traditions. If one follows the train of thought along the line (developed most recently by for example Margaret Barker) of the connection between Christ, Melchisedech and the First Temple; there is no animal sacrifice but bread and wine – the roots of the Eucharist.

The new offertory prayers stress the Passover when we should be looking to the Day of Atonement. It is informative that the symbols and structures of the medieval church speak to this; the ‘Last Supper – the Passover’ was identified with the refectory in monastic houses. It was here the ‘mandatum’ took place. In houses of Augustinian Canons the refectory was even often ‘an upper room’, but the church building is identified with the Temple; the altar is the Holy of Holies.

Surely therefore the offertory prayers should reflect this? The point should be the emphasis that older offertory prayers gave ‘to the ambiguous character of the sacrificial attempt can only be completed by the action of Christ as the one truly human who is (as truly divine) alone able to make sacrifice before God’ (Hemming, 2008).

I agree totally with what you say Father in that the ‘divisions’ as we perceive them now are perhaps an academic construct that also disrupts the flow of the sacred time in the liturgical act (if that is making myself clear?) I hope the ramble makes a bit of sense. I am still working with the ideas myself.

Pastor in Monte said...

Thanks, Arnaud; there's lots of food for thought here.

William said...

Now you've freaked me out. How on earth did you get hold of a picture of my supper this evening: soup (served in a slightly unusually-shaped bowl) followed by baked potato?

OK, so soup and potato may not have been quite quod obtulit summus sacerdos Melchisedech, but if we're basically engaged in a food-offering then I'm sure they come under the heading of legitimate inculturation. Any chance of apple crumble for afters?

English Pastor said...

I have never liked the “Prayers for the preparation of the Gifts”. I wish at the end of each they would simply have added ‘the Victim of our salvation’ to continue the focus on the offering of the Divine Victim. I content myself with recalling John 6 when preparing the bread: “It will become for us THE bread of life’. However I cringe when English is used because the very manner of speech, where words run into one another, can distort the preparation of the wine: they can all too easily become “though your goodness we have THIS SWINE to offer”. Since I always do them silently, I have recently come up with the idea of doing them in Latin.

Pastor in Monte said...

Ah yes, English Pastor: one of those wonderful liturgical animals, like 'Mindful of our Saviour's bidding and of the prarie tortoise, we take heart and say…'

Anonymous said...

Interesting. One of the main arguments of archbishop Lefevre in criticism of the N.O. was the "protestantisation" of the offertory prayers. Now you go even further: the Anglican prayer would be more appropriate compared with what we have now.
I would honestly suggest abandoning the N.O. altogether, it is quite simply not in line with Catholic teaching, and even dangerous to our faith. This may seem quite hard-core, but I think that any truly Catholic person who is intellectually honest can see that the systematic removal of any notion to the true meaning of the mass (un-bloody sacrifice of Christ etc) in most parts of the N.O. has a damaging effect on the faith of the priest and laity alike.

pelerin said...

I do miss the prairie tortoise - only kidding! When that translation was done did no one think of reading it out loud to see how it sounded first?

Ttony said...

Not being particularly well educated, I always thought that the Jewish Sabbath prayers over the bread and wine had been introduced in a restoration of a part of the Liturgy in which the parishioners provided the bread and wine which would become Christ the Sacrificial victim, and that thus the participation of those who were not priests in the sacred action was made concrete.

Then I started reading about what had actually happened.

I think that Bugnini and the boys could never quite get their heads round the concept of "Priest and Victim". They are all Cartesians deep down.

gemoftheocean said...

I think the offertory prayers in the U.A. are better overall. I don't have any problem with "multitasking" i.e. the Eucharist as a meal AND the Sacrifice. The introduction to my pre Vatican II missals all say as much. I think the offertory prayers in the older form are better simply because they are more descriptive of the intentions.

I go ape, for instance when certain parties, at my church, who should know better, change "Lord, wash away my iniquities, and cleanse me from my sins" to "Lord, wash away MY iniquities, and cleanse us of OUR sins." I always want to say "no, dude, this is about YOUR sins, and you making like the worm your unworthy carcass is - don't bring me into this!" [I serve, I get to hear this.]

The current offertory prayers are too truncated.

gemoftheocean said...

And I WOULD like to know exactly how a "snot" is lead to temptation.

Fr. Philip Thomas said...

I should have listened more carefully at seminary, but I thought that Trent defined the Last Supper as being a sacrifice, possibly a natural sacrifice. Surely, that would mean that the offering of bread and wine themselves replaces the many cereal, wine and animal offerings of the past. By the Consecration this natural sacrifice is then raised to the level of the supernatural, becoming the Saving Victim to which others here have referred. If this is not my imagination, might this help?

gemoftheocean said...

Fr. Philip, that certainly makes sense to me. There is the rule, for instance, that the host to be used for the priest doesn't have any cracks or other flaws in it -- which is certainly in keeping.

The Cardinal said...

The thing about the berakah prayers (which are more ancient than Christianity) as adapted for use in our current rite is that they were edited by a Vatican mandarin before they got to the printer. The original Latin texts of the Ordo Missae did not contain the words quem tibi offerimus, and quod tibi offerimus, which were added by the anonymous mandarin, who did not understand that we are not offering the bread and wine at this point in the rite, we are merely presenting them. The offering, as we all know but the mandarin obviously didn't, does not occur here but later in the Eucharistic Prayer - hence we tend no longer to refer to the "Offertory" but to the "Presentation of the Gifts". That is what is happening: we are saying, in effect, to God "Here we are. You have given us these gfts to make use of - thank you - and we are going to do something quite wonderful with them in a few minutes' time".

When it came to providing an Ebglish translation of the Ordo Missae in 1969, ICEL quite rightly baulked at using "which we offer you" for fear of misleading the faithful. They therefore came upon the ingenious solution of "we have this bread/wine to offer", which happily implies that the actual offering is not taking place at this moment but it still to come. Thus the bad theology of the mandarin was alleviated. The unfortunate thing is that the new translation, arriving at platform X in two years' time or whenever, will revert to the literal (but theologically incorrect) translation "the bread/wine we offer you".

Pastor in Monte said...

Thanks, your Eminence; as usual, pertinent and interesting!

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

That would be awesome if the EF Offertory prayers could be used in the OF

Tacito said...

The Cardinal's comments sent me to look up Bugnini's "Reform of the Liturgy". The addition of the "quem/quod tibi offerimus" is mentioned in a footnote. Abp Bugnini attributes the addition of the words to the Pope himself, rather than an anonymous mandarin, although, no doubt, he was being advised by one.