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Look Beyond and Finding Meaning

As Catholics we have many rites for how we do things. For instance, we have specific rubrics as to how we celebrate Mass (see “The Roman Catholic Mass Explained”). We have particular rites for every Sacrament. It is important for us to know how we do our rites. The same is true for devotions like the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Some of what you will find on this blog and my website, www.renewaloffaith.org, is composed to help you know what we do and how.

It is also important that we don’t just learn what we do. We also need to understand why we do the rites. The “why” is what I try to bring alive on my blog, website, and in my presentations about Mass, Sacraments, and rites. As part of this, we also need to occasionally take a step back and reflect on some of the basic things we do so we don’t just take them for granted. Here, I think of the recent short videos, “A Tour of the Church” and “The Liturgical Books for Mass” that I did. I know of some lifelong Catholics who found them helpful to reflect on what we do and not take them for granted.

These videos show items we use at Mass. I also think of the things we do at Mass with some of my recent blog articles like, “The Sign of Peace” and “Silence, How Much and When.”

There are many things we do as Catholics. If we look at them only on a physical level, we miss the mystery. There are those who think science has all the answers. They are wrong. We need to value the physical but to look beyond it. If all we see on the altar is bread and wine, we miss the “Source and Summit of our faith (Lumen Gentium, 11). We miss the mystery (for more on mystery and what the bread and wine become see my presentation, Sacraments: Channels of God’s Grace – Initiation II).

By looking beyond the physical items we use at Mass, by looking beyond the things we do at Mass to find meaning, we become more active participants in what it is we celebrate. I hope it brings the Mass alive for you.

With this in mind, I would now like to take a moment to look at the Offertory at Mass. Some people think of the “Offertory” as the collection taken up at Mass so that the parish can pay its bills.

The Offertory does include the collection but it is more than the collection. Yes, we take up a collection but what is brought forward is more than just money. The bread and wine that will become the Body and Blood of Christ are brought forth. Over the bread, the priest will say (note music may be played at this point so you may not hear these words as the priest holds up the paten with the bread on it):
“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.”

Similar words are said then said over the wine. We must first realize we only have bread and wine to offer because God, in his goodness, has given them to us. Yet, the “work of human hands” was also involved in taking what God has given us in creation, the soil, the seed, the water to grow the seed into what becomes bread and wine. We thank God, we bless God for what He has given us.

Likewise, the money contributed by the parishioners is not simply money. The people made that money from the gifts that God has given them to do good work.

Looking beyond the money, the collection is not simply about giving money. Rather, the money makes it possible for us, us being the Church, to fulfill the mission that Jesus has given us to proclaim his gospel.

We should also realize that what we contribute in the offertory is not just the money we give. It is everything we offer in sacrifice (see previous article “More on Sacrifice”) when we contribute our time, talent, and treasure for the building up of God’s Kingdom.

Just as the Sign of Peace is much more than just wishing the people around us well; just as silence at Mass is much more than just waiting for the next thing to happen, so too is the Offertory much more than just giving money.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

2 Comments

  1. Linda House says:

    The recent blogs on specifics about the mass are very helpful. In fact they allow me to see the mass in an entirely different “light.” Recently, I have become interested in studying the trinity. I have always thought the mass and the Eucharist to be solely about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In reading What Happens at the Mass by Driscoll it explains how the mass actually is a Trinitarian mystery. As I read I see how all the members of the Trinity play a role in the Transubstantiation, I wonder how else is the Trinity evident in the mass. Also is it appropriate to pray to all the members of the Trinity during mass?

  2. Fr. Jeff says:

    The Trinity…now there is a major topic and a great mystery. I am not familiar with Driscoll’s What Happens at the Mass so I don’t know what is said there. The Mass clearly involves Jesus. It is his Body and Blood we receive in the Eucharist. However, all three persons are an integral part of what we celebrate at Mass. One might think the Eucharistic Prayer is all about Jesus but if you look at the way it is worded, it is addressed to the Father. In fact, many of the prayers at Mass are addressed to the Father. The Holy Spirit also plays an integral role in the Eucharistic Prayer. We pray that the Spirit come upon the gifts of bread and wine so that they become the Body and Blood of Jesus.

    As a sign of how all three persons of the Trinity are part of WHOLE the Mass, think about the first words of the priest at Mass as we make the Sign of the Cross, In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as well as the blessing at the end of Mass clearly involves all three persons of the Trinity.

    We can also look at the most common words ending the Collect (opening prayer) “Through our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.”

    Of cross, the Creed we say at Mass also clearly discusses all the persons of the Trinity and how they relate to one another. Jesus is begotten by the Father. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

    Thus, it is indeed appropriate to pray to all three persons of the Trinity at Mass. For example, as we listen to the readings, we can pray that the Holy Spirit helps us to understand the Bible and what the Father’s Will is for us (see Lord’s Prayer – “thy will be done”). We pray for the forgiveness of our sins through the mercy of God as Jesus sacrifices his life for us.

    I hope this begins to answer your question about the Trinity at Mass. Please let me know if you have more specific questions regarding the mystery of the Trinity or the Eucharist.

    Peace,

    Fr. Jeff

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