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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Saturday, 3 December 2011

MASS COMMENTARY 3 FIVE LOAVES AND TWO FISHES: THE OFFERTORY


The Offertory has no real value in itself except as a preparation for the Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer).    Just as five loaves and two fishes would have been utterly useless in feeding five thousand men plus women and children if they hadn't been handed over to Jesus, so  no offering of bread and wine by itself would be of any use without being handed over to Christ the High Priest in the person of his minister and without the work of the Holy Spirit.    The whole importance of the bread and wine lies in what God does with it.    The Holy Spirit, who is the Power and Love of the Father, takes our gift and, at Christ's bidding, transforms it into Christ in his act of self-giving to the Father.   Thus the prayers of the Offertory in the old Roman Mass do not concern themselves with the unconsecrated bread and wine by themselves, but only in relation to our offering of Christ's sacrifice. 


What is true in the Mass is also true in our Christian lives.  It is not our lives apart from God, our deeds apart from his grace, that have Christian value.   It is our lives and deeds in so far as the Holy Spirit has taken them up and has made them an extension of Christ's life in us.    Then our lives and deeds are given a dimension that comes from our life in Christ, so that we do not live but Christ lives in us.   WE are the body of Christ, eucharist with him: but this is the work of the Holy Spirit.


A.  THE OFFERTORY OF THE LATIN RITE (extraordinary form)



source: Tridentine Mass (click)


Offertory Verse 
(The offertory Antiphon is sung while the Priest begins the Offertory)
(sit)


Offertory Prayers
(said in a low voice while choir sings Offertory verse)
P. Suscipe, sancte Pater, omnipotens aeterne Deus, hanc immaculatam hostiam, quam ego indignus famulus tuus offero tibi, Deo meo vivo et vero, pro innumerabilibus peccatis, et offensionibus, et negligentiis meis, et pro omnibus circumstantibus, sed et pro omnibus fidelibus Christianis vivis atque defunctis. ut mihi, et illis proficiat ad salutem in vitam aeternam. 
S.Amen. P. Accept, O Holy Father, Almighty and eternal God, this spotless host, which I, your unworthy servant, offer to You, my living and true God, to atone for my numberless sins, offenses and negligences; on behalf of all here present and likewise for all faithful Christians living and dead, that it may profit me and them as a means of salvation to life everlasting. 
S. Amen.
P. Deus, qui humanae substantiae dignitatem mirabiliter condidisti, et mirabilius reformasti: da nobis per hujus aquae et vini mysterium, ejus divinitatis esse consortes, qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps, Jesus Christus Filius tuus Dominus noster: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus. per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen. P. O God, + who established the nature of man in wondrous dignity, and still more admirably restored it, grant that by the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in His Divinity, who humbled himself to share in our humanity, Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
P. Offerimus tibi, Domine, calicem salutaris tuam deprecantes clementiam: ut in conspectu divinae majestatis tuae, pro nostra et totius mundi salute com odore suavitatis ascendat. Amen. P. We offer You, O Lord, the chalice of salvation, humbly begging of Your mercy that it may arise before Your divine Majesty, with a pleasing fragrance, for our salvation and for that of the whole world. Amen.
P. In spiritu humilitatis, et in animo contrito suscipiamur a te, Domine, et sic fiat sacrificum nostrum in conspectu tuo hodie, ut placeat tibi, Domine Deus. P. In a humble spirit and with a contrite heart, may we be accepted by You, O Lord, and may our sacrifice so be offered in Your sight this day as to please You, O Lord God.
P. Veni, Sanctificator omnipotens aeterne Deus. et bene dic hoc sacrificum tuo sancto nomini praeparatum. P. Come, O Sanctifier, Almighty and Eternal God, and bless, + this sacrifice prepared for the glory of Your holy Name.
(When Mass is sung, the celebrant now blesses incense, saying)
P. Per intercessionem beati Michaelis Archangeli, stantis a dextris altaris incensi, et omnium electorum suorum, incensum istud dignetur Dominus bene dicere, et in odorem suavitatis accipere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen. P. Through the intercession of Blessed Michael the Archangel, standing at the right hand of the altar of incense, and of all His elect may the Lord vouchsafe to bless + this incense and to receive it in the odor of sweetness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(He censes the offerings, the cross and the altar, saying:)
P. Incensum istud a te benedictum, ascendat ad re, Domine, et descendat super nos misericordia tua. P. May this incense blessed by You, arise before You, O Lord, and may Your mercy come down upon us
(while incensing the altar)
P. Dirigatur, Domine, oratio mea sicut incensum in conspectu tuo: elevatio manuum mearum sacrificium vespertinum. Pone, Domine, custodiam ori meo, et ostium circumstantiae labiis meis : ut non declinet cor meum in verba malitiae, ad excsandas excusationes in peccatis. P. Let my prayer, O Lord, come like incense before You; the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice. O Lord, set a watch before my mouth, a guard at the door of my lips. Let not my heart incline to the evil of engaging in deeds of wickedness..
(while handing the thurible back)
P. Accendat in nobis Dominus ignem sui amoris, et flammam aeterne caritatis. Amen. P. May the Lord enkindle in us the fire of His love and the flame of everlasting charity. Amen
(Now the celebrant, the ministers, the servers, and the people are censed in order)

(The celebrant washes his fingers, saying these verses of Psalm 25:)
P. Lavabo inter innocentes manus meas. et circumdabo altare tuum, Domine. Ut audiam vocem laudis. et enarrem universa mirabila tua. Domine, dilexi decorem domus tuae: et locum habitationis gloriae tuae. Ne perdas cum impiis, Deus animam meam: et cum viris sanguinum vitam meam: in quorum manibus iniquitates sunt: dextera eorum repleta est muneribus. Ego autem in innocentia mea ingressus sum: redime me, et miserere mei. Pes meus stetit in directo: in ecclesiis benedicam te, Domine. P. I wash my hands in innocence, and I go around Your altar, O Lord, giving voice to my thanks, and recounting all Your wondrous deeds. O Lord, I love the house in which You dwell, the tenting place of Your glory. Gather not my soul with those of sinners, nor with men of blood my life. On their hands are crimes, and their right hands are full of bribes. But I walk in integrity; redeem me, and have pity on me My foot stands on level ground; in the assemblies I will bless You, O Lord.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. 
Sicut erat in proncipio, et nunc, et semper: et in saecula saeculorum. Amen. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. 
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
(facing at the middle of the altar, the priest prays
P. Suscipe sancta Trinitas, hanc oblationem, quam tibi offerimus ob memoriam passionis, resurrectionis, et ascensionis Jesu Christi Domini nostri: et in monorem beatae Mariae semper Virginis, wt beati Joannis Baptistae, et sanctorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli, et istorum, et monium Sanctorum: ut illis proficiat ad honorem, nobis autem ad salutem: et illi pro nobis intercedere dignentur in coelis, quorum memoriam agimus in terris. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. 
S. Amen. P. Accept, most Holy Trinity, this offering which we are making to You in remembrance of the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, Our Lord; and in honor of blessed Mary, ever Virgin, Blessed John the Baptist, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and of (name of the Saints whose relics are in the Altar) and of all the Saints; that it may add to their honor and aid our salvation; and may they deign to intercede in heaven for us who honor their memory here on earth. Through the same Christ our Lord. 
S. Amen.

(He turns to the congregation and calls on them to join their prayers with his:)
P. Orate fratres, et meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem. P. Pray brethren, that my Sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty.
S. Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis ad laudem et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostram, totiusque Ecclesiae suae sanctae. S. May the Lord receive the Sacrifice from your hands to the praise and glory of His Name, for our good, and that of all His holy Church.


After this the "secret prayer" is sung or said:
 P......per omnia saecula saeculorum.
S.     Amen









   If you read the prayer that is said by the priest as he hold the paten, without taking notice of any explanation being given or its place in the ritual, it is completely obvious that the offering being referred to in the prayer is the sacrifice of the Mass, not some dedication of unconsecrated bread for use in the Eucharist.   It says:


         
P. Accept, O Holy Father, Almighty and eternal God, this spotless host, which I, your unworthy servant, offer to You, my living and true God, to atone for my numberless sins, offences and negligences; on behalf of all here present and likewise for all faithful Christians living and dead, that it may profit me and them as a means of salvation to life everlasting. 
S. Amen..
There is only one offering that can be made for all our sins, for the living and the dead, and which will give us everlasting life; and that is the Sacrifice of Christ which he offered on the cross and offers now in the Mass.   There is no ambiguity here.   This prayer can only refer to the central act of the Mass, not the dedication of unconsecrated bread for future use.   The same can be said for the prayer over the chalice:

    
. P. We offer You, O Lord, the chalice of salvation, humbly begging of Your mercy that it may arise before Your divine Majesty, with a pleasing fragrance, for our salvation and for that of the whole world. Amen.
There is only one offering for our salvation and for that of the whole world, and that is the sacrifice of the cross and of the mass.   These prayers could not be clearer.   They are not prayers setting apart bread and wine for the Mass.   They are prayers of offering on behalf of priest and people, setting the tone for the whole Eucharistic action which begins with the Offertory.


. You will also notice that the priest asks that the offering be received.   Obviously, Christ's sacrifice is acceptable in itself; but the prayer is asking that it may be accepted by the Father as our sacrifice, that we may, as the 3rd Eucharistic Prayer puts it, become an eternal offering in the unity of Christ's body.   This is asking that our own participation in the Mass may be authentic.  A sacrifice does not only consist of the exterior rite.   It also includes the interior disposition of those who offer it.   Our loving obedience must be in harmony with that of Christ that we can be one body with him.   This depends on the humility and contrition of our own hearts.   Hence, we have the prayer:

  
P. In a humble spirit and with a contrite heart, may we be accepted by You, O Lord, and may our sacrifice so be offered in Your sight this day as to please You, O Lord God.




In Masses where incense is used there follows the incensation of the gifts, of the crucifix, of the altar, priest and people.   Incense dramatically represents our recognition of the Divine Presence on the altar, of the liturgy as heaven on earth; and this Presence cleanses us and sanctifies us in preparation for the Great Sacrifice.


We now come to the Assyrian Rite which is in classical Aramaic, the language of Our Lord, and is one of the most ancient liturgical rituals, perhaps the most ancient in actual use; though I do not know the age of the offertory prayers.



B.   The Offertory of the Assyrian Liturgy







The deacons enter the altar saying:


Let him that has not received baptism, depart.
Let him that has not received the sign of life, depart.
Let him that does not accept It [the Holy Communion], depart.
Let the hearers go, and watch the doors.
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A    Divine Presence                                      adoration and praise
The priest and the deacons kneel three times towards the place of the paten and the chalice. The priest proceeds and takes the paten, and the deacon the chalice. The priest begins the anthem:


Priest: I waited patiently for the Lord.


The body of Christ and His precious blood are upon the holy altar. Let us all draw near unto Him in fear and love and with all the angels sing aloud unto Him: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God.


The deacons respond:


The poor shall eat and be satisfied.


The body of Christ and his precious blood are upon the holy altar. Let us all draw near unto Him in fear and love and with the angels sing aloud unto Him:


Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God.
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B. That this sacrifice be accepted.


Let us pray. Peace be with us.


The priest then holds the paten in his right hand and the chalice in his left hand in the form of the cross and says:


Let us send up praise to Thy glorious Trinity at all times for ever. May Christ, Who was sacrificed for our salvation and Who commanded us to make a commemoration of His death and burial and resurrection, accept this sacrifice at our hands by His grace and mercy for ever. Amen.




The priest strikes the paten on the chalice three times, and each time he says:


By Thy command, our Lord and our God [thrice], these glorious, holy, lifegiving and divine mysteries are placed and ordered on the absolving altar, until the coming of our Lord the second time from heaven, to Whom be glory at all times for ever. Amen.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------
C.  Placing and Ordering of gifts
The priest arranges the mysteries upon the altar and covers them carefully with a veil and says:


Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. On the holy altar let there be a memorial of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ.


Deacon: From everlasting and for ever. Amen. O apostles of the Son and lovers of the Only-Begotten, pray that there may be peace in creation.


Priest: Let all the people say Amen and Amen.


Thy memorial, O our father [the patron saint], is upon the holy altar with the just who have overcome and the martyrs who have been crowned.


Deacon: Lo, all the departed have fallen asleep in Thine hope, that in the glorious resurrection Thou will raise them up in glory.


Deacons: Bless O my Lord....Let us pray. Peace be with us.
===============================================D. Priest and deacons ask for the grace to perform their offices worthily in spite of their sins.


Priest to the Deacons: May God the Lord of all be content with your ministry, and adorn you with all beauty and enrich you with all the benefits of His gifts, for ever and ever. Amen.


Deacons: Let us pray. Peace be with us.


The priest worships and stands stretching forth his hands and says:


Having our hearts sprinkled and clean from an evil conscience, may we be accounted worthy to enter into the Holy of Holies high and exalted; and in purity, watchfulness and holiness may we stand before Your holy altar and offer to Thee spiritual and reasonable sacrifices in the true faith.


And he proceeds:


Thou art good and do not always chide, neither keep Your anger for ever.


Turn Thy face from my sins and blot out all my offences in the great multitude of Thy mercifulness; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen.


or he says:


Our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all in His grace and mercy for ever. Amen.


The priest stands facing the altar and worships stretching forth his hands and begins to recite the Creed. The deacons and the people also recite the Creed--the Creed of Nicea.


Following the Nicene Creed:


The priest prostrates himself before the altar, and says: God the Lord of all be with us all, in us all, by His grace and mercy for ever. Amen.


Here the priest washes his hands, and he makes the sign of the cross (in the air with joined hands) towards all the four consecration crosses of the altar.


Priest: Bless, O my Lord. My brethren, pray for me.


The Deacons: May Christ hear your prayers and be pleased with your supplications, and by His grace and mercy accept your offering, for ever and ever, Amen. Let us pray. Peace be with us. Pray for the memorial of our fathers the catholici and bishops and of all the priests and deacons and young men and virgins and of all who have departed and passed from this world in the belief of the truth and of all our fathers and brethren


The priest turns and faces the altar and offers three genuflexions, he beseeches, praying in a low voice, the prayer of Kashapa:


Priest: Bless, O my Lord. My brethren, pray for me that this offering be accomplished at my hands.


Deacon: God, the Lord of all, strengthen you to fulfill His will and receive your offering and be well-pleased with your sacrifice, for us and for yourself and for the four corners of the world by the grace of His compassion for ever. Amen.


Priest: Glory be to Thee.


The Deacons [continuing from above]: ...and of all our sons and daughters and of all faithful and Christ-loving kings and of all.


Priest: Bless, O my Lord. Pray for me, my brethren and my beloved, that I be accounted worthy to offer before our Lord Christ this sacrifice living and holy, for myself and for the body of the holy church by the grace of His compassion for ever. Amen.


Deacon: God the Lord of all be well-pleased with your sacrifice and receive your offering, which you offer for us and for yourself by His grace and mercy for ever. Amen.


: Glory be to Thee.


The Deacons [continuing from above]: ...prophets and apostles and of all martyrs and confessors of this and every place, that God crown them in the resurrection from the dead, and give us with them a good hope and portion and inheritance and life in the kingdom of heaven.


Priest: This offering is offered for all the living and the dead. May it be received of my sinfulness before the dread tribunal of Thy majesty, O our Lord, with openness of face.


The Deacons [continuing from above]: May this offering be accepted with openness of face and be sanctified by the Word of God and by the Holy Spirit, that it may be to us for help and salvation and life eternal in the kingdom of heaven by the grace of Christ.


Priest [to the Deacons]: Christ make true thy words and receive the fruit of thy lips and pardon the trespasses and sins of all them that hearken to thee.


The priest turns his face to the altar and kneels and says the prayer of Kushapa, quietly in his heart, supplicating: Yes, O our Lord and our God...


Then he stands and says: Bless, O my Lord; bless, O My Lord; bless, O my Lord; my brethren pray for me.


Deacon: Christ hear your prayers, Christ receive your offering, may Christ make your priesthood shine in the kingdom of heaven and be well-pleased with this sacrifice, which you do offer for yourself and for us and for the whole world which looks for and expects His grace and His mercy for ever. Amen.


The Kiss of Peace follows. The people give each other the Kiss of Peace and the deacons and the priest give several short prayers. After the Priest censes the altar he says to the deacon:


Priest: Christ strengthen thee to do His will continually


MY COMMENTARY


Any church that begins the Offertory with the prayer that begins, "The body of Christ and His precious blood are upon the holy altar," must have an attitude to this part of the Mass that is very different from our own.   If that had been in the old Latin Mass, it would not have lasted long in the hands of the revisers!!.   Yet we know that the Liturgy of the Assyrian Church is completely Catholic and according to Tradition.   Therefore, how can a church that is completely Catholic and traditional in its liturgy, while being in its right mind, say, and even repeat, that the body and blood of Christ are present on the altar before the consecration?


I think it is because of the inability of Eastern Christians to look at the altar in the church without thinking of the altar in heaven, and because they see the celebration of the Liturgy in the church as a participation in the Liturgy of heaven, rather than in its relationship to the Last Supper.   This Offertory, like that of St James and of St John Chrysostom, begins on the theme of the Presence of Christ, because we are before the all-holy altar of God in heaven, and because, in the Sacrifice of the Mass, Christ is coming to us, and we are passing through the veil of Christ's flesh into the Presence of the Father.  The Offertory impresses on us what is happening and what is about to happen.   The first attitude that the Offertory should bring about in us is AWE    The second attitude springs from the first.   Aware of our weakness and our sin, we ask God to forgive us, to strengthen us, and to make us capable of fulfilling our functions in this, the holiest action known to human beings.   Special prayers are for the priest who is offering on behalf of all.  
This is accompanied by a belief in the constant love of God, a confidence which does not render our humble repentance unnecessary..  Another function of  the Offertory is that it is a time of Intercession for all that we wish to include in the sacrifice.


 There is a prayer that begins with the threefold repetition of "By thy command, O Lord our God."   We shall be touching on this in greater detail when we come to a commentary on the Roman Canon; but it seems that the most ancient theology of consecration is parallel in understanding to St Luke's understanding of the Annunciation.    Mary asks how she can become the mother of Jesus when she "knows not man".   The angel tells her that the Holy Spirit is going to come upon her and the Power of the most High shall overshadow her.    Her answer is, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord.   May it be done to me according to your word;" which in Aramaic is "Amen", total obedience to and confidence in God's word.    Hence, she becomes the Theotokos through the harmony between the Spirit and her complete acceptance, thus bringing about the synergy between the Spirit and her obedience.   The great emphasis in early eucharistic ritual is that Jesus commands his disciples to "Do this in memory of me;" and that the Church is doing it in obedience.  Hence there is the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church.   The "power" of the Church to celebrate the Mass is the fruit of the Holy Spirit working through its humble obedience.   Humble obedience to do what?  Take bread ( and wine) at the offertory, bless and give thanks in the Eucharistic Prayer, distribute and receive at the communion.   As the focus was on the obedience of the Church, there was no focus on the exact moment when the consecration takes place.   This explains why there is little clarity on exactly what is happening in the Didache, where the prayer is simply a Christian version of an old Jewish thanksgiving prayer,  no explicit epiclesis in the Roman Canon, and no words of institution in the Liturgy of SS Addai and Mari.   It was enough to intend to do what the Church is doing, which is to obey Jesus in the Last Supper.   Hence the threefold repetition of  "By thy command, O Lord, our God," at a point after the prayer, "Let this sacrifice be accepted."


Then comes the placing and "ordering" of the gifts on the altar.   Ordering involves making a memorial of the Blessed Virgin and the saints and all the departed.  It is remembered that they too take part in our Eucharist which is a participation in the heavenly liturgy.  I do not know whether they do this by dedicating portions of the bread to each category, as do the Byzantines, or not.   I would be grateful if someone could tell me.


Then priest and deacons ask that they may celebrate the Eucharist in a manner pleasing to God in spite of their sins.    There is a dialogue, for example, between priest and deacon very much like the Orate Fratres dialogue in the Roman Rite:

Priest: Bless, O my Lord. My brethren, pray for me that this offering be accomplished at my hands.
Deacon: God, the Lord of all, strengthen you to fulfill His will and receive your offering and be well-pleased with your sacrifice, for us and for yourself and for the four corners of the world by the grace of His compassion for ever. Amen.



 This is an important part of the Offertory which is more about the preparation of the participants than thst of the bread and wine.   They are the ones apptoaching God in awe.   In the Liturgy of the Word, God comes to us.   In the Eucharistic part, we are invited into the interior Life of God.  The deacon exclaims, "Peace be with us!".  Here peace is synonymous with "salvation".   Those who have it and give it to others are recognised as sons and daughters of God.


Then, in words that reflect the Letter to the Hebrews, the priest says:
Having our hearts sprinkled and clean from an evil conscience, may we be accounted worthy to enter into the Holy of Holies high and exalted; and in purity, watchfulness and holiness may we stand before Your holy altar and offer to Thee spiritual and reasonable sacrifices in the true faith.
Since we came together as God's Church, priest and people, at the beginning of Mass, we have been standing before God's altar in his heavenly temple.    In the temple, there was the huge altar of bronze for daily use; while within the Holy of Holies there was the place where the High Priest poured the blood of the atonement once a year.   In a sense, we have been in front of the first altar.  Christ has spoken to us in the readings and has manifested his presence through the Gospel; but we haven;t yet entered into the Holy of Holies.   However, in the eucharistic sacrifice we are taken through death and resurrection into the Father's presence.   Language of sacrifice changes very easily into language of presence and theophany; and we are like Moses who entered the cloud on Mount Sinai, and like Isaiah and others who entered God's presence in the Old Testament,  and like John in the Apocalypse: but that will be after the Offertory.


Towards the end of the Offertory, priest and people recite the Creed; after which the priest washes his hands.   The last action is the censing of the gifts, th altar and people by the priest, just as in the Roman Rite. 




               C..   LITURGY OF ST JAMES



source: Liturgy of St James (click)
OFFERTORY

Deacon: Let none of the catechumens; none of the uninitiated; none of those who cannot pray with us. Recognize one another. The doors! Let all stand upright.

The Singers begin the hymn Let all mortal flesh keep silent, slowly and melodically.

Let all mortal flesh keep silent, and with fear and trembling stand. Ponder nothing earthly-minded, Let all mortal flesh keep silent, and with fear and trembling stand. Ponder nothing earthly-minded, for the King of kings and Lord of lords advances to be slain and given as food to the faithful. Before him go the choirs of Angels, with every rule and authority, the many-eyed Cherubim and the six-winged Seraphim, veiling their sight and crying out the hymn: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

After the holy Gifts have been placed on the holy Altar and before they are covered with the Cloud, the Priest says

The Prayer of the Prothesis

God, our God, who sent forth the heavenly Bread, the food of the whole world, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, as our Saviour, Redeemer and Benefactor, to bless and sanctify us; bless this Offering, and receive it on your altar above the heavens. In your goodness and love for humankind be mindful of those who have offered it, and those for whom they have offered it, and grant all their requests that are for their salvation; and as we celebrate your divine mysteries keep us without condemnation. For sanctified and glorified is your all-honoured and majestic name, of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

He censes the holy Gifts, saying:

Master almighty, King of glory, the God who knows all things before they come to be, be present with us as we call upon you at this holy time, and redeem us from the shame of transgressions. Cleanse our mind and our thoughts from foul desires, worldly deception and every operation of the devil, and accept from the hand of us sinners this incense for an odour of sweet fragrance, as you accepted the offering of Abel and Noë, Aaron and Samuel and all your holy ones, delivering us from every evil deed, and keeping us safe to be always well pleasing to you, and to worship and glorify you, our Father, and your only-begotten Son and your all-holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Deacon: In God’s wisdom, let us attend.

The Priest covers the holy Gifts with the Cloud and begins the Creed, saying the first words I believe in one God.

People: I believe in one God, Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father, through him all things were made. For our sake and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man. He was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; he rose again on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with Father and Son is worshipped and together glorified; who spoke through the Prophets. In one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. Amen.

Prayer of the Kiss

Priest, in a low voice: God and Master of all, lover of humankind, make us, unworthy though we are, worthy of this hour, so that, cleansed of all deceit and hypocrisy, we may be united to one another by the bond of peace and love, confirmed by the sanctification of your divine knowledge through your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom you are blessed, together with your all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Deacon: Let us stand with awe. In peace let us pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Priest (aloud): For you are a God of peace, mercy, love, compassion and love for humankind, with your only-begotten Son and your all-holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages.

People: Amen.

Priest: Peace to all.

People: And to your spirit.

Deacon: Let us greet one another with a holy kiss.

After the Kiss has been given, the Deacon says:

Let us bow our heads to the Lord.

People: To you, O Lord.

The Priest bows and says in a low voice:

O only Lord and merciful God, who dwell in the highest and look upon lowly things, send forth your good grace upon those who have bowed their necks before your holy altar, and seek the spiritual gifts that come from you, and bless us all with every spiritual that cannot be taken away.

(aloud): For your name, of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is to be praised, worshipped and supremely glorified, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages.

People: Amen.

Deacon, to the Priest: Sir, give the blessing.

The Priest prays for those present, saying:

The Lord will bless us all, serve with us and make us worthy of taking our stand at his holy altar and of the coming of his holy Spirit, now and always, and to the ages of ages.

The Priest signs the holy Gifts and says in a low voice:

Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, goodwill. (x3)

Lord, you will open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise. (x3)

Let my mouth be filled with your praise, that I may sing your glory, all day long your majesty. (x3)

Of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

And bowing to left and right, he says aloud and melodiously:

Magnify the Lord with me, and let us praise his name together.

And they chant in reply:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

Priest: May the Lord remember you in the kingdom of heaven, always, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages.

Deacon: In peace, let us pray to the Lord.

People: Lord, have mercy. And after every petition.

Save us, have mercy one us, have pity on us and keep us, O God, by your grace.

For the peace from on high, God’s love for humankind, and the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.

For the peace of the whole world and the union of all the holy churches, let us pray to the Lord.

For this holy monastery (this holy house), and for the Catholic and Apostolic Church, from the ends of the earth and to its furthest bounds, let us pray to the Lord.

For the safety and salvation and assistance of our most holy Father and Archbishop N., all the clergy and Christ-loving people, let us pray to the Lord.

[For our Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Family, her government, and all in authority, let us pray to the Lord.]

For this city, for every city, town and village, and for those who dwell in them with Orthodox faith and reverence for God, for their peace and security, let us pray to the Lord.

For those who bring offerings, those who care for the beauty of the holy churches of God, and who remember the poor, the widows and orphans, foreigners, strangers and those in need, and those who have asked us to remember them in our prayers, let us pray to the Lord.

For those in old age and incapacity, the sick, the suffering, those troubled by unclean spirits, and for their speedy healing from God and for their safety and salvation, let us pray to the Lord.

For those who pass their lives in virginity, purity and asceticism, and in holy wedlock, and for our venerable fathers, mothers and brethren who struggle on mountains, in caves, and in the hollows of the earth, let us pray to the Lord.

For those who travel by land, air or water, for Christians who are far from home, for those our brethren in captivity and exile, in prisons and bitter slavery, and for the peaceful return of each one to their own home with joy, let us pray to the Lord.

For those who are present here and who pray with us at this holy time and at every moment, fathers, mothers and brethren, for their zeal, toil and readiness, let us pray to the Lord.

And for every Christian soul that is afflicted and distressed, and in need of God’s mercy and help; for the return of those who have been led astray, the health of the sick, the liberation of prisoners, and the repose of our fathers, mothers and brethren who have gone to their rest before us, let us pray to the Lord.

For the forgiveness of our sins and the pardon of our offences, for our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, anger and constraint, and from the assault of nations, let us pray to the Lord.

More intensely, for favourable weather, peaceful rains, good dews, abundant harvests, fair seasons, and for the crowning of the year, let us pray to the Lord.

For our prayer to be heard and to be acceptable before God, and that he send down to us his rich mercies and acts of compassion, and for us all to be found worthy of his kingdom, let us fervently pray.

Commemorating our all holy, pure, most glorious and blessed Lady, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, of the holy and blessed John, the glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, of the holy Apostles, of Stephen the Archdeacon and Protomartyr, of Moses, Aaron , Elias, Elissaios, Samuel, David, Daniel, the Prophets and of the Holy and Just, that by their prayers and intercessions we may all find mercy.

And for the precious and heavenly, ineffable, immaculate, glorious, fearsome, divine gifts, here set forth, and for the salvation of our honoured father and Priest, who presides and offers them, let us entreat the Lord our God.

People: Lord, have mercy. (x3)

The Priest bows and, in a low voice, says

The Prayer of Offering of St James

Master and Lord, who visit us in mercy and compassion and have granted us, humble sinners and your unworthy servants the grace to stand at your holy Altar and to offer to you this dread sacrifice without shedding of blood for our own sins and those committed in ignorance by the people, look on me, your unprofitable servant and wipe away my transgressions through your compassion and purify my lips and my heart from every defilement of flesh and spirit, and banish from me every base and unseemly thought, and enable me for this ministry by the power of your all-holy Spirit, and accept me through your goodness as I approach your holy altar, and be well pleased, Lord, for these gifts to be acceptable that are offered through our hands, being gracious to my weaknesses, and do not cast me away from your presence. Do not despise my unworthiness, but have mercy on me, O God, in accordance with your great mercy and according to the abundance of your compassion disregard my offences, so that, coming into the presence of your glory with condemnation, I may be found worthy of the protection of your only-begotten Son and the illumination of your all-holy Spirit, but as your servant may I find grace, mercy and forgiveness of sins both in this present age and in the age to come. Yes, Master almighty and all-powerful, listen to my supplication and grant me reprieve from my evil deeds, for it is you who work all in all, and in all things we seek from you your help and assistance and that of your only-begotten Son and your good, life-giving and consubstantial Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

And he adds a second

Prayer of Saint Denys the Areopagite

O God, who through your great and ineffable love for humankind sent out your only-begotten Son into the world that he might turn back the sheep that had gone astray, do not turn us sinners away as we undertake for you this dread sacrifice without shedding of blood, for we do not trust in our own righteousness but in your loving mercy, through which you acquire our race. And now too we implore and beseech your goodness that this mystery, which is performed through us for salvation, may not become a cause of condemnation for your people, but be for the wiping away of sins, renewal of souls and bodies, and for your good pleasure, God and Father, for you are a God who loves humankind and to you belongs glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

The Prayer of the Veil

We thank you, Lord our God, that you have given us the freedom of entry into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, inaugurating for us a new and living way through the veil of his flesh. Having therefore been counted worthy to enter the place where your glory dwells, and to be within the veil, and to look upon the Holy of Holies, we fall down before your goodness, Master. Have mercy on us, for we are filled with fear and trembling as we are about to stand at your holy altar and to offer to you this dread sacrifice without shedding of blood for our sins and those committed in ignorance by the people. Send forth your good grace upon us, O God, and sanctify our souls and bodies and spirits, and change our thoughts towards true religion, that with a pure conscience we may offer you mercy, peace, a sacrifice of praise. And having uncovered the veils of the mysteries that symbolically surround this sacred rite, show us clearly, and fill our spiritual vision with your boundless light; and having cleansed our poverty from all defilement of flesh and spirit, make it worthy of this dread and fearful presence.

(Aloud):By the mercy and compassion and love for humankind of your only-begotten Son, with whom you are blessed, together with all holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever and to the ages of ages.

People: Amen.

Priest: And unveiling the coverings of the mysteries which in symbol surround this sacred rite, show them to us clearly and fill the eyes of our minds with your incomprehensible light, and purifying our poverty from every defilement of flesh and spirit, make it worthy of this dread and fearful presence, because you are a God of surpassing compassion and mercy, and to you we give glory and thanksgiving, Father, Son and holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Priest: Peace to all.


MY COMMENTARY

Let all mortal flesh keep silent, and with fear and trembling stand. Ponder nothing earthly-minded, Let all mortal flesh keep silent, and with fear and trembling stand. Ponder nothing earthly-minded, for the King of kings and Lord of lords advances to be slain and given as food to the faithful. Before him go the choirs of Angels, with every rule and authority, the many-eyed Cherubim and the six-winged Seraphim, veiling their sight and crying out the hymn: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

We Romans sing this beautiful hymn, but not normally at the Offertory.   The Anglicans in Lima sing it at Christmas.   The Orthodox sing it on the rare occasions they use the Liturgy of St James and, I believe, at the Easter Vigil Mass in place of the Cherubicon, at the Offertory, of course. 


  In fact, it fits very well into an Eastern Offertory.   The Offertory is a preparation for the Eucharistic Prayer and begins with the Presence of Christ pn order to elicit AWE among the participants.   Christ is coming both as High Priest and as Victim.


It corresponds to the "prayer of the veil", said by the priest at the end of the Offertory where priest and people are taken, in Christ, up into the presence of the Father.   This says:

We thank you, Lord our God, that you have given us the freedom of entry into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, inaugurating for us a new and living way through the veil of his flesh. Having therefore been counted worthy to enter the place where your glory dwells, and to be within the veil, and to look upon the Holy of Holies, we fall down before your goodness, Master. Have mercy on us, for we are filled with fear and trembling as we are about to stand at your holy altar and to offer to you this dread sacrifice without shedding of blood for our sins and those committed in ignorance by the people. Send forth your good grace upon us, O God, and sanctify our souls and bodies and spirits, and change our thoughts towards true religion, that with a pure conscience we may offer you mercy, peace, a sacrifice of praise. And having uncovered the veils of the mysteries that symbolically surround this sacred rite, show us clearly, and fill our spiritual vision with your boundless light; and having cleansed our poverty from all defilement of flesh and spirit, make it worthy of this dread and fearful presence.

(Aloud):By the mercy and compassion and love for humankind of your only-begotten Son, with whom you are blessed, together with all holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever and to the ages of ages.

People: Amen.
All we want to know about the Mass is contained in these two prayers; but there is more to come.   In the "Prayer of the Prothesis", among the petitions is this one," Bless this Offering, and receive it on your altar above the heavens."   This reflects the theology of the Roman Canon and is a prayer for consecration, that our gifts of bread and wine become the gifts on the heavenly altar, the body and blood of Christ.


After this he says another prayer while censing the gifts, asking God to redeem, pardon, cleanse from foul desires and deception from the devil all those taking part.   He also asks that the incense be acceptable to God.


After this comes the Creed, pronounced by the whole congregation.  Then there is the "Prayer of the Kiss" in which he asks that " we may be united to one another by the bond of peace and love, confirmed by the sanctification of your divine knowledge through your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,"  This "bond of peace and love, confirmed by the sanctification of your divine knowledge" is what permits them both to say the Creed together and to give the kiss of peace.


Afterwards there is a beautiful dialogue of prayer alternating between priest and people,  One of the Scriptural phrases the people sing, applying it to the priest, is, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.".   The priest can fulfil his role as Mary fulfilled her role, by the synergy between the humble obedience of the Church and the action of the Holy Spirit.


Then follows a litany, making intercession.   After this comes three wonderful prayers, on the last of which we have already commented. 

D. LITURGY OF ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

Dismissal of the Catechumens



Priest:
All ye catechumens, depart! Depart, ye catechumens! All ye that are catechumens, depart! Let no catechumens remain! But let us who are of the faithful, again and again, in peace pray to the Lord.

People:
Lord, have mercy.

Priest (in a low voice):

We give thanks unto Thee, O Lord God of the Powers, Who hast accounted us worthy to stand even now before Thy holy altar, and to prostrate ourselves before Thy compassion for our sins and errors of the people. Accept our supplications, O God; make us worthy to offer unto Thee prayers and supplications, and bloodless sacrifices for all Thy people. And enable us, whom Thou hast appointed in this Thy ministry, by the power of Thy Holy Spirit, blamelessly and without offense, in the pure testimony of our conscience, to call upon Thee at all times and in every place; that hearing us, Thou mayest show mercy upon us according to the multitude of Thy goodness.


Priest:
Help us, save us have mercy upon us and protect us, O god, by Thy grace.

People:
Lord, have mercy.

Priest:
For unto Thee are due all glory, honor, and worship, to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
People:
Amen.

Prayer of the Faithful


Priest (in a low voice):

Again, we bow before You and pray to You, O good and loving God. Hear our supplication: cleanse our souls and bodies from every defilement of flesh and spirit, and grant that we may stand before Your holy altar without blame or condemnation. Grant also, O God, progress in life, faith, and spiritual discernment to the faithful who pray with us, so that they may always worship You with reverence and love, partake of Your Holy Mysteries without blame or condemnation, and become worthy of Your heavenly kingdom.


Priest:
And grant that always guarded by Your power we may give glory to You, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.

People:
Amen.

The Great Entrance




People:
We who mystically represent the Cherubim sing the thrice holy hymn to the life giving Trinity. Let us set aside all the cares of life that we may receive the King of all...

Priest (While the Cherubic Hymn is being sung, the priest prays in a low voice):

No one bound by worldly desires and pleasures is worthy to approach, draw near or minister to You, the King of glory. To serve You is great and awesome even for the heavenly powers. But because of Your ineffable and immeasurable love for us, You became man without alteration or change. You have served as our High Priest, and as Lord of all, and have entrusted to us the celebration of this liturgical sacrifice without the shedding of blood. For You alone, Lord our God, rule over all things in heaven and on earth. You are seated on the throne of the Cherubim, the Lord of the Seraphim and the King of Israel. You alone are holy and dwell among Your saints. You alone are good and ready to hear. Therefore, I implore You, look upon me, Your sinful and unworthy servant, and cleanse my soul and heart from evil consciousness. Enable me by the power of Your Holy Spirit so that, vested with the grace of priesthood, I may stand before Your holy Table and celebrate the mystery of Your holy and pure Body and Your precious Blood. To You I come with bowed head and pray: do not turn Your face away from me or reject me from among Your children, but make me, Your sinful and unworthy servant, worthy to offer to You these gifts. For You, Christ our God, are the Offerer and the Offered, the One who receives and is distributed, and to You we give glory, together with Your eternal Father and Your holy, good and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.


(The priest censes and recites in a low voice:)

Priest:

We who mystically represent the Cherubim sing the thrice holy hymn to the life giving Trinity. Let us set aside all the cares of life that we may receive the King of all...


(On Sundays)

Having beheld the resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One. We venerate Your cross, O Christ, and we praise and glorify Your holy resurrection. You are our God. We know no other than You, and we call upon Your name. Come, all faithful, let us venerate the holy resurrection of Christ. For behold, through the cross joy has come to all the world. Blessing the Lord always, let us praise His resurrection. For enduring the cross for us, he destroyed death by death.Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your great mercy; and according to the multitude of Your compassion, blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my iniquity, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done evil in Your sight, that You may be found just when You speak, and victorious when You are judged. For behold, I was conceived in iniquity, and in sin my mother bore me. For behold, You have loved truth; You have made known to me the secret and hidden thing of Your wisdom. you shall sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be made clean; You shall wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the afflicted bones may rejoice. Turn Your face away from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and establish me with Your governing Spirit. I shall teach transgressors Your ways, and the ungodly shall turn back to You. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall joyfully declare Your righteousness. Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim Your praise. For if You had desired sacrifice, I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offerings. A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; God will not despise a broken and a humbled heart. Do good in Your good pleasure to Sion; and let the walls of Jerusalem be built. Then You shall be pleased with a sacrifice of righteousness, with oblation and whole burnt offerings. Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.


(Then the Great Entrance takes place.)

Deacon:
May the Lord God remember all of you in His kingdom, now and forever and to the ages of ages.

People:
Amen.

(The priest enters the sanctuary, while the people sing the end of the Cherubic Hymn.)

People:
...invisibly escorted by the angelic hosts. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

(After placing the holy gifts on the holy Table, he says:)

The Petitions


Deacon:
Let us complete our prayer to the Lord.

People:
Lord have mercy.

Deacon:
For the precious gifts here presented, let us pray to the Lord.

People:
Lord have mercy.

Deacon:
For this holy house and for those who enter it with faith, reverence, and the fear of God, let us pray to the Lord.

People:
Lord have mercy.

Deacon:
For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger, and distress, let us pray to the Lord.

People:
Lord have mercy.

Deacon:
Help us, save us, have mercy upon us, and protect us, O God, by Your grace.

People:
Lord have mercy.

Deacon:
For a perfect, holy, peaceful, and sinless day, let us ask the Lord.

People:
Grant this, O Lord.

Deacon:
For an angel of peace, a faithful guide, a guardian of our souls and bodies, let us ask the Lord.

People:
Grant this, O Lord.

Deacon:
For forgiveness and remission of our sins and transgressions, let us ask the Lord.

People:
Grant this, O Lord.

Deacon:
For all that is good and beneficial to our souls, and for peace in the world, let us ask the Lord.

People:
Grant this, O Lord.

Deacon:
For the completion of our lives in peace and repentance, let us ask the Lord.

People:
Grant this, O Lord.

Deacon:
For a Christian end to our lives, peaceful, without shame and suffering, and for a good account before the awesome judgment seat of Christ, let us ask the Lord.

People:
Grant this, O Lord.

Deacon:
Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.

People:
To You, O Lord.

The Prayer of the Proskomide


Priest (in a low voice):

Lord, God Almighty, You alone are holy. You accept a sacrifice of praise from those who call upon You with their whole heart. Receive also the prayer of us sinners and let it reach Your holy altar. Enable us to bring before You gifts and spiritual sacrifices for our sins and for the transgressions of the people. Make us worthy to find grace in Your presence so that our sacrifice may be pleasing to You and that Your good and gracious Spirit may abide with us, with the gifts here presented, and with all Your people.


Priest:
Through the mercies of Your only begotten Son with whom You are blessed, together with Your all holy, good, and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.

People:
Amen.

Priest:
Peace be with all.

People:
And with your spirit.

Deacon:
Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess:

(The Priest kisses the holy Gifts saying:)

Priest:

I love You, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer.


(At this time it is customary for the kiss of peace to be exchanged.)

People:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Trinity one in essence and inseparable.

Deacon:
Guard the doors. Wisdom. Let us be attentive.

The Creed


MY COMMENTARY

As in the previous two offertories, that of St John Chrysostom prepares us for the Eucharistic Prayer
firstly by hailing the coming of Christ with the angels in the Cherubicon, while the priest says the prayer:
No one bound by worldly desires and pleasures is worthy to approach, draw near or minister to You, the King of glory. To serve You is great and awesome even for the heavenly powers.....
He and the people must in awe look to the mercy of God, while they reject anything in themselves which is incompatible with their participation in such a holy event.

As he incenses the altar, the priest says:

We who mystically represent the Cherubim sing the thrice holy hymn to the life giving Trinity. Let us set aside all the cares of life that we may receive the King of all.
St John Chrysostom said that, during the Mass, the whole sanctuary is full of angels glorifying God.   This prayer says that the priests and faithful are icons of the cherubim.   As they sing to the Blessed Trinity, they are not just "like" the Cherubim: they are signs and expressions of their presence.


Before entering through the royal doors with the offerings, the celebrant turns and blesses the people with the covered paten and chalice.   This is also done after communion of the people with the consecrated species - the nearest thing the Orthodox have to Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Why does this happen before the consecration at the Offertory?   Most probably because the priest is including the people in any benediction the bread and wine are going to receive at the consecration, the people being body of Christ by the same word by which the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.


Then comes a litany led by the deacon.   Frequent litanies are a characteristic of this liturgy because the altar is the mercy-seat of God, as in the Holy of Holies in the temple.   It is appropriate that the Church should continually ask for mercy from God for ourselves, the Church and the whole world.   It is appropriate to include all our petitions in the Church's sacrifice.


Christian sacrifice is, at one and the same time, our sel-offering to God and to our neighbour.   It is impossible to have one without the the other.   Jesus tells us that, when we go to offer sacrifice in the temple and we have something against our brother, we must leave our sacrifice and go and make peace with our brother.   Hence, before the Anaphora, we give each other the sign of peace.   Indeed, as St Augustine pointed out, we are held together in one Church by ecclesial love  which is the manifestation in the Church of the Holy Spirit's presence.    Thus we share with one another in a kiss of peace.   This ecclesial love allows us to take part in Christ's sacrifice.  


 It is also essential if we are to say with one heart, mind and one voice the Creed.   To quote a Catholic theologian Fr Bernard Lonergan s.j., faith is knowledge based on love.  Common understanding of the mysteries of faith cannot remain for long when ecclesial love has departed.   The East - West schism illustrates this.   When we do not love one another, we do not know that we agree, even when, in fact, we do; and when we don't, it becomes a permanent obstacle   That is why a growing mutual love is the only way back to unity.   In the meantime, before pronouncing the Creed, the Byzantines exchange the kiss of peace.



THE ROMAN RITE (NOVUS ORDO)


Here I shall content myself with a comparison between the new and the old.   One difference is the Offertory Prosession in the Novus Ordo that is a part of the Masses on Sundays, holidays and when there is a large congregation.   Principally, it is the procession of the bread and wine, carried by members of the congregation and presented to the celebrant.   The collection is also carried up, emphasising that what is being given is being given, in the first place, to God.   However, only the bread and wine should be put on the altar.   Often the function of the offertory procession is obscured by people bringing all kinds of things which are not things to be offered in a spirit of sacrifice, gifts which symbolise all we have and are, but symbols with little to do with the offertory.   During the procession a liturgical antiphon or a hymn is sung.  The celebrant takes the bread and wine which are placed on the altar.

    There was a rumour during the revision after the 2nd Vatican Council that there were to  be no offertory prayers in the Novus Ordo, that the bread and wine would merely be placed on the altar without special words to avoid the ambiguity of two apparent offerings, a mini-offering at the Offertory and a major one at the consecration.  However, had that happened, the new Latin Rite would have stood in stark contrast to other Catholic rites which have some of their most beautiful prayers at the Offertory.    The rumour said that Pope Paul VI insisted on offertory prayers and suggested, as a model, those in the Ambrosian Rite of which he was very fond.  A comparison between old and new does support that rumour.

Where the extraordinary form has the prayer, " P. Accept, O Holy Father, Almighty and eternal God, this spotless host, which I, your unworthy servant, offer to You,....," the Novus Ordo wants to eliminate any idea that there is an offering at the Offertory apart from the sacrifice of the Mass:
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. R/ Blessed be God for ever.
This is based on the offertory prayer in the Ambrosian Rite:

The Priest takes the Paten with the Bread on it and says the folowing prayers quietly: 
Accept, most clement Father, this holy Bread, that it may become for us the Body of Your Only-begotten Son, in the Name of the Father  andof the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The prayer has been changed so that, instead of blessing the bread or asking God to accept it, it has become a prayer of gratitude for the bread, which was the Jewish way of blessing things; and  the new prayer points out that the bread is both something of nature and of human industry, so that its consecration is an event of cosmic relevance and of human history that would bless the natural world and the human one.


In the extraordinary form, the priest says at this point the following prayer:
P. O God, + who established the nature of man in wondrous dignity, and still more admirably restored it, grant that by the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in His Divinity, who humbled himself to share in our humanity, Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.  
 This has been shortened in the Novus Ordo:
 By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

It seems that the liturgists revising the Mass wanted to avoid the pattern of prayer used in public prayers like collects etc ending with an "Amen", when it is a prayer of the priest alone.   Anyway, the meaning is clear.  It is one of the clearest Latin prayers that express the Eastern doctrine of theosis.  


Now follows the prayer over the chalice.   In the extraordinary rite the prayer is:
P.We offer You, O Lord, the chalice of salvation, humbly begging of Your mercy that it may arise before Your divine Majesty, with a pleasing fragrance, for our salvation and for that of the whole world. Amen.   
 Clearly the "chalice of salvation" isn't the chalice as it is at the Offertory.   In common with other rites, the old form has all its attention on the central part of the Mass for which the Offertory is only a preparation.   Nevertheless the revisers wanted to make a clear distinction between the chalice before the consecration and the same chalice during and after the consecration.   This is their prayer: 
 Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.   R/ Blessed be God for ever.    
This, in turn, is probably a revision of the offertory prayer in the Ambrosian Rite.

 Accept, O Holy Trinity, this Chalice of wine mixed with water, that it may become the blood of Your Only-begotten Son, in the name of the Father ? and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Then follows a short prayer under his breath:
With humble and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God.
This prayer introduces another traditional theme of the Offertory, our necessity to prepare ourselves for the great encounter with God that is the Mass.   To be our sacrifice, the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross present and active in the Mass must also reflect our humility and contrition, and we must utterly reject all that is unclean, as the priest does as he washes his hands:
Wash me O Lord from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin
 This is what is left of the verses of psalm 25


Then comes a dialogue between priest and people:
  P.  Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the almighty Father
The People reply:  May the Lord accept the sacrifice from your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.
There are two ways that the Church uses traditionally for the relationship between priest and people in the Eucharist.  The first is "we" offer etc.   This is the normal way of speaking in the Roman Canon.   The priest uses the word "we" to denote priest and people.   We saw in the first post on the Assembly that the "community called together in my name" is priest and people: not priest without the people, nor people without the priest.   This is the Church, the fundamental sacrament which manifests by its very existence, the presence of Christ.   This is the "we" of the Roman Canon.   The other is also so traditional that we find it in the Aramaic liturgy of the Assyrians in a dialogue not unlike the Orate Fratres.

Priest: Bless, O my Lord. Pray for me, my brethren and my beloved, that I be accounted worthy to offer before our Lord Christ this sacrifice living and holy, for myself and for the body of the holy church by the grace of His compassion for ever. Amen.
Deacon: God the Lord of all be well-pleased with your sacrifice and receive your offering, which you offer for us and for yourself by His grace and mercy for ever. Amen.
In this dialogue, the priest offers the sacrifice for himself and "for the body of the holy church".   These are two different ways of describing the same reality, and they cannot be opposed to one another.   The priest offers as manifesting the presence of Christ who offers on our behalf.   At the same time, it is a Christ who is never separated, over against his Church, but always with his Church.   Because of God's mercy, the priest, at the same time and as dimensions of the same function, is always representative of Christ and voice of the Christian community, because that is what Christ is.   Thus, he can say, "I absolve you" and "we" offer, and mean the same thing: it is simply a matter of emphasis.


In the Roman Rite, the three times of movement, the assembly coming together, the offertory and the communion, end with a prayer, which in the Offertory was called thw "secret" and is now called "prayer over the gifts". 





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