October 13, 2007

Entering into communion with Christ by offering ourselves in sacrifice to God at Mass

“Active Participation”

At Mass, the rite of the Preparation of the Altar and the Gifts expresses the self-sacrifice of each member of the Church.

Number 73 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (G.I.R.M.) says:
“It is praiseworthy for the bread and wine to be presented by the faithful. .... the rite of carrying up the offerings still retains its force and its SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE....”

What is the “spiritual significance” of having the faithful carry up the bread and wine toward the altar?

The people carry up the bread (from living grains dried and ground into flour) and wine (from living grapes crushed) as a sign of offering themselves to God.

After the priest receives the bread and wine from the faithful, he places them on the altar while speaking to God the following.

“Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to OFFER which earth has given and HUMAN HANDS HAVE MADE. It will become for us the bread of life.”

“Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to OFFER, fruit of the vine and WORK OF HUMAN HANDS. It will become our spiritual drink.”

Then, the priest bows and says inaudibly:
“Lord God, WE ASK YOU TO RECEIVE US and be pleased with THE SACRIFICE WE OFFER YOU with humble and contrite hearts.”

Number 75 of the G.I.R.M. says that then:
“The priest may incense the gifts placed upon the altar and then incense the cross and the altar itself, so as TO SIGNIFY THE CHURCH’S OFFERING AND PRAYER RISING LIKE INCENSE IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. Next, the priest, because of his sacred ministry, and THE PEOPLE, BY REASON OF THEIR BAPTISMAL DIGNITY, MAY BE INCENSED by the deacon or another minister.”

Then, after washing his hands, the priest says to the people:
“Pray, brethren, that OUR SACRIFICE may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”

A better translation of the Latin original:
“Pray, brethren, that MY SACRIFICE AND YOURS may be acceptable to God the Father almighty.”

The Latin makes it clear that each person— the priest himself and each of the faithful— is offering his own self in sacrifice to God the Father. However, each one puts his self-sacrifice spiritually into the hands of the priest by saying to the priest:
“May the Lord accept THE SACRIFICE at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his Church.”

Among the phrases above that I highlighted:
what “human hands have made”
“the work of human hands”
“we ask you to receive us”
“the sacrifice we offer”
incensing the people “to signify the Church’s offering and prayer rising like incense in the sight of God”

Christ and his Self-Sacrifice are really present in the Eucharist. However, we are to join Christ in sacrificing ourselves to the Father— sacrificing to the Father all that we do (“the work of human hands”) and all our being (“we ask you to receive us”).

If self-sacrifice is not our intention, then we are not allowing our reception of Christ’s Eucharistic Self-Sacrifice to take effect in our lives.

Our self-sacrifice to God at Mass and in daily living ... THAT is “active participation” in the Mass. Less than that is NON-participation or a lie— even if you sing all the songs, and even if you are the priest.


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