Sunday 19 February 2012

Whatever happened to the Offertory?

In the immemorial form of Mass (now known as the Extraordinary Form) we used to have the Offertory.  The re-writing of this, replacing the time-honoured prayers with some newly composed prayers based, I gather, on a Jewish Grace, was one of the most startling changes introduced in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (and nowhere mandated by the Council document Sacrosanctum Concilium, which said that nothing should be changed unless the good of the Church certainly required it, or words to that effect...)

Let us first compare, and then comment

The priest now says the Offertory for the Mass being offered.  He then uncovers the Chalice and in a lower voice says:                          

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.  Amen.

(P:  Receive,  O Holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this spotless host,  which I, Thine unworthy servant,  offer unto Thee,  my living and true God, for my countless sins, trespasses, and omissions; likewise for all here present, and for all faithful Christians,  whether living or dead,  that it may avail both me and them to salvation, unto life everlasting.  Amen)

The priest goes to the Epistle side and pours wine and water into the Chalice.     
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 in creating  man didst exalt his nature  very wonderfully and yet more  wonderfully didst establish it anew:  by the mystery signified in the mingling of this water and wine,  grant us to have part in the Godhead of Him Who hath vouchsafed to share our manhood,  Jesus Christ,  Thy Son,  Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost,  God;  world without end.  Amen.)


At the middle of the altar, the priest says:                  

P:  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.

(P:  We offer unto Thee,  O Lord, the chalice of salvation, beseeching Thy clemency that it may ascend as a sweet odour before Thy divine majesty,  for our own salvation, and for that of the whole world.  Amen.)

P:  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.
(P:  Humbled in mind,  and contrite of heart,  may we find favor with Thee,  O Lord; and may the sacrifice we this day offer up be well pleasing to Thee, Who art our Lord and our God.)

P:  Veni sanctificator  omnipotens aeterne Deus,  et  (+) benedic hoc sacrificium  tuo sancto nomini praeparatum.

(P:  Come,  Thou,  the  Sanctifier, God,  almighty and everlasting: bless (+) this sacrifice which is prepared for the glory of Thy holy name.)

THE LAVABO                        

Going to the Epistle side, the priest washes his fingers and says:   
P:  Lavabo inter innocentes  manus meas:  et circumdabo  altare tuum Domine.  Ut audiam vocem laudis:  et enarrem universa mirabilia 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.  Gloria, etc.

(P:  I will wash my hands among the innocent,  and will compass Thine altar,  O Lord. That I may hear the voice of praise,  and tell of all Thy wondrous works.  I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of Thy house,  and the place where Thy glory dwelleth.  Take not away my soul,  O God,  with the wicked;  nor my life with men of blood.  In whose hands are iniquities:  their right hand is filled with gifts.  But as for me,  I have walked in my innocence;  redeem me, and have mercy on me.  My foot hath stood in the right way; in the churches I will bless Thee,  O Lord.  Glory be to  the Father, and to the Son,  and to the Holy Ghost.  As it was in the beginning,  is now, and ever shall be;  world without end. Amen.)

The priest returns to the middle of the altar and bowing slightly,  says:                  

P:  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 coelis,  quorum memoriam agimus in terris.  Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum.  Amen.

(P:  Receive, O holy Trinity, this oblation offered up by us to Thee in memory of the ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ,  and in honor of blessed Mary, ever a virgin,  of blessed John the Baptist, of the holy apostles Peter and Paul,  of these, and of all the saints,  that it may be available to their honor and  to our salvation; and may  they whose memory we celebrate on earth vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven. Through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen.)
The Ordinary Form (current English translation)


P. 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.

P. 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.

P. 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.

P. With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice to you this day  be pleasing in your sight, Lord God.

P. Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.


For some reason, this really hit home today at Mass.  I frequently go to the Extraordinary Form (normally twice a month, as that is when it is available), and have always been fond of the Offertory prayers.  Today, I noticed not only that they have been changed, but that the whole idea of the Offertory has been expunged: it is now the ‘Preparation of the Gifts.’

Luther, apparently, said: From this point (the offertory) almost everything stinks of oblation!  

That charge could scarcely be levelled at the new Preparation of the Gifts.

One explanation for the change is that the reformers did not like the fact that in the Offertory, the bread and wine, as yet unconsecrated, were referred to as though already consecrated.

Yet, if they thought they were the first to notice this, they were ignorant.  There is a great deal of scholarship exploring and explaining this ancient part of the Mass.

Another explanation is that the resulting rites were a lot closer to Protestant services, and thus less of a barrier to ecumenism.  In the heady days of the 60s and 70s, it was possible to imagine (if one was optimistic by nature and naive intellectually and historically) the corporate reunion of some of our separated brethren.

For whatever reason, the Offertory was jettisoned, and replaced by the Preparation of the Gifts. All the sacrificial language was gone: when used with Eucharistic Prayer 2 (especially in the version before the recent corrections to the translation) it was quite easy to miss that a sacrifice was taking place at all.  Is it a coincidence that understanding of the true nature of the Mass is so poor.  Lex orandi and all that...

Yet our current Holy Father is keen, not only to free the Extraordinary Form from the shackles placed on it by so many bishops, but also to emphasise that whatever has been cherished as good by the Church for centuries cannot suddenly be declared bad. 

So the Offertory must be held to be a good: and I long for its restoration.

Thinking about all this has made me realise I need to read Michael Davies’ magnificent survey of the Changes: Liturgical Revolution.  It consists of three volumes: Cranmer’s Godly Order, Pope John’s Council and Pope Paul’s New Mass.  If you have not read it yet, you should assuredly so so.


Sacrosanctum Concilium §

Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.

I cannot see how the new Preparation of the Gifts fulfills this mandate.

It is interesting, re-reading SC, to see that the first priority was not changing the Liturgy, but educating priests and people about it.  Perhaps that is where we have gone so wrong...


Thanks to the Part-time Pilgrim, for pointing out that I had misquoted the new prayers.  They have been amended.


Ttony said...

Yes to Michael Davies. But you also ought to read Bugnini's own History of the Reform of the Liturgy which demonstrates that the processes used were designed from the outset to achieve their particular end.

Part-time Pilgrim said...

Thanks for an interesting post Ben. I have always liked the OF Offertory Prayers especially in the new translation so I am sorry that you find them lacking.

The Catechism says that the Eucharist always includes the proclomation of the word, thanksgiving to God the Father for all his benefits, the consecration and the receiving of tbe Lord's body and blood. It is possible that the liturgical reform was introduced to emphasise the thanksgiving aspect which is more obvious in the OF than in the sections of the EF that you have quoted. (I'm not familiar with the EF so that aspect may come elsewhere - I am sure you will tell me if it does.) I prefer to ascribe liturgical developments to the action of the Holy Spirit rather than the work of crypto-protestants or naive optimists. (Of course I also see the Holy Spirit as being behind Summorum Pontificum so I am not claiming everything about the new liturgy as perfect)

Btw my Missal has "it will become our spiritual drink" rather than "become for us the spiritual drink". It also does not mention "preparation of the gifts" at all but simply calls this section of the Mass "The Offertory".

Indeed "Preparation of the Gifts" would be inaccurate as very little preparation (mixing of wine with water) is done. However both the bread and wine are things "we offer you."

What the OF prayers do is emphasise that even the bread and wine before consecration come from Almighty God himself and that we should be thankful for them as for all things.

As far as I am concerned the Offertory is still there in every Mass.

mud_rake said...

What happened? The church hierarchy needed to remind the laity who's in charge of the church.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes, the EF prayers give a beautiful "preface" of the theology of the Mass. The OF prayers are pretty much without meaning

If one uses the preferred option of saying the OF prayers silently there is a strong temptation to replace them with OF prayers, but that would be a vile and wicked abuse.

If only it were a licit option!

Ben Trovato said...


You are quite right: I ought to read Bugnini. Never got round to buying it - always balked at the idea - but I really should.

P-t P

Thanks for your comments. I think the history of the changes and the historical controversy over the Offertory itself (see Cranmer's comments on it, for example, as well as Luther's) make your suggestion implausible to me - not least because of the many statements made at the time and subsequently by the liturgists involved with the Consilium that indicated their intentions, and because of the fact that Protestants were advisers to the Consilium.

There is no reference to an Offertory in the Novus Ordo Missae. Articles 49 - 53 of the General instruction come under the title Preparatio donorum (The Preparation of the Gifts), and that is reflected in my CTS MIssal.

You are right about the inaccuracies in my text, which I copied from a www source and did not check carefully: I have amended them above - thanks for pointing that out.

Fr Ray,

I am lucky: as a layman, I assume, it is no abuse for me to use my old missal and pray the traditional offertory prayers while the collection is being taken...

Patricius said...

And there was I cheerfully continuing to refer to "the Offertory" all along! "Preparation of the Gifts" sounds like something one might encounter in a department store adjacent to "Giftwrap"

Kenny said...

Great post. I could not agree more. The whole of the "Mass of the ages" reflects our Jewish roots. The OF does not.We know what happens when anything is cut off from the roots.......

Sixupman said...

Why was the "Libera nos, quaesumus, ...." replaced with a CofE formula and not to mention the excision of the Leonine prayers? Rhetorical really!

Ttony said...

I've copied Bugnini's description of what happened here.

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks Ttony: makes very interesting reading.