Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In defense of the Offertory.

..Of the Modern Roman rite. This is just one of my many qualms with some Traditionalists regarding the new mass. The one which I refer to now is the offertory. I've heard it time and time again that "There's no offertory in the novus ordo, just some 'preparation of the gifts.'" The idea is that, the rite is no longer termed an offertory, and that, removed of the overt sacrificial language of the old offertory, the new offertory prayers are not sacrificial in any way, and thus, do not actually constitute an offertory. I beleive that this is a lie.
Here is why.
Firstly, the first objection is that the novus ordo has a simple preparation of the gifts of the christian community for their eucharistic meal, rather than an offertory for the eucharistic sacrifice. The new rite names it a "Preparation of the gifts" (Praeparatio donorum) instead of an offertory, and that this term is obviously not sacrifial like the term offertory.
I object to this for two reasons. Firstly, the name of the rite is in fact termed an offertory in several places. G.I.R.M.no. 74 calls it an 'offertorium' , that is an offertory. This is preserved in the present English translation. G.I.R.M. no. 73 calls the bread and wine prepared in the rite offerings. The Latin missal, which is the official typical version of all sacramental rites uses the term 'Oblationes'. Lewis and Short's dictionary defines an 'Oblatio' as "an offering, sacrifice, " Oblatio has been transliterated into English as oblations, whch Merriam-Webster defines as "something offered in worship or devotion : a holy gift offered usually at an altar or shrine." Secondly, the heading given in the missal which gives a new term, ("Preparatio donorum"), to the rite, is also sacrificial. Lewis and Short defines "Dono", the root word of Donorum as "to give up, sacrifice." In short, 'Donorum' are things given up in sacrifice, things offered in sacrifice, things presented to be sacrificed.
A proper translation in continuity with the General instruction and the rite would not be simply gifts, but rather sacrifices, offerings. Thus it should be translated as "The preparation of the offerings", "The preparation of the sacrifice", 'The preparation of things given in sacrifice", "The preparation of the Sacrificial Offerings."
Thus it is not true in my mind that the new mass has a simple preparation of the community's gifts, bereft of any sacrificial language.

For the second objection, (that the prayers themselves are not sacrficial and do not present the character of an offertory), we must first know what the offertory of the holy mass is.

This is what Abbe Durand says of the offertory:
"The Offering of the Bread and Wine.Like his divine Master, the priest takes bread in his hands and offers it to God. The bread here takes the place of the Church and Christian people, for, as bread is the nourishment and life of man, when he offers it at the altar it is as if he offered himself to God to be sacrificed to His glory, like Jesus Christ, our head. As the bread is to be changed into the body of Jesus Christ, may our hearts also be transformed into Him, till it may be " no more we who live, but Jesus Christ Who lives in us."
Our Lord also offered wine mixed with water. The wine represents Jesus Christ, "the true vine"; and water, the Christian people. St. Cyprian, in a letter to Cecilius, teaches this formally. This image is a vivid figure of the ineffable union of God with man wrought by the incarnation, and of that other union in the Eucharist, and again of that third union which will be consummated in glory. It is, then, the Church united with Jesus Christ, the members to their head, the bride to her bridegroom, which the priest offers to God in the oblation of the chalice.
In the drop of water, which is the figure of the faithful, what an admirable lesson of humility ! Is it not a striking image of our annihilation in the presence of the God of the Eucharist ?"

S.Hyppolytus says of the offertory in his Apostolic Consitutions

"Let the high priest, therefore, together with the priests, pray over the oblation, that the Holy Spirit may descend upon it, making the bread the body of Christ and the cup the blood of Christ."

Dom Gueranger says of it;
"See, then, dear Christians! bread and wine are about to be offered to God, as being the noblest of inanimate creatures, since they are made for the nourishment of man ; and even that is only a poor material image of what they are destined to become in our Christian Sacrifice. Their substance will soon give place to God himself, and of themselves nothing will remain but the appearances."

So we see then that the offertory is the offering of bread and wine to God, asking that it may become the most sacred body and precious blood of our lord. That is the essence and purpouse of the offertory. Those of whom I speak claim that these sentiments are totally or partially absent from the offertory of the novus ordo mass.
I present the prayers in their Latin form first:

"Benedíctus es, Dómine, Deus univérsi, quia de tua largitáte accépimus panem, quem tibi offérimus, fructum terræ et óperis mánuum hóminum:
ex quo nobis fiet panis vitæ.

Per huius aquae et vini mysterium, eius divinitatis esse consortes, qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps.

Benedíctus es, Dómine, Deus univérsi,
quia de tua largitáte accépimus
vinum, quod tibi offérimus,
fructum vitis es óperis mánuum hóminum,
ex quo nobis fiet potus spiritális.

In spiritu humilitatis, et in animo contrito
suscipiamur a te, Domine
et sic fiat sacraficium nostrum in conspectu tuo hodie,
ut placeat tibi, Domine.

Lava me, Domine, ab iniquitate mea,
et a peccato meo, munda me."

I present my own rather literal translation:

"Blessed are you, O God, Lord of the universe,of whose bountious giving we have received this bread, which we offer up in sacrifice unto you. This, the fruit of the earth, and the work of the hands of men: For us may it be changed, that it may become the Bread of Life.

Through the mystery of this water and wine, may we be made partakers of his Divinity, he who deigned to become a partaker of our humanity.

Blessed are you, O God, Lord of the universe, of whose bountious giving we have received this wine, which we offer up in sacrifice unto you, this, the Fruit of the Vine, and the work of the hands of men: For us may it be changed, that it may become the drink of the soul."

In a humble spirit and with a contrite heart, may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice be offered in your sight this day as to be pleasing to you, O Lord.

Wash me thoroughly, O lord, of my iniquity, and cleanse me of my sins."

Translated rather literally instead of the paraphrases contained in the current English endition of the Roman Missal, there is quite some sacrificial language, as well as the sentiments of offering given by Abbe Durand: Bread and wine are taken (quia de tua largitate accepimus panem/vinum) and offered or given to God (Quem tibi offerimus) in expectation of the great miracle of the eucharist, where they will become the body and blood of christ. (Ex quo nobis fiet panis vitae/potus spritalis). The Latin of the prayers themselves contain the phrase " quem tibi offerimus". Lewis and Short tranlsate 'Offero' as "To offer to God, to consecrate, dedicate, To offer up, sacrifice."
The Prayers contain may pious sentiments of offering as well. Dom gueranger says of the offering of the bread:
"All that we have, O Lord, comes from thee, and belongs to thee ; it is just, therefore, that we return it unto thee. But how wonderful art thou in the inventions of thy immense love! This bread which we are offering to thee is to give place, in a few moments, to the sacred Body of Jesus. We beseech thee, receive, together with this oblation, our hearts which long to live by thee, and to cease to live their own life of self."

Note the italicised portion. It especially is resonant with the prayers of the offering of the bread, which end by asking that the bread be changed into the bread of life, which as we know from scripture, is the body of christ. (John 5:59) It re-echoes Dom gueranger's saying "Their substance will soon give place to God himself" The phrase "fructus terrae' references the first fruits offering of the old covenant, in which pure bread or a spotless lamb were sacrificed in thanksgiving to God. Cochem's Explanation of the Mass says:
"The elevation of the bread signifies the complete surrender we make of it and of ourselves into the hands of God. The priest raises his eyes to heaven to show that the oblation is made to God."

The rubrics of the offertory still mandate the priest to elevate the bread above the altar while saying the offertory prayer.
Dom Gueranguer says of the wine:
"Lord Jesus, who art the true Vine, and whose Blood, like a generous wine, has been poured forth under the pressure of the Cross! thou hast deigned to unite thy divine nature to our weak humanity"

The prayer for the offering of the wine contains the scriptural phrase "fructus vitis", that is, "fruit of the vine" (Luke 22:18) Thus linking the offering of the wine at the Last supper with the outpouring of christ's precious blood on the cross, (As scripture says of chist that he trod the wine press of his passion and death) and the offering of the wine at each mass in preparation for it's change into the true blood of christ.
Further, the prayer "In spiritu humilitatis" explicitly asks God to be pleased to accept the sacrifice we offer him.
Another objection is that the terseness if the prayers and the lesser amount in comparison with the older rite obviously means a repudiation of a sacrificial offertory. But this is not certainly true, for other uses of the Western rite have fewer offertory prayers, such as the Cistercian rite and the Norbertine rite.

Therefore, I deny that the prayers of the offertory are totally or partially devoid of sentiments of offering or sacrifice, and do not present the true character of an offertory.


Paul Goings said...


I think that what you're arguing against is a minority position in traditionalist circles. Like the idea that the Novus Ordo Missae is per se invalid, the idea that the offertory action of that rite is somehow defective belongs to a small group of what are really crypto-sede vacantists.

More commonly you'll encounter the argument that the new offertory, despite its commonalities with other Western rites of is inferior to that of the post-Tridentine Roman Rite. In fact this is my own position, and your argument does not really address the two rites in comparison with each other.

Joe S.R. said...

I don't disagree that's it's inferior to the offertory of the older Roman rite, and I don't really see any need to deal with that. I thought about mentioning the anticipatory nature of the old offertory prayers, but that almost always ends up in discussing the fact that the super oblata and much of the Canon are anticipatory as well. Perhaps another day.
I'll grant that it's a minority position, but I've come across many comments in the past week supporting it, which was my motivation for making this post.