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Vatican II Reforms Restore Presentation Of Gifts

By Father Jim Sauer

The liturgical reforms from Vatican Council II restored the presentation of gifts during the Preparation Rites as an important ritual action by the faithful, a practice which had not been part of the Roman liturgy since the 11th century.  


The new Roman Missal describes how the presentation and preparation of gifts are to be carried out:  “…first of all, the altar or Lord’s table, which is the center of the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist, is made ready when on it are placed the corporal, purificator, Missal, and chalice (unless this last is prepared at the credence table” (paragraph 73).  The credence table is the side table on which are found all these objects as well as water, the bowl, and hand towel for the washing of the presider’s hands.


“The offerings are then brought forward.  It is a praiseworthy practice for the bread and wine to be presented by the faithful.  They are then accepted at the appropriate place by the Priest or the Deacon to be carried to the altar” (paragraph 73).  This usually takes place at the front pew.  When the bishop or pope celebrates Mass, the gifts are carried to them at their chair.  The Missal continues, “Even though the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as was once the case, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still keeps its spiritual efficacy and significance” (Paragraph 73).  The presentation of gifts by the faithful symbolize how they are joining themselves, their work and sacrifices with Christ whose death and resurrection we celebrate in each Eucharist.


“Money and other gifts for the poor or for the Church, brought by the faithful or collected in church, are acceptable; given their purpose, they are to be put in a suitable place away from the Eucharistic table” (Paragraph 73).  This last directive makes no sense to me if the money and other gifts are presented to do God’s work and to practice Christian charity.  Why then must they be placed “away from the table?”  It seems appropriate to place the monetary gifts in front of the altar expressing the faithful’s charitable offering.  


Paragraph 74 mentions that, “The procession bringing the gifts is accompanied by the offertory chant…which continues at least until the gifts have been placed on the altar.”  This does not mean that the hymn cannot continue on through the entire preparation of the gifts.


“The bread and wine are placed on the altar by the Priest…; the Priest may incense the gifts placed on the altar and then the cross and the altar itself, so as to signify the Church’s offering 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” (Paragraph 75).  It’s understood that when a deacon is present, he places the bread and wine on the altar and prepares them.  Then the priest comes to the altar and prays silently over the gifts. After the Incensation, the priest washes his hands at the side of the altar expressing “the desire for interior purification” (Paragraph 75).


The Missal continues that, “Once the offerings have been placed on the altar and the accompanying rites completed, by means of the invitation to pray with the Priest and by means of the Prayer over the Offerings, the Preparation of Gifts is concluded and preparation is made for the Eucharistic Prayer.  The Preparation of Gifts is concluded by the recitation of a simple prayer by the priest with the people making this prayer their own by responding ‘Amen.’”

Father Sauer continues his series on the Mass in the May 5 issue of The Message.