Presentation of the gifts, preparation of the altar

    What is the presentation of the gifts?  
    The presentation of the gifts marks the beginning of the second major part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This preparation also has been traditionally called the offertory, since the priest prepares the gifts to be offered. Despite the change in name, the essential idea and theology has remained unchanged.
    The temptation here is to see the offertory as simply a transition between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In reality, this step is essential theologically, and this is represented in the gestures and prayers that accompany the liturgical actions. It represents a shift in the emphasis in the Mass. In the Liturgy of the Word, we are nourished with the words of sacred Scripture, as well as giving glory to God through the readings, and are prepared to be nourished by the gift of the Eucharist.
    What happens during the presentation of the gifts?
    During the presentation of the gifts many things occur simultaneously: the presentation of the gifts, the preparation of the altar, the collection and the offertory song. At the presentation of the gifts, the faithful present the gifts of bread and wine to the priest, symbolizing an offering of creation and themselves back to the Father. This also gives an exterior sign of our internal offerings – we offer our prayers and ourselves in the same way that we offer these mere gifts of bread and wine, hoping that just as they are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, so may we be transformed by his grace.
    What should I do during the presentation of the gifts?
    The faithful are given a moment to recollect themselves and prepare themselves interiorly for the sacrifice about to occur at the altar. This interior preparation should include a refocusing on the actions and prayers of the priest, but should also include an interior union with the offering itself so that we prepare to make a gift of ourselves to the Lord, offering ourselves to him as the bread is offered. This essential shift toward a focus on the sacrificial element of the Mass is embodied by the priest’s own position in the sanctuary. Throughout the entirety of the Liturgy of the Eucharist (from the Preparation to the Communion of the Faithful), he stands centrally at the altar, functioning as priest, as one who offers sacrifice and as the father of a family at the family meal.
    During the preparation of the altar, what is placed on the altar? What are the items used for?
    The altar is also prepared in such a way that the chalices (vessels that are used to hold the wine), ciboria (vessels that are used to hold the hosts), purificators (linen clothes that are used to wipe away the excess Blood of Christ from the chalices), the corporal (the large, square linen that is placed on the altar and upon which the sacred vessels are placed that is used to catch all particles of Jesus Christ’s Body that may fall), and the Roman Missal (the book with all of the prayers used during the Mass) are placed upon the altar.
    Why are the sacred vessels made of precious metals?
    The sacred vessels are to be made of precious metal in order that they may befit the dignity of that which they contain.
    Why do we have a collection? What is the money used for?
    A customary collection is made where the faithful are asked to present a monetary donation for the support of the church, both local and universal. These collections help the parish in its day-to-day operations, as well as to support the ministries of the parish, the archdiocese, and the church worldwide. This is also an ancient custom that took the form of the people giving portions of their crops or livestock to the church and the priest. This serves the purpose of supporting the church, while also reminding us that everything that we have is a gift from God.
    The collection usually is brought up by members of the community, expressing outwardly the gift of self on the part of the individual, but also the very vital role of the community in the liturgical worship. Accompanying all of this is a hymn or quiet music, which serves the purpose of fostering that sense of interior gift of self to the Lord.
    Ian Bozant is a second-year theologian studying for the Archdiocese of New Orleans at Notre Dame Seminary. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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