Explaining the Mass: Preparation of the offering

    What prayer does the priest say as he presents the bread to God in preparation for the Eucharistic Prayer and consecration?
    After receiving the gifts of bread and wine from members of the community during the presentation of the gifts, the priest stands before the altar to prepare the offering before the Eucharistic Prayer. He begins by taking the paten with the bread on it and holds it slightly above the altar with both of his hands and prays in a low voice, “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.” If there is no music during the Offertory, the priest may speak these words aloud. If the words are spoken aloud, the people respond, “Blessed be God forever.” When he is done, he places the paten back on the altar.
    Why does the priest pour water into the wine? What does he pray as he does this?
    Before offering the wine, the deacon or priest, pours wine and a little water into the chalice. The pouring of the water and wine together represents Jesus’ humanity and divinity. As he pours the water into the wine, he quietly prays, “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.”
    What prayer does the priest say as he presents the wine to God in preparation for the Eucharistic Prayer and consecration?
    Then the priest takes the chalice in both of his hands and holds it slightly above the altar as he says in a low voice, “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.” If there is no music during the Offertory, again the priest may speak these words aloud. If the words are spoken aloud, the people respond, “Blessed be God forever.” When he is done, he places the chalice back on the altar.
    What does the priest silently pray as he bows?
    After offering the bread and the wine, the priest makes a profound bow before the altar and prays quietly, “With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God.”
    Why does the priest wash his hands? What does he pray as he washes his hands?
    Standing at the side of the altar, the priest washes his hands and quietly prays, “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” This prayer is a reference to King David’s psalm of repentance (Psalm 51) in which he repents from his sins of adultery and murder. It is a reminder to the priest of his own sinfulness and unworthiness to stand before the altar of the Lord and offer the sacrifice of the Mass.
    How does the preparation of the offering end?
    The preparation of the offering concludes with two prayers. First, the priest and people pray that the sacrifices that are being offered will be acceptable to God. The priest, standing in the middle of the altar facing the people, says, “Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters), that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” The people stand and respond, “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 holy church.”
    After everyone is standing, the priest says the prayer over the offerings. Its purpose is to unite all of the above actions, prayers and gestures into a single prayer that offers these simple gifts of bread and wine to the Father. At the end of the prayer, the people signify their agreement by responding, “Amen.”
    Tim Hedrick is a second-year theologian studying for the Archdiocese of New Orleans at Notre Dame Seminary. He can be reached at thedrick@nds.edu.

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