The Symbolism of the Offertory - Part 5

Second Part: The Symbolism of the Offertory

There are many symbols during the Offertory that show this universality of the Church in time.

After the offertory antiphon, in the low Mass the priest removes the chalice veil, unveils it, or in other words, reveals the oblations.  A great mystery is about to take place, the Mysterium Fidei par excellence.  This unveiling of the Chalice, which we are very accustomed to, echoes the more solemn unveiling of the Cross on Good Friday. It also reminds us of the stripping of Our Savior as they prepared Him for the bloody scourging.

The priest places the chalice on the right side of the corporal, takes the paten with the Host, looks up at the cross, lowers his eyes and says the first prayer, Suscipe, Sancte Pater, Receive, Holy Father.

Msgr. de Ségur shows how simple ceremonies can convey a truly Catholic, universal meaning to the Sacrifice of the Mass.

The paten with the bread (not yet consecrated but already sign of the consecrated Host, since we offer it as the immaculatam hostiam, the immaculate victim), represents the Mosaic Law (which is the Church of the Old Testament), with its figurative victims and its altar.  That altar had been consecrated and had four horns in the four corners. The priest, at the offertory, holds the paten with his two hands, joined, and with his four fingers. The joined hands express the union of the sacrifices of the Old Testament with the Sacrifice of Our Lord (the shadow linked to the reality, would say St Paul), and the four fingers of the priest, especially consecrated at his ordination, represent the four horns of the mosaic altar.

For the offering of the Host, the priest is told first to look up at the crucifix, then, lower his eyes and continue the prayer looking at the paten.  For the offering of the chalice, a few moments later, he is told to keep looking at the crucifix.  The lowering of the eyes represents the inferiority of the sacrifices of the Old Law compared to that of the New Law, represented by the continual look at the cross.

Moreover, when the priest offers the chalice he holds it by his right hand and supports it with his left.  The right hand is an image of the Christian Church offering the Sacrifice of the New Testament, while the left hand represents the Church of the Patriarchs and of Moses carrying, or preparing the New Covenant, like a handmaid. (p.236-237)

We have then, a reference to the unity and continuity of the Church, in the Old and in the New Testament. Don’t we have, after the consecration, a mention of the sacrifices of Abel, Abraham and Melchisedech? Don’t we have prayers, throughout the Mass, coming from the Old Testament, from the Psalms, and the various books of the Bible, and others from the New Testament, and others still, composed by the Church over the centuries, to our very days, like for some of the texts of the Mass of the Assomption of 1950?  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is truly at the center of the whole of man’s history if we just paid attention to its inspired prayers and ceremonies.

One lady came to our Mass in Seoul, South Korea, a few years ago.  She had been a professional tennis player, no. 17 in Korea.  After having been born Buddhist, she became Protestant in her 20s. At about 40, she underwent a crisis of faith since her pastor was expressly preaching the sola fide, that faith alone was necessary for salvation.  And she got the grace to sense that there was something wrong with that.  Faith must work through charity, obviously.  One of her tennis students, one of our faithful, invited her to our Mass.  Her first Catholic Mass ever.  We asked her after the Mass what were her impression.  Here is her literal answer: “It reminded me of the Sacrifice of Abraham!”  She is now baptized.