Second Part: The Symbolism of the Offertory
3) Third Point: The Incensation
In the more solemn masses, there is a beautiful ceremony, full of mysteries, called the incensation. There are four incensations during the mass : the first before the Introït, the second before and after the Gospel, the third, the most solemn, at the Offertory, and finally the fourth at the elevation. All the incensations are a sign of our prayers, of the sacrifice of ourselves to God.
They are also reminding us of the Angels standing by the altar and holding in their hands the golden thurible.
Msgr. de Ségur sees even further:
The silver or gold thurible, is a figure of the sacred Humanity of Our blessed Lord. The burning charcoal inside, represents the fire of the Holy Ghost burning in his Sacred Heart. The blessed incense which the priest places on the burning charcoals signifies the constant prayer of Our Lord, His divine adoration of His Father. But it also represents the prayers of those united to Him in Heaven and on earth, the Angels and Saints in Heaven, and the faithful and saints on earth.
The priest puts three spoonful of incense, first in honor of the Blessed Trinity, but also to represent the adorations of the Church of the Patriarchs, from Adam to Moses, of the Jewish Church, from Moses to Our Lord, and of the Roman Christian Church, from Our Lord’s first coming to the Second.
Msgr. De Ségur then goes on to explain the order of the incensations at the offertory, here is the general principle:
All these incensations concern Our Lord Jesus Christ, present and living in all His various members, and the diversity of these incensations manifests both the unity of Christian life in the Church as well as the multiplicity of vocations and graces.
4) Fourth Point: The Spirit of the Offertory
I did tell you that by this 4th Dominus Vobiscum, we were asking for the 4th gift of the Holy Ghost, the gift of Fortitude, which we need whenever we face a difficult good. Now, let us draw some lessons for our daily life from the general symbolism or meaning of the Offertory, and you will understand why the Offertory begins with the wish of the gift of fortitude.
The very name Offertory contains in itself a whole doctrine on the nature of the Holy Mass and a profound program of spiritual life. That is certainly why it has also been changed in the New Mass – words are signs, have we not stated? – it is now called “The Preparation of the Gifts.” The link between the Offertory and our Spiritual life, our good works, is gone.
St Paul tells us in chapter 10:5-7 of his epistle to the Hebrews that the first prayer of Our Lord entering this world was the offering of Himself :
When he cometh into the world, he saith: Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldest not: but a body thou hast fitted to me: Holocausts for sin did not please thee. Then said I: Behold I come: in the head of the book it is written of me: that I should do thy will, O God. Tunc dixi: Ecce venio: in capite libri scriptum est de me: Ut faciam, Deus, voluntatem tuam.
And His last word, bringing His ultimate Sacrifice to perfection, as He had just said, Consumatum est, was also an offering, a final surrender, a complete handing over of Himself:
Jesus crying out with a loud voice, said: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. And saying this, he gave up the ghost. Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum. (Lk 23:46)