SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
November 28, 2011
I've noticed that when the collection plate is brought up to the altar with the bread and wine, the money is put aside or moved away from the altar. Does not that make the money offering unworthy of the altar and of blessing?
It would seem logical that the money offering remain on the altar table although it would have to be out of the way of the action at the altar.
However, the General Instruction of the Roman Rite indicates that the money collected should be placed in "a suitable place but away from the Eucharistic table" (GIRM 2000, n. 73). Some churches place it just under the altar while others put it on the credence table.
Therefore, we haven't much choice in this matter unless the ruling is changed in the revised GIRM. But we do have a choice in how we understand the procession of money up to the altar with the bread and wine.
Bringing of the gifts at this time of the Mass is an important custom. As the earliest celebrations of the Last Supper were in the context of a meal, the poor were fed, and the bread and wine was already on the table.
Later, Justin Martyr (second century) tells us that bread and wine were brought to the presider. Since this was no longer at a meal, material gifts for the poor were also offered at this time.
By the Middle Ages, public presentation of the gifts by the people had disappeared because of the change to unleavened bread and the decline in the number receiving Communion. The 16th century Council of Trent tried to revive the custom of public offerings of gifts.
In the present-day liturgy, the offering of bread and wine as well as the monetary offerings have resumed their rightful place. Just think how significant it is that the money offering is brought to the altar and presented at the same time as the bread and wine which become the Body and Blood of Christ.
What is its material significance? It pays for the bread and wine and the needs of the particular church, as well as the diocese. Some of these are upkeep of buildings, employee salaries, the needs of the poor and the mission of the Church.
Even more important is the spiritual significance of the money offering at this particular time of the Mass. It connects worship to people's daily lives in a striking way.
It represents the time and labours given to the work of God in the world and in the Church. It unites individuals within a community of faith to offer all that they are and all that they have in gratitude to God. Taking the gifts up is symbolic of opening up to God so that God can come down to us.
The making of bread and wine requires the work of human hands; so the bread and wine are symbols of who we are. As the bread and wine are offered, we too are offered to God with all our labours. The monetary offering is likewise a symbol of who we are.
Nothing is more vividly connected to us than money: we all need it to survive; we all work for it; we value it; it brings us security. There is no better symbol that needs to be redeemed.
These offerings make a connection of our story with God's story. Our God is not a God far away up there but a God who is in our daily lives. Jesus shared our human life and works through us in the world.
God has given us so many gifts: the marvels of nature we witness daily in the rising and setting of the sun, in the changing seasons which strengthen and renew faith, in the rain and the sunshine which produce an abundance of food in autumn.
Each of us has received unique gifts and talents from God which enable us to live a fruitful and happy life. Above all, we have been given the gift of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who remain with and in us. In return, we have the privilege of offering our lives with Christ in a unique way in the Eucharistic liturgy.
Although meagre and unworthy, it is only right that we give back to God all that we are and have in praise and thanksgiving. We must remember our gifts to God are gifts which cannot be taken back.
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