The Offertory: The Lost Symbol in the Liturgy

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At a time when we are fumbling through our pockets and purses to find our weekly contribution, the liturgy is asking a crucial question of us.

When someone mentions the offertory, I often think about my weekly monetary contribution to my local parish. The venerable ushers march down the aisle with their wicker baskets, clumsily genuflect before the altar and begin weaving the baskets from left to right through the pews. There is usually music being played that helps to distract the ears from the five year old scrambling to put their parents' contributions in the baskets.

There is nothing at all wrong with this. However, I fear a crucial time in the liturgy is being hidden. It is crucial because it is analogous to Christ agony in the garden.

While Christ was in Gethsemane, he had Jerusalem in front of him. He had the cross in front of him. He knew that follow God's will for him meant he would suffer and die. It was his crucial moment. As he saw the soldiers making their way outside the city toward the garden, he had a decision to make: would he be obedient to his father or would he make the cup pass him by? Thanks be to God, he chose the Father's will.

The offertory is analogous to this because we are faced with a similar choice in the liturgy. Will we sacrifice our own lives and will to join with Jesus? This decision to join Jesus is symbolized by our offerings: money, bread, wine and our whole lives. As these gifts are brought up to the altar, they are we. These gifts symbolize us. Will we join Jesus and trust in the Father's power to resurrect us from death? Do we believe that, in Christ, we have victory of sin and death? The offertory should challenge us to think about our lives and join to the bread and wine the areas in our life in need of Christ's healing and reconciliation.


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Published August 15, 2003.