Eucharistic reflections in preparation for the Eucharistic Congress. June 2008.

Reflection # 7

December, 2007

by Peter Thompson

The Preparation of the gifts:

Following last months insert where we spoke in greater depth on the giving of our resources, offering ourselves and our finances we now move to the Offertory prayers.

The bread and wine, staples of food and drink throughout countless ages have been brought to the altar. The most basic of food God chose to manifest his greatest gift to us. To give us his body and blood to eat and drink, to be nourished physically and above all spiritually.

Here it would be good to turn to the sixth chapter of St. John's Gospel to begin to grasp the awesome truth that is about to unfold before our eyes upon the altar.

John begins by describing two great miracles. The feeding of 5000 and Christ walking on water. What do these two miracles tell us? They re-affirm that Jesus is the Son of God, he is the creator of the universe, and as such has absolute authority over all that is created. Everything is subject to him, therefore he can multiply five loaves and two small fish to feed in excess of 5000 people. He can defy gravity and walk on water. He can take bread and wine and change it into his own body and blood to feed untold millions for the last two millenia.

As the sixth chapter unfolds we see the followers of Christ challenging Jesus. They have seen the multiplication of food and yet they still want another sign. Moses fed the Israelites for forty years can you do better than that! Jesus reminds them that it was his Father who fed the Israelites for all those years. Now he will feed us all with his own flesh and blood. He speaks of himself as the bread that has come down from heaven. His followers are confused, surely we know his father and mother, how can he say, " I have come down from heaven."

As we read this chapter Christ reveals step by step that the bread he will give will be his flesh and blood. That we are to eat his body and drink his blood otherwise we will have no life in us. Sacramentum caritatus Benedict XVI #2. In this sacrament, the Lord truly becomes food for us, to satisfy our hunger for truth and freedom. The Jews are appalled and scandalized. Jn 6:60 This sort of talk is hard to endure! How can anyone take it seriously? 61. Jesus was fully aware that his disciples were murmuring in protest at what he had said."Does it shake your faith?" he asked them. We also are asked to believe.

The priest now takes the bread in the form of hosts made from wheat flour and water offering it to heaven. We are reminded that even this basic food is a gift from God. God is its creator and we with human hands have formed the ingredients into bread. It will become for us the bread of life.

Taking the chalice made from precious gold the priest pours the wine and adds a tiny drop of water. It is a sign of the uniting in Jesus Christ of our humanity with his deity, and also of the great mystery of grace whereby we human beings are raised to share in the life of God himself.

Again we are reminded that it is God who has given us the fruit of the vine and we humans merely use what God has given.

Our response after each offering is. "Blessed be God forever". This is a prayer that unites us with all in heaven who repeatedly cry out Gods praises in the heavenly places.

The celebration of the Eucharist is unfolding before our eyes. The preparation through the liturgy of the word has prepared us for the great miracle of the Eucharist. In a few minutes the heavens will be opened and once again Heaven touches earth. Ecclesia de Eucharistia John Paul II.

Recognizing his need to be cleansed the celebrant turns and water is poured over his fingers that were anointed at his ordination to confect the eucharist. He says. "Lord, wash away my iniquity ; cleanse me from my sin." He is asking God to purify and cleanse his soul so that he might worthily utter those words of consecration that will see the bread and wine transubstantiated into the body, blood ,soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.

Only through the hands of the ordained priest are we able to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. It was Christ himself who gave this power to the Apostles at the last supper and therefore to the successors of the Apostles, the Bishops and priests (presbyters) who receive this same power from the Bishop. Sacramentum caritatis #53 Pope Benedict XVI . He alone, and no other, as the tradition of the Church attests, presides over the entire eucharistic celebration, from the initial greeting to the final blessing. In virtue of his reception of Holy Orders, he represents Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, and, in a specific way, also the Church herself. Every celebration of the Eucharist, in fact, is led by the Bishop, either in person or through priests who are his helpers.

In unbroken succession the Catholic Church has carried on this command of the Lord Jesus. Only in her, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church together with the Orthodox priesthood is there an unbroken succession and therefore a valid priesthood and the valid sacrament of the Eucharist.

Prayer over the gifts

The priest now prays the Church's prayer over the gifts. This prayer changes each day and often reflects the feast that we are celebrating making reference to the saint of the day. Here as it were the whole Church, the communion of saints participates in this prayer over the gifts to be offered. The saints in heaven, the church suffering in Purgatory are praying for us the Church militant.

Now comes these short but beautiful responses between the priest and God's people.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks and praise to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
What exquisite greetings between people. Should we not greet one another with similar words."God be with you." " God bless you". Words to encourage us in life's struggles. Lift up your hearts.

I always remember many years ago at Mass when we said those words. Let us give him thanks and praise. The Priest waited. He asked us. Well are you going to praise and thank the Lord? For the next five minutes or so we praised God out loud with our voices. Our praises making a harmony of sound unto the Lord.


The Preface prayed by the priest is once again a prayer that changes with the feast and Liturgical seasons. It always begins by addressing God the Father and giving him thanks. Why, because of his great love in giving us Jesus Christ his only begotten Son. For giving us the Holy Spirit our comforter and Paraclete.

It is a hymn of joyful praise and thanksgiving. Listen to the words that are being prayed out loud so that we can join the celebrant in heartfelt thanks to God who is Abba, Father a title of great intimacy and love. Only in Christianity is God revealed in such intimate terms. Jesus revealed Yahweh as Father using the term Abba meaning "Daddy"! Often the first word a little Jewish child will learn.

Now with exultant hearts we join the angels and saints in the hymn of praise before the throne of God.

We are caught up into heavenly places as we cry out.
Holy, Holy, Holy.
Sanctus ,Sanctus, Sanctus.
No wonder that throughout the ages this prayer is sung as a heavenly hymn of praise and adoration.

In John's vision of heaven he saw to the twenty four elders fall down and worship the One who lives forever. That is the Lamb of God that was slain, The Lord Jesus Christ. Rev.5:8.

Quiet descends upon us all. Heaven and earth as it were holds its breath. The Offertory is concluded. The activity within the body ceases; now we wait and listen as the Eucharistic Prayer begins.