by Fr. Justin Swanton
second part of the commentary on the Mass covers the Offertory and the
Canon. There is a great deal more to the prayers and gestures of the priest
than at first meets the eye.
C) The offertory
DOMINUS VOBISCUM: We that God's grace, aid and power may give the living faith, and necessary dispositions to celebrate worthily the imminent Sacrifice, in which we offer ourselves with Our Lord .
OREMUS: This refers to all the prayers said during the Offertory.
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON: In ancient times, thee was an Offertory procession in which the faithful brought the gifts of bread and wine to the altar, from which was chosen the matter to be used for the Sacrifice. It was accompanied by singing,(but no guitars!) which enlivened the joy of the givers: "the Lord loveth a cheerful giver." The antiphon, with a few verses from the psalms or elsewhere, was longer then. When the procession disappeared, the antiphon was shortened.
It has the same purpose as the Introit & Graduel, i.e.: It suggests the theme, of the feast or time of year. It also has a note of joy.
SUSCIPE SANCTE PATER: The paten elevated is the presentation of the host. The host is principally Our Lord's body, soon to be sacrificed. The bread only inasmuch as it will become Our Lord's body, and symbolises it. The Priest raises his eyes and immediately lowers them; raising them to God to whom he offers the host, and lowering them in recognition of his own unworthiness.
The sign of the Cross with the paten signifies that the sacrifice to be offered is that of Calvary.
"Sancte Pater"she Father and not God in general, since the Church unites herself with Our Lord in His offering, and is offered with Him.
"Spotless Host" refers to Our sinless Lord, and obliquely to the bread, that symbolises His body now and will become His body later.
"I your unworthy servant": the sins of the priest stand out before the sublimity of the act he is about to perform. "A means of salvation": the Sacrifice of the Cross.
DEUS QUI HUMANAE: The wine signifies Christ (and therefore needs no blessing). The water signifies the faithful (who need divine grace; therefore it is blessed with the sign of the cross). It is not blessed in Requiem Masses where the fruits are directed more at the faithful departed than the faithful present, Pouring water in the wine signifies our incorporation into Christ's Mystical Body, one of the effects of the Mass.. "Partakers of divine nature" also signifies this.
OFFERIMUS TIBI DOMINE: Raising the chalice is the presentation of the divine victim. The eyes are not cast downwards, as the prayer expresses more hope: "may it arise...with a pleasing fragrance" "Chalice of salvation" signifies the blood of Our Lord. "We offer," not "I offer"
Humility is expressed by the low bow of the priest. The trials and sufferings of the Church are offered to Our Father with Our Lord's Sacrifice. Our sacrifices became Our Lord's. "A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humble heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." -Ps. 50,19.
VENI SANCTIFICATOR: The priest's hands are raised, joined and the sign of the Cross is made: this symbolises the blessing the priest implores of the Holy Ghost. His eyes are raised to the Holy Ghost to ask for His blessing.
"Bless": the effecting of the consecration. It is asked of the Holy Ghost since the consecration resembles the Incarnation, which was effected by the Holy Ghost.
LAVABO: (washing of the hands): Mainly symbolic. Washing the fingertips signifies the need to be pure even from the slightest sins, "I will wash my hands among the innocent": this shows the spiritual grandeur of the Church in which Mass is celebrated. Grasped by faith.
SUSCIPE SANCTE TRINITAS: The more we honour the saints, the better it helps us - they intercede for us. "And of these" are the saints whose relics are in the altar. "May it (the sacrifice of the Mass) add to their honour": by their being honour on earth by the Church militant.
ORATE FRATRES: "My sacrifice and yours"-the faithful offer the sacrifice in a number of ways, but only the priest completes the sacrificial action itself. Priest and faithful offer themselves with the chalice and Host.
SUSCIPIAT DOMINUS: The ends of sacrifice are given here: Adoration first: "praise and glory of His name," and then the others: thanksgiving, petition and propitiation.
SECRET: It originally followed the "Oremus" at the beginnings of the Offertory. Two general ideas behind it:
PREFACE: "Dominus vobiscum"- the grace prayed for is that the soul be elevated to the mysteries about to be accomplished. The priest doesn't face the people: his eyes and mind are directed uniquely on the Sacrifice about to be accomplished.
"Sursum corda"- "Let us raise our hearts together with our hands to the Lord in heaven" - Lamentations 3, 41. This is the time to withdraw our minds from worldly distractions and concentrate them on God and divine things.
"Let us give thanks..." A greater faith, asked for in the "sursum corda", leads us to a greater comprehension that God is the source of all good.
The Preface unites us with all the angels who are around the altar, and who adore and praise God without ceasing.
SANCTUS: In two parts:
D) The Canon
It has been said silently, and from the earliest times, for three reasons:
TE IGITUR: Eyes and hands are raised: the priest seeks help from God. Then they are lowered with a profound bow: expressing his humility before the great act about to be accomplished.
He kisses the altar - this signifies the union of charity with Christ from whom comes the power of blessing. The blessing, signified by three signs if the Cross, itself signifies the consecration.
"Unspotted oblations" - Our Lord's body and blood, which the bread and wine will become.
"In the first place, we offer for your holy Catholic Church": the Mass, sacrament of the Mystical Body, strengthens and unites it.
MEMENTO: "Sacrifice of praise" - the Mass is principally offered for adoration. Thanksgiving is implied here too.
"For the redemption of their souls"-propitiation
"For the hope of their salvation and safety"- petition
"Vows"-all interior and exterior acts of religion.
COMMUNICANTES: "In communrcation with": again, reference to the Mystical Body, into which we are incorporated by Communion. All the saints mentioned are martyrs: the shedding of their blood closely identified them with Our Lord's Passion (therefore they had no Purgatory).
HANC IGITUR: "Accept"-accept and consecrate.
"Dispose our days in peace": peace is the tranquility of order (Augustine). An interior peace- security in God-rather than an exterior peace. Hands held over the chalice - as in the Old Testament - signify the transferring of the guilt of men's sins onto the victim.
QUAM OBLATIONEM: "In all things" - in every way, perfectly.
"Approved" - done as instituted by Christ in the Last Supper.
"Ratified"- a true and valid sacrifice.
"Reasonable" - (Rom. 12, 1.) Close to the word "spiritual'": the sacrifice is of Christ, the Word: and not of an irrational animal as in the Old Testament.
"Acceptable" - which follows from the above four qualities.
"For us" - in Communion.
The five signs of the Cross : the sacrifice is that of Calvary, with the five wounds of Our Lord.
QUI PRIDIE: The
priest, acting in the person of Christ,
SIMILI MODO: "After supper" - the bread and wine were consecrated after the Pascal supper.
"This is the chalice of My Blood" signifies "this is My Blood contained in the chalice.
"Which shall be shed": the word in Greek is -"ek-chunomenon", which is more exactly rendered as "which-is-being-shed". The Vulgate rendition is not wrong; at the Last Supper Christ sacramentally shed His Blood (which is why the participle is in the present tense), but He had also in
UNDE ET MEMORES: The five signs of the cross made by the priest over the chalice and Host are not blessings, but recall Our Lord's five wounds, and hence His Sacrifice on Calvary, of which the Mass is the re-enactment. Incidentally, the Mass is so the commemoration of the historical event of Calvary.
SUPRA QUAE: The Sacrifice is more acceptable to God when it is offered more fervently and reverently ;by the priest and faithful. God weighs our intention; "Abel, Abraham and Melchisedeck's sacrifices were acceptable because their intention was good (Cain's sacrifice was just ritualistic and exterior).
offerings" signifies Our Lord's Body and Blood inasmuch as we offer
them. Why the mention of the angel? "And another angel came and stood
before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much
incense, that he should offer the prayers of all the saints (the Christians)
upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of God. And the smoke
of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God, from
the hands of the angel." -Apocalypse 8:3-4. The angel is probably
The sense of the prayer is this: may the offerings of the Sacrifice of the Mass by the Church militant be one with the homage of the Church triumphant, via the intercession of St. Michael, and may it thus become acceptable to God.
MEMENTO: "in the sleep of peace" means "with a sure assurance of heaven.",
NORIS QUOQUE: "some part and fellowship" refers to the incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ, one of the fruits of the Mass. Again, all the saints mentioned are martyrs.
PER QUEM HAEC OMNIA: "all these things" refers to the species of the transsubstantiated bread and wine. The Father, through the Son, creates all good things.
The bread and wine by consecration, are "sanctified" i.e. converted into Our Lord's holy Body and Blood. "vivified": Our Lord's Body and Blood are living and give life (grace). "blessed" is synonymous with sanctified.