The Liturgy of the Eucharist: The Preparation of the Gifts (5)

Author’s Note: Soon Finding the Plug will be considering the Eucharistic Prayer. Which Eucharistic Prayer would help you the most to Find the Plug? Vote here.

“With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, …”

This prayer, said quietly by the bishop or priest on behalf of everyone participating in the liturgy, reminds us that both the offering and the offerer are important in the sight of God. Our Lord offered the perfect sacrifice, himself, and was the only one worthy to offer it. If he had offered anything else than his very life that sacrifice, great or small, would have been limited. Anyone who handed him over in sacrifice against his will would not have been accepted by the Father, nor the sacrifice: Our Lord willingly surrendered his very life in sacrifice for us, a perfect sacrifice performed in a perfectly selfless manner, and that sacrifice was accepted and will always be accepted every time we offer it in the Mass.

In comparison to this perfect attitude and perfect offering our meager offering of some bread and wine is almost insignificant, but Our Lord teaches us to offer it and to offer ourselves. The offertory goes beyond the bread and wine; we offer ourselves and we pray that our offering may be accepted. In humility we acknowledge that we’re not paying off the Lord in offering the bread and wine. He’s not obliged to accept our offering, just as he’s not obliged to forgive us, but he does both. We’re asking him to accept us, despite our pride and sins, and our sacrifice is a way of asking for his acceptance and mercy and showing our humility and contrition.

“…and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God.”

We ask to be acceptable to the Lord, and we ask that what we offer in sacrifice be pleasing to him as well, knowing that it is insignificant in comparison to everything Our Lord has done and sacrificed for us. He does not browbeat us about that; he never tries to make us feel small and insignificant. He loves us as his children and as loving children we want to please our Father. So the bishop or priest on behalf of everyone participating makes an act of hope: a hope that the offering as well as the offerer are pleasing to the Lord right here, right now.

We can’t presume it, but we can strive for it and trust in the Lord’s goodness and mercy, tempering our attitude with humility and contrition. At the same time we shouldn’t abuse it: the Lord lamented in the Old Testament those who tried to offer him sacrifices that were sickly or blemished as if he wouldn’t realize it. The bread and wine we offer are pretty much standard, but we can vary so much in how pleasing we are to Our Lord. At the start of the Mass we asked for forgiveness, and now, just before the Eucharistic Prayer, we have an opportunity to renew that humility and contrition in order to truly please Our Lord.

“Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

It’s in this penitential spirit that the bishop or priest washes his hands as a ritual and spiritual purification in preparation for the tremendous mystery about to unfold during the Eucharistic Prayer. We express our unworthiness, but we also trust in Our Lord to accept us despite our faults and failings. We know that he is pleased with every sincere effort we make to be acceptable and pleasing to him.

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