The rite by which the bread and wine are presented (offered) to
God before they are consecrated and the prayers and chant that
The idea of this preparatory hallowing of the matter of the
sacrifice by offering it to God is very old and forms an important
element of every Christian liturgy. In the earliest period we have
no evidence of anything but the bringing up of the bread and wine
as they are wanted, before the Consecration prayer. Justin Martyr
says: "Then bread and a cup of water and wine are brought to the
president of the brethren" (I Apol., lxv, cf, lxvii). But soon the
placing of the offering on the altar was accompanied by a prayer
that God should accept these gifts, sanctify them, change them
into the Body and Blood of his Son, and give us in return the
grace of Communion. The Liturgy of "Apost. Const." VIII, says:
"The deacons bring the gifts to the bishop at the altar . . .
(xii, 3-4). This silent prayer is undoubtedly an Offertory prayer.
But a later modification in the East brought about one of the
characteristic differences between Eastern and Roman liturgies.
All Eastern (and the old Gallican) rites prepare the gift before
the Liturgy begins. This ceremony (proskomide) is especially
elaborate in the Byzantine and its derived rites. It takes place
on the credence table. The bread and wine are arranged, divided,
incensed; and many prayers are said over them involving the idea
of an offertory. The gifts are left there and are brought to the
altar in solemn procession at the beginning of the Liturgy of the
Faithful. This leaves no room for another offertory then. However,
when they are placed on the altar prayers are said by the
celebrant and a litany by the deacon which repeat the offertory
idea. Rome alone has kept the older custom of one offertory and of
preparing the gifts when they are wanted at the beginning of the
Mass of the Faithful. Originally at this moment the people brought
up bread and wine which were received by the deacons and placed by
them on the altar. Traces of the custom remain at a papal Mass and
at Milan. The office of the vecchioni in Milan cathedral, often
quoted as an Ambrosian peculiarity, is really a Roman addition
that spoils the order of the old Milanese rite. Originally the
only Roman Offertory prayers were the secrets. The Gregorian
Sacramentary contains only the rubric: "deinde offertorium, et
dicitur oratio super oblata" (P.L. LXXVIII, 25). The Oratio super
oblata is the Secret. All the old secrets express the offertory
idea clearly. They were said silently by the celebrant (hence
their name) and so are not introduced by Oremus. This corresponds
to the oldest custom mentioned in the "Apost. Const."; its reason
is that meanwhile the people sang a psalm (the Offertory chant).
In the Middle Ages, as the public presentation of the gifts by the
people had disappeared, there seemed to be a void at this moment
which was filled by our present Offertory prayers (Thalhofer, op.
cit. below, II, 161). For a long time these prayers were
considered a private devotion of the priest, like the preparation
at the foot of the altar. They are a Northern (late Gallican)
addition, not part of the old Roman Rite, and were at first not
written in missals. Micrologus says: "The Roman order appointed no
prayer after the Offertory before the Secret" (cxi, P.L., CLI,
984). He mentions the later Offertory prayers as a "Gallican
order" and says that they occur "not from any law but as an
ecclesiastical custom". The medieval Offertory prayers vary
considerably. They were established at Rome by the fourteenth
century (Ordo Rom. XIV., 53, P.L. LXXVIII, 1165). The present
Roman prayers were compiled from various sources, Gallican or
Mozarabic. The prayer "Suscipe sancte pater" occurs in Charles the
Bald's (875-877) prayer book; "Deus qui humanæ substantiæ" is
modified from a Christmas Collect in the Gregorian Sacramentary
(P.L., LXXVIII, 32): "Offerimus tibi Domine" and "Veni
sanctificator" (fragment of an old Epiklesis, Hoppe, "Die
Epiklesis", Schaffhausen, 1864, p. 272) are Mozarabic (P.L. LXXXV,
112). Before Pius V's Missal these prayers were often preceded by
the title "Canon minor" or "Secretella" (as amplifications of the
Secret). The Missal of Pius V (1570) printed them in the Ordinary.
Since then the prayers that we know form part of the Roman Mass.
The ideas expressed in them are obvious. Only it may be noted that
two expressions: "hanc immaculatam hostiam" and "calicem
salutaris" dramatically anticipate the moment of consecration, as
does the Byzantine Cherubikon.
While the Offertory is made the people (choir) sing a verse (the
Offertorium in the sense of a text to be sung) that forms part of
the Proper of the Mass. No such chant is mentioned in "Apost.
Const."; VIII, but it may no doubt be supposed as the reason why
the celebrant there too prays silently. It is referred to by St.
Augustine (Retract., II, xi, P.L., XXXII, 63). The Offertorium was
once a whole psalm with an antiphon. By the time of the Gregorian
Antiphonary the psalm has been reduced to a few verses only, which
are always given in that book (e.g., P.L., LXXVIII, 641). So also
the Second Roman Ordo: "Canitur offertorium cum versibus" (ib.,
972). Durandus notes with disapproval that in his time the verses
of the psalm are left out (Rationale, IV, 26). Now only the
antiphon is sung, except at requiems. It is taken from the
psalter, or other book of the Bible, or is often not a Biblical
text. It refers in some way to the feast or occasion of the Mass,
never to the offering of bread and wine. Only the requiem has
preserved a longer offertory with one verse and the repetition of
the last part of the antiphon (the text is not Biblical).
II. PRESENT USE
At high Mass, as soon as the celebrant has chanted the Oremus
followed by no prayer, the choir sings the Offertory. When they
have finished there remains an interval till the Preface which may
(when the organ is permitted) be filled by music of the organ or
at any time by singing some approved hymn or chant. Meanwhile the
celebrant first says the Offertory chant. The corporal has been
spread on the altar during the creed. The subdeacon brings the
empty chalice and the paten with the bread from the credence table
to the altar. The deacon hands the paten and bread to the
celebrant. He takes it and holding it up says the prayer: "suscipe
sancte Pater". At the end he makes a sign of the cross with the
paten over the altar and slips the bread from it on to the
corporal. Soon after the paten is given to the subdeacon's charge
till it is wanted again for the fraction. The deacon pours wine
into the chalice, the subdeacon water, which is first blessed by
the celebrant with the form: "Deus qui humanæ substantiæ". The
deacon hands the chalice to the celebrant, who, holding it up,
says the prayer: "Offerimus tibi Domine". The deacon also lays his
right handon the foot of the chalice and says this prayer with the
celebrant -- a relic of the old idea that the chalice is in his
care. The celebrant makes the sign of the cross with the chalice
and stands it behind the bread on the corporal. The deacon covers
it with the pall. The celebrant, bowing down, his hands joined and
resting on the altar, says the prayer: "In spiritu humilitatis";
rising he says the "Veni sanctificator" making the sign of the
cross over all the oblata at the word benedic. Then follows the
incensing of the altar and the Lavabo (q. v.). The use of incense
at this point is medieval and not originally Roman (remnant of the
incense at the Gallican procession of the oblata?). Micrologus
notes that the Roman order uses incense at the Gospel, not at the
Offertory; but he admits that in his time (eleventh century) the
oblata are incensed by nearly everyone (De Exxl. Observ., IX).
Finally, after the Lavabo the celebrant at the middle of the
altar, looking up and then bowing down, says the prayer "Suscipe
sancta Trinitas" which sums up the Offertory idea. The Orate
fratres and secrets follow.
At low Mass, the parts of the deacon and subdeacon are taken
partly by the server and partly by the celebrant himself. There is
no incense. At requiems the water is not blessed, and the
subdeacon does not hold the paten. The Dominicans still prepare
the offering before Mass begins. This is one of their Gallican
peculiarities and so goes back to the Eastern Proskomide. The
Milanese and Mozarabic Missals have adopted the Roman Offertory.
The accompanying chant is called Sacrificium at Toledo.
DURANDUS, "Rationale divinorum officiorum", IV, 26-32; DUCHESNE,
"Origines du culte chretien" (Paris, 2nd ed., 1898), 165-167; 194-
199; THALHOFER, "Handbuch der katholischen Liturgik", II
(Freiburg, 1890); GIHR, "Das heilige Messopfer "(Freiburg, 1897),
458-508; Eng. tr. (St. Louis, 1908), 494-551; RIETSCHEL, "Lehrbuch
der Liturgik", I (Berlin, 1900), 376-378.
Transcribed by Tony de Melo
From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the
Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by
New Advent, Inc.
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