This week we Lectio the Liturgy with the Prayer over the Offering for the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time.
O Lord, we bring to your altar these offerings of our service: be pleased to receive them, we pray, and transform them into the Sacrament of our redemption. Through Christ our Lord.
After quick read through the prayer, I spent more time on each phrase and found that the prayer engages our spiritual senses as well as our bodily senses.
In the Latin form of the prayer, the altar, altaribus, means a high altar, an altar for sacrifice to great gods. Our physical vision sees the altar in the Sanctuary of our church, but our spiritual vision should focus on the altar that is before the throne of God.
On that altar, we place the offerings of our service. Our earthly eyes see the offering of bread and wine. Spiritually, the bread and wine are those elements, but they are also all of us. Bread isn’t made of one grain of wheat, it is made of the ground grain of the whole field. Likewise, wine isn’t made from one grape. It is crushed and it’s juice is mingled with all the other grapes to become a fine wine. All of it, the bread and wine, you and me are placed on the Altar before God.
We then ask God to receive them and transform them. To receive means more than just accepting, or simply opening a gift. We are asking God to take these gifts to himself and when he takes them into his hands, he transforms them into something priceless, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus.
Our offering becomes the Sacrament of our redemption. One of the favorite words on my Christian vocabulary list is the word redeem, the root word of redemption. It means to buy back or bought with a price.
This is where the weight of this prayer hit me. What we have to give to God may seem like small things. However, what he gives back to us is exactly what it cost Him for our redemption. We receive Jesus.
Receiving Holy Communion is a very short earthly conversation that also has a spiritual conversation that we don’t often think about: The Eucharistic Minister holds up the Host and says, “The Body of Christ.” Abba Father says to our spiritual senses, “I am giving you my Son. He is the price that was paid to buy you back. When you receive this gift, you say ‘yes’ to living for me and in me. You say ‘yes’ to being becoming my mystical body on earth.” We respond, “Amen. I believe.”
As the priest stands at the altar, holds up the communion host, and says the words, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world,” he isn’t saying them just to us. He is declaring it to the world. The Lamb of God, the One who paid the price for our redemption, desires to dwell in us.
Thanks for praying with me!