Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies


For today’s meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the “Prayer over the Offerings,” or the “Secret Prayer,” which is identical in both Missals for today’s Mass (the Fourth Sunday after Easter in the MR’62, and the 5th Sunday of Easter in the MR’70). Below is the official ICEL English translation of the original Latin Collect for today’s Mass in the MR’70:

“O God, who by the wonderful exchange effected in this sacrifice have made us partakers of the one supreme Godhead, grant, we pray, that, as we have come to know your truth, we may make it ours by a worthy way of life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Today’s Prayer over the Offerings is a fine example of inculturation. In other words, as pagan Romans received and lived the Catholic faith, elements of their pagan worship were transformed and elevated in the service and worship of the One, true God. This is evident in the use of the Latin word commercia, which our English prayer translates as “exchange” (in economic contexts, the Latin word carries the same meaning as our English words “commerce” and “commercial” which clearly derive from it). In the context of pagan Roman worship, commercia could refer to the exchange of benefits existing between mortals and the gods.  

To some degree, the religious instincts of the pagans and the virtue of pietas reflect the truth of natural law, wherein man is obliged to adore the divine, even if this is often distorted by idolatry. Such a transactional relationship for ancient Romans, however, may be characterized to some degree by servile fear (cf. Benedict XVI, St. Paul, pp. 113-114). As Roman mythic literature indicates, the gods tended to care very little for the well-being of man, and if they did care, their actions were sometimes governed by arbitrary self-interest and deplorable passions.

With the coming of the Gospel, however, Roman Christians could now see that the one true God was both benevolent and omnipotent. Thus, it was no longer a question of nervous, fearful, and careful exchange-negotiations via one’s sacrifices, but a completely new covenant relation between the good God and mankind. This new relationship was governed entirely by the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of God’s own beloved Son.

As we offer our gifts in the Mass, both material and spiritual (i.e., bread and wine, but also own selves, our sufferings, our joys, our thanksgivings and petitions, as well as our monetary offerings), these are all taken up into Christ’s own priestly sacrifice to the Father from the Cross, and transfigured in the life of his Resurrection. We receive from the Father “every grace and heavenly blessing,” in the words of the Canon, because Christ becomes truly present on the altar, and we receive a share in His divine life in Holy Communion.  

This is a completely transformed notion of commercia, and one wherein there is no longer any servile fear, but “reverence and awe,” to quote the letter to the Hebrews (cf. Heb. 12:28). Such an exchange is also characterized by a joy that cannot be taken away: the joy of union with the risen Jesus, which He promised us, and for which he died and rose (cf. John. 15:10-11, 16:22).

In knowing Jesus in this way, we now have the obligation to live our lives in union with His, and to be vessels and channels of His grace, as is envisioned in the petition of the Prayer over the Offerings. The power of the Mass is intended to shape and direct every piece of our lives. Indeed, the fullest participation in the Mass is that in which we allow Christ to integrate all of life into one continuous act of worship through, with, and in Him. 


(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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