Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

Epiphany: Prayer over the Offerings 

For our weekly meditation of the Collects of the Roman Missals, we consider the Secreta or Super oblata (i.e., Prayer over the Offerings) for the Feast of the Epiphany, which is identical in both forms of the Mass (Missale Romanum 1962 and 1970). Below is the official ICEL translation of this Collect in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal (2010):

"Look with favor, Lord, we pray, on these gifts of your Church, in which are offered now not gold or frankincense or myrrh, but He who by them is proclaimed, sacrificed and received, Jesus Christ. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen."

This is perhaps one of the richest Collects of our Roman liturgical tradition, because it says so much about the inner nature of the Liturgy and the Church. The event of Christ's manifestation to the Gentiles in the persons of the Three Magi Kings is not past, but present. The Church of the Gentiles is foreshadowed in these three Chaldean men who adore their Incarnate Lord (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 528). Likewise, the Sacrifice of the Mass is prefigured in their worthy offerings. In the Epiphany, fallen man encounters the living God in faith, and by grace, offers Him a worthy sacrifice.  

A reminder of the significance of the three gifts: according to the interpretation of the Fathers, gold indicates Christ's kingship, frankincense His divinity, and myrrh His sacrifice on the cross and His burial. According to the Prayer over the Offerings, the Church discerns in these three gifts a living connection between the Magi and herself in respect to the Sacrifice of the Mass. When the Church offers her gifts during the Offertory, she does three things: (1) she acclaims Christ as King, (2) she worships Him as God, and (3) she prepares to participate in and receive the infinite merits of His death and resurrection.

Accordingly, this prayer elicits a challenge to us: how might we offer ourselves more worthily to Christ alongside the Magi? What sacrificial gift do we bring to the Lord? With what might we be more generous before God? Let us observe what the beloved Christmas Carol "In the Bleak Mid-Winter" prescribes in its final verse: "

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I would do my part.
Yet what I can, I give Him, give my heart."

To give one's heart means to give what is of great value. It does not mean merely a sentimental thought without any actual sacrifice. To give one's heart to one's spouse, for example, means that one actually makes concrete sacrifices for them. Sentimental sacrifices are no sacrifices at all. Thus, I propose we continue to consider more deeply our financial stewardship.

To worship at Mass without a worthy, concrete monetary gift is comparable to the Magi showing up without their gifts. Can we imagine? Without a real gift of a concrete sacrifice, worship's essential qualities of due reverence and the commitment of one's life are greatly diminished. May we commit ourselves this year to a more worthy financial stewardship of due tithing. May the mystery of Christmas, which is especially evident in the Magi's encounter with Christ, be our continued source of joy and undergird our deepened commitment to financial stewardship. Let us be deeply conscious of the imperative to offer our best to Christ with generosity and loving thanksgiving (cf. Burke and Rossini, The Contemplative Rosary, p. 63).  

(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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