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Eucharist and Life - Part 3
by Gil Ostdiek, O.F.M. | August 18, 2011
The New Testament name for the Church, ecclesia, means “those called forth, summoned for an assembly.” The preeminent gathering to which God calls us is the celebration of the Eucharist. Implementation of the revised Roman Missal offers us an excellent opportunity to reflect on our calling in light of the Eucharist. What is the deeper meaning of what we do at Mass, and what does that have to do with daily Christian life in the world? To what does Eucharist call us?
3. Called Together to Present Gifts
From the Liturgy of the Word the assembly moves to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which consists of the presentation of the gifts, the Eucharistic Prayer, and Communion. At one level the presentation is simply a practical action, getting the bread and wine to the altar table, but it also has a deeper meaning. The General Instruction of Roman Missal no. 73 says: “Even though the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as in the past, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still retains its force and its spiritual significance.” That spiritual meaning is named for us in the prayers that accompany the presentation of the bread and wine:
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life. . . . Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.
Bread and wine are identified in these prayers as gifts of God, gifts of the earth, and the work of human hands—gifts that are destined to become our spiritual food and drink. They are part of what E. C. Miller calls a “dialogue of the gift,” which is really a “dialogue of love” [Worship 60 (1986): 22-38]. Creation is God’s act of gift-giving. It includes not only material creation, but also humanity’s ability to actualize the world’s potential and present it back to God as a gift, a gift meant to be shared for the good of all. In the presentation of bread and wine, Miller notes, the baptized formally declare their willingness to enter into the dialogue of gift initiated in creation, a dialogue that had lapsed into silence in the fall; we had forgotten who has given us the gift, and we have not shared it equitably. Bread and wine are ultimately God’s gift, given for all.
Bread and wine are also the work of human hands. Anthropologists call them condensed symbols. What is condensed in them is all the human labor that has gone into their production. That circle of human labor ripples out to include not only farmers and millers and bakers, but a multitude of other hands that make their work possible. In effect, what we place on the table is all our work, our very lives, and creation itself, as a gift to be offered back to God. That is the gift we brought with us when we gathered. Now we are all meant to accompany the gift bearers in spirit as they walk up the aisle, each carrying that gift in our hands to place it on the altar for the offering that is to follow. The people at nearby St. Thomas the Apostle in Hyde Park express this graphically by all rising as the gifts are carried to the altar.
The Prayer over the Gifts for Sunday XX in Ordinary Time expresses well the dialogue of the gift that takes place within the rite of presentation.
Receive our oblation, O Lord,
by which is brought about a glorious exchange,
that, by offering what you have given,
we may merit to receive your very self.
To be continued.
[The reflections in this series are adapted, with permission, from an article to be published in Liturgical Ministry 20 (Fall 2011).]
Gil Ostdiek, O.F.M.
Professor of Liturgy
Professor of Liturgy
Director of the Institute for Liturgical Consultants
S.T.L., S.T.D., L.G., Pontifical Athenaeum Antonianum, Rome; Study: Harvard University, University of California
Professor Gil Ostdiek, O.F.M., is a founding faculty member of Catholic Theological Union, an ordained presbyter, and a member of the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart. He holds a B.A. from Quincy College, an S.T.L. and S.T.D. from the Pontificium Athenaeum Antonianum (Rome), and has done post-doctoral studies at Harvard Divinity School and the University of California/GTU.
Gil has been a member of the Association of Consultants for Liturgical Space (ACLS), the Catholic Academy of Liturgy (CAL), the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA), the North American Academy of Liturgy (NAAL), and Societas Liturgica.
He has received a Festschrift [Finding Voice to Give God Praise: Essays in the Many Languages of the Liturgy, ed. Kathleen Hughes (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1998)]; the 1998 Michael Mathis Award for contributions to liturgical renewal, from the Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy; the 2001 Pax et Bonum Award, from St. Peter’s in Chicago; and the 2007 Georgetown Center for Liturgy Award for outstanding contributions to the liturgical life of the American Church.
Gil has taught liturgy at the graduate level for 45 years and has conducted numerous adult education workshops on liturgy. In addition, he has been Vice President/Academic Dean, MDiv Director, and MA Director at CTU, and he was the founding director of the Institute for Liturgical Consultants (ILC) based at CTU. He served on the International Commission on the Liturgy (ICEL) for fifteen years on the Advisory Committee, on the General Editorial Committee for revision of the Sacramentary, and as chair of the Subcommittee on the Translation and Revision of Texts. He was on the Board of Trustees of Quincy University and his province’s Board of Education. Gil is a past-president of the North American Academy of Liturgy, and he has also been a consultant for the American Franciscan Liturgical Commission.
Gil’s hobbies are woodworking and photography.