The Offertory: a vital element of Christian worship
Offertory is a vital element of Christian worship. It consists of two parts. First is the gathering of the people's Offerings. From earliest Christian times as the people came together for Holy Communion each Lord's Day they brought Gifts and Offerings to God. They brought bread and wine to be used in the Lord's Supper, as well as other gifts to be used for the support of the clergy, maintenance of the church, and for distribution to the poor.
Today, because we no longer live close to the land, we bring our Offerings in the form of currency. These should always be thought of as Offerings and never as donations. Nor should the gathering be thought of as the collection, as though it were nothing more than a function. In receiving the Offering the ushers are engaged in sacred work.
While the Offerings are being gathered the celebrant moves the bread and wine (secured with the Offerings) to the altar, symbolizing the movement of our Lord from heaven to earth, and from the cradle to the cross, where he became the Great Sin Offering, that lifts away the sin of the world. In the words of the prophet Isaiah: "On this mountain ( Christian altar) the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain (the Christian altar) the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations." (Is. 25:6-7). And so this uncovering and movement of the elements is a deliberate liturgical action that preaches the Good News of salvation. Keep this in mind as you watch the movements each Sunday.
And as Jesus received a few loaves and fish and infinitely multiplied them, even so we present earthy gifts to God, and he returns them to us heavenly ones. The flesh and blood of our risen and victorious Lord Jesus Christ given for us Christians to eat and to drink: for the remission of our many, dark, shameful and repetitive sins; for life and salvation. This is the Eucharistic Sacrifice of praise that the church perpetually offers in union with her Lord. Here is the pinnacle of Christian worship, witness and identity, and there is no more holy action in all the world than this, a foretaste of the Feast to come.