This is new content in the second edition of Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, Chapter 9, "Offertory Prayers".
The bread and wine are changed into the Real Presence of Jesus Christ at the consecration of the Eucharistic Prayer, but this presence is hidden under what the Church calls a “sacramental veil,” the remaining appearance of bread and wine. When we see Christ in Heaven, there will be no veil. In much the same way, we pray that we may be changed to be more like Christ (“configured” to Christ, in the language of the Church) by receiving Holy Communion. This configuration to Christ is imperfect while we are on earth, but it will be perfected when our resurrected and glorified bodies enter Heaven.
Just as the bread and wine will be transubstantiated into Christ, what they represent – ourselves, the Church, the Body of Christ – is, in a sense, transubstantiated as well. By identifying ourselves with the bread and wine, as Archbishop Sheen wrote, we are anticipating the change which will occur in us at the end of time while conforming our lives to the change taking place now.
Because of what the bread and wine will become (once consecrated), the union of our spiritual sacrifices to the bread and wine during the Offertory is a sign of our participation in Christ and His sacrifice. The bread and wine already have a physical likeness to Christ’s sacrifice, because they are the same elements He used, and the same elements that were offered centuries before Him by Melchizedek. (cf. Gen. 14:18) When we join our spiritual sacrifices to them in the Offertory, each of us gives them a spiritual likeness to Christ’s sacrifice. Finally, in the Eucharistic Prayer, this likeness is perfected as they receive a substantial likeness to Christ’s sacrifice.
The bread and wine (and afterwards, the Eucharist) and ourselves are united as one at the hands of the priest: he offers them physically as we offer them spiritually. The bread and wine which the priest holds during the words of consecration represent us, since they represent the fruits of our labor. Then, as the priest offers the Eucharist to God, we join our very lives – all of our worries, cares, sufferings, and prayers – to Christ in the Eucharist. It is only by joining ourselves to Christ, the perfect sacrifice, that the contribution of our living, spiritual sacrifice can be truly acceptable to the Father. (cf.
12:1; 1 Pet. 2:5) Rom.
Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of
, wrote about the Offertory prayers in a weekly column in December 2002: “This part of the Mass is another invitation for us to offer our lives in a sacrifice of praise to God. Here the common priesthood actively engages in the sacrifice taking place.” This common or baptismal priesthood is part of our identity in Christ. In a sermon from the 5th century, St. Peter Chrysologus, the Bishop of Ravenna (in northern Denver Italy) spoke to his flock about ’s words in Romans 12:1. St. Paul
Listen now to what the Apostle urges us to do: “I appeal to you,” he says, “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” By this exhortation of his, Paul has raised all men to priestly status.
How marvelous is the priesthood of the Christian, for he is both the victim that is offered on his own behalf, and the priest who makes the offering. He does not need to go beyond himself to seek what he is to immolate to God: with himself and in himself he brings the sacrifice he is to offer God for himself.In a Christian’s self-offering to God, he is following the pattern of Christ Who is both priest and victim.