As a continuation of his Be Formed series, Father Burke Masters returned to Morning Air to speak with John Morales about the preparation and presentation of the gifts at Mass.
To begin, Father Burke talked about the symbol of the altar and what it represented. “Well [the altar] represents the presence of Jesus among us. That’s first and foremost. But it represents the table … for the Last Supper.” It represents the table where His apostles gathered around to witness the presentation of Jesus’s body, blood, soul, and divinity for them to consume.
When we go to Mass, we are essentially time-traveling, said Father Burke. We are being transported to that first sacrifice of the Mass, the bloody one at the top of Mt. Calvary. The altar is a representation of that cross upon which the gifts, the bread and wine, will become Jesus’s body and blood. We are celebrating that same sacrifice as the one that took place 2,000 years ago.
“The biggest thing I want people to hear in the presentation of the gifts is that we are called to place our gifts in that chalice and on the paten – paten means plate. That’s where the large celebrant host is. This isn’t just like a nice ceremony. We are putting our sacrifices, our lives, our struggle, our joys, our talents into the chalice and onto the paten that will be offered with Jesus back to the Father.” We are not merely outside observers of this sacrifice. We are not distant bystanders at the foot of the cross as Jesus is crucified. We are participants. We are witnesses, in every sense of the word, to the greatest act of love.
This presentation of the gifts to the altar for sacrifice was not something retroactively assigned to the role of the redeemer, but a longstanding tradition to the Jewish people, back into the Old Testament. Farmers and harvesters were charged with bringing the first crop yield to the priest for sacrifice, often not knowing if there would be a second yield. “It was a real act of trust in God that, ‘I’m giving you the first fruits that I have back to you, back to God,’” said Father Burke. What are the first fruits that we can offer back to God? Our talents, our skills, our time, our efforts, our financial blessings. All of these, we can offer up at the consecration during Mass, telling God that we are His to command.
A common misconception among non-Catholics is that we are re-crucifying Jesus, putting Him back through His passion, and commemorating this morbid atrocity. On the contrary, we are not doing anything “again” or even representing the sacrifice. While there is a lot of symbolism in our faith, there is nothing symbolic about the sacrifice of the Mass. He died once for all, so we are merely tapping into that one sacrifice that took place 2,000 years ago and celebrating His redemption of our sins.
Listen to the whole segment below:
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