“O, marvelous exchange! Man’s Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.”
This is the Antiphon that opens the liturgical celebration of the Solemnity of Mary (Jan 1). It expresses a central claim of orthodox Christianity: that the Son of God received from us a human nature, and in exchange, He offers us a share in His divine nature. Crucially, it’s not an exchange that happened on one occasion, like a long-past historical event. The exchange endures, and you and I are invited to participate in it. With our baptism, we are initiated into the life of God, which we call grace, which allows us to offer our lives, our humanity, to Him. We can do this in various ways, including through our corporal and spiritual works of mercy done in grace. But the greatest way we engage personally in the marvelous exchange is through our active participation in the Mass. We begin thinking about offering ourselves to the Lord at Mass during what we call the Offertory, which initiates the Liturgy of the Eucharist with the priest’s preparation of the gifts of bread and wine on the altar. It’s important to remember that the Mass is not just about receiving something from God. It is an exchange. The gifts of bread and wine are signs of our labor and are the visible way we offer ourselves to the Lord. Through the priest, who stands in the place of Christ, the gifts we give to the Lord become the Gift He gives to us.
Traditionally, the Offertory is not only the time when the offerings of bread and wine are made. It is also the time to take up the collection. The collection is the offering of the fruits of one’s labor to maintain and support the parish and the good works of the Church. With COVID, the Diocese suspended the passing of the collection baskets during Masses, and baskets were placed instead at the entrances of churches to allow people to make their material offerings upon entering or leaving Mass. This seemed to work well at our parish, with parishioners responding with great generosity to the challenge of the pandemic. But now that the crisis has largely passed, Bishop Caggiano has expressed his desire that we return to the traditional practice of passing the basket at the Offertory. This is intended to foster more conscious participation on the part of the congregation in the exchange – the offering of a gift that is a visible extension of one’s self in preparation to receive the gift offered to us by Christ. Our parish will resume the practice of passing the basket the weekend of 10/1-2. To do this, we will need volunteers to help with the collection. All are welcome to help out, provided they are at least 18 years old and have completed the diocesan Safe Environments training required of all volunteers. I will be leading usher training sessions on Thursday, 9/29 at 6pm, and on Saturday, 10/1 at 9am for anyone who would like to help out. Training will take place at St. Cecilia Church, and you need only attend one session.
Online giving is an excellent way to support the parish, one that I strongly would recommend for your consideration. Offertory envelopes have a space where you can indicate that you give online, allowing you to place an empty envelope in the basket during the offertory. Keeping your packet of envelopes in the car is a helpful way to make sure you have them when you come to Mass. But even if you forget, the most important thing is to join yourself to the offering being made on the altar, so as to more consciously and actively participate in the marvelous exchange.