I’ve been asked to make sure to mention one thing in this little series of morceaux on the various parts of our Eucharistic celebration. After the collection is taken up at Mass members of the assembly bring the gifts forward to the sanctuary. This may seem like something minor, but it’s not really.
Sure it has a practical side: the bread and wine that will be changed into Christ’s own Body and Blood have to get up to the altar somehow! But if that were the whole story, hey, an usher or altar server would simply do it. Servers ordinarily “set the table” with cloths and book and water cruet; why don’t they bring forward the bread and wine and other gifts of the assembly? Instead, we organize a procession of the people’s representatives, which can on formal occasions itself led by candles, and even cross and incense.
It’s all a question of making sure we emphasize what’s important. Like I mentioned in my last little morceau, the offerings of the congregation (which, remember, is bread and wine and other gifts for the Church and the poor) are symbols of all that we’re going to be offering to God at that Mass. And they come from the people. As a Church which likes to ritualize (that is, act out formally) what we believe, we emphasize what’s important by external signs like movement and special representatives.
When was the last time you and your family volunteered to hold the holy gifts and bring them forward to God’s sanctuary on behalf of everyone? Now you realize how important that small gesture can be!