The Development of the Eucharistic Liturgy and Offertory at Mass

By Rev. Fr. Oliver Onah

When I was still a seminarian, I went on holiday outside my diocese. One Sunday during the time of offertory, a young man of about twenty eight years brought out a wallet containing many five hundred naira notes and one thousand naira notes.

After going through the money, he zipped up the wallet and asked me to give him money for the offertory. I did not want to ask him the destination of the high currencies I saw in the wallet so as not to disturb the solemnity of the liturgy. I gave him my little ten naira which he accepted with thanks.

Immediately the Mass was over, I went up to him to find out his reason for asking me to give him my little ten naira. He answered, "I do not have in my wallet, money meant for offering". It was then that I learnt that it was an 'abomination' to offer to God anything more than five or ten naira at Mass.

It helped me to understand why priests go to filling station with bundles of five naira. It is indeed an 'abomination' to offer God something more than that. Not that the Christians do not come to Church with big money. As a matter of fact, if you display book, sacramental, olive oil, incense, sticker or mustard seed, they bring out higher currency.

Apart from buying these articles, immediately you dismiss the Mass, traders among them would begin to troop in their numbers with one thousand naira notes in their hand to collect the five naira change for their business.

Our Lord Jesus Christ after the Institution of the Most Holy Eucharist gave the command directly to the Apostles that they should continue the celebration in His memory.

It was to be celebrated annually on the day of the resurrection, Easter (I ga-anata Eucharistia di aso oburagodu n'oge nke Easter) but they started by gathering on weekly basis, on Sundays, the Day of the Lord. They were doing so in private homes of the Apostles and disciples.

As the population of the early Christians increased, they moved away from family Church to public places and later on, the idea of Basilica arose. After sometime, the routine of daily celebration crept in as the enlightenment to stay connected to the Lord daily came.

The Eucharistic celebration was always preceded by the liturgy of the word as a preparation for the banquet. Every family came with their own bread and wine from their homes to be consecrated for their own family consumption. Rich families ate enough and went home drunk while poor families went hungry.

St Paul intervened and made it clear that by so doing (discriminatorily and individualistically), they were eating and drinking judgment upon themselves (cf 1 Cor., 11:17-34). Then came the idea that all have to pool the elements together. After blessing by an Apostle, each (young and old) would take his turn from the same table.

As the number of Christians still increased all the more, people were asked to bring whatever they had in the name of bread and wine while the Apostles would use those resources to buy and prepare the bread and wine collectively. (Note that offering existed at the time of Christ but not within the context of Eucharistic Liturgy).

This arrangement was introduced to reduce on the people, the inconveniences of always carrying bread and wine to the Church. Hence, the beautiful silent prayer which the priest says immediately after the offertory at the raising of the bread: "Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, It will become for us the bread of life".

At the raising of the Chalice: "Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink".

At that time, people made sure they brought enough money that would buy a quantity that would feed at least their family if separated from the whole. This is the stage in which we are today. But I strongly doubt if the young man that asked me for ten naira for offering at Mass was aware of this development.

I also doubt whether you yourself reading this work are well-educated on this topic otherwise, why do we cheat on ourselves. What of those that purposely do not make any offering at all. Jesus who offered His life for us deserves the better part of whatever we have.

Families and individuals should be booking turns in order to sponsor the Altar bread and wine used for celebration of Masses.

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