What takes place during the Preparation of the Altar and Gifts?
(Note to Viewers: The following quotes come from the 1970 Roman Missal-second edition.)
The Offertory/Preparation of the Altar and Gifts is more than the time in the Mass when money is collected from the congregation, and the priest receives the bread and wine from the parish family. This moment in the Mass is actually a time set for us to be spiritually prepared to enter into the mystery of the consecration in a prayerful state.
To understand what I am getting at, let us look at the short dialogue between the priest and the congregation just after receiving the bread and wine. The priest tells the congregation to "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.", which the congregation responds, "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His name, for our good, and the good of all His Church." This dialogue emphasizes the spiritual preparation as we enter into the mystery of the consecration.
A mystic named Catalina Rivas of Cochabamba, Bolivia, provides a beautiful description of the Offertory/Preparation of the Altar and Gifts, with the following vision:
A moment later the
arrived, and the Holy Virgin said:
“Pray like this:
(and I repeated after Her)
Lord, I offer all that I am, all
that I have, all that I can. I put everything into Your Hands. Build it up,
Lord, with the little thing that I am. By the merits of Your Son, transform me,
God Almighty. I petition You for my family, for my benefactors, for each member
of our Apostolate, for all the people who fight against us, for those who
commend themselves to my poor prayers. Teach me to lay down my heart as if on
the ground before them so that their walk may be less severe. This is how the
saints prayed; this is how I want all of you to do it.”
Thus, this is how Jesus asks us to pray, that we put our hearts as if on the ground so that they do not feel its severity, but rather that we alleviate the pain of their steps.
some characters, whom I had not seen before, began to stand up. It was as if
from the side of each person present in the Cathedral, another person emerged,
and soon the Cathedral became full of young, beautiful people. They were dressed
in very white robes, and they started to move into the central aisle and, then,
went towards the Altar.
Our Mother said: “Observe. They are the Guardian Angels of each one of the persons who are here. This is the moment in which your guardian angel carries your offerings and petitions before the Altar of the Lord.”
moment, I was completely astonished, because these beings had such beautiful
faces, so radiant as one is unable to imagine. Their countenance was very
beautiful with almost feminine faces; however, the structure of their body,
their hands, their height were masculine. Their naked feet did not touch the
floor, but rather they went as if gliding. That procession was very beautiful.
Some of them were carrying something like a golden bowl
with something that shone a great deal with a golden-white light. The Virgin
“They are the Guardian
Angels of the people who are offering this Holy Mass for many intentions, those
who are conscious of what this celebration means. They have something to offer
“Offer yourselves at this moment; offer your sorrows, your pains, your hopes,
your sadness, your joys, your petitions. Remember that the Mass has infinite
value. Therefore, be generous in offering and in asking.”
Behind the first Angels came others who had nothing in their hands; they were coming empty handed. The Virgin Mary said: “Those are the angels of the people who are here but never offer anything. They have no interest in living each liturgical moment of the Mass, and they have no gifts to carry before the Altar of the Lord.”
At the end of the procession came other angels who were
rather sad, with their hands joined in prayer but with their eyes downcast.
“These are the Guardian Angels of the people who are here, but do not want to
be, that is to say, of the people who have been forced to come here, who have
come out of obligation, but without any desire to participate in the Holy Mass.
The angels go forth sadly because they have nothing to carry to
the Altar, except
for their own prayers.”
“Do not sadden your Guardian Angel. Ask for much, ask for the conversion of sinners, for peace in the world, for your families, your neighbors, for those who ask for your prayers. Ask, ask for much, but not only for yourselves, but for everyone else.
“Remember that the offering which
most pleases the Lord is when you offer yourselves as a holocaust so that Jesus,
upon His descent, may transform you by His own merits. What do you have to offer
the Father by yourselves? Nothingness and sin. But the offering of oneself
united to the merits of Jesus, that offering is pleasing to the Father.”
That sight, that
procession was so beautiful that it would be difficult to compare it to another.
All those celestial creatures bowing before the Altar, some leaving their
offerings on the floor, others prostrating themselves on their knees with their
foreheads almost touching the floor. And as soon as they arrived at the Altar,
they would disappear from my sight.
So I hope the next time you are at Mass, you will not see the Preparation of the Altar and Gifts as a mundane time, but a time of spiritual preparation in a prayerful state.