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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

The Roman Ordo, describing the Offertory as it was observed in the ninth century, tells us that the people presented their gifts in a clean linen cloth, the male portion of the congregation leading the way, and the females after them with their cakes of fine flour and cruses of wine. The priests and deacons presented gifts after the people, but these were of bread simply. When the bishop was present the onus of receiving the gifts devolved always upon him. For this reason, as soon as the time for presenting them had arrived, his lordship walked over to the end of the altar-rail, followed by an archdeacon, a subdeacon, and two acolytes. The subdeacon, with an empty chalice, followed immediately after the archdeacon, who, upon receiving the offerings of wine from the hands of the bishop (who himself had received them first from the people), poured them into the large chalice held by the subdeacon. The offerings of bread were handed direct by the bishop to the subdeacon, who placed them in a large linen cloth carried by two acolytes. When all was ended the bishop washed his hands (a custom yet observed in a Bishop’s Mass), and, having returned to the altar, there received the offerings of the priests and deacons. All that remained over and above what was necessary for the immediate wants of the altar on these occasions, went into a common fund for the sustenance of the clergy and the poor of the parish (Kozma, ibid.)

A question that is not easily settled is this: Did any of the congregation approach the altar at the Offertory and place their gifts upon it, instead of presenting them at the rails, as we have described? The discipline of allowing no one inside the sanctuary but the ministers of the altar was always very strictly observed in the Greek Church, except in case of the emperors of Constantinople, in whose favor an exception was made; and that it was strictly observed, too, in the Latin Church, at least for quite a long time, may be clearly seen from the conciliar statutes that were made concerning it. But that there were places and times when a relaxation of this discipline was allowed to be made, there is every reason to believe, and it is generally understood that at least the male portion of the congregation went up with their gifts to the altar itself, but that the female portion presented them at the rails. This, certainly, was the custom throughout the diocese of Orleans, in France, as we learn from the capitulary of Theodulf, bishop of that see. Cardinal Bona says that in course of time this whole discipline was so relaxed that both males and females approached the altar indiscriminately when the Offertory was at hand (Rer. Liturg., p. 336).








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