From the earliest history in the Christian church, the sharing of possessions formed an integral part of the liturgy of the Eucharist. As St. Ambrose says, “Everything belongs to God – both the seeds and the seedlings that grow at his nod, and are multiplied for the use of humankind. It is God, therefore, who gives all things, and God who orders them to be shared with those who need them. This is justice: that we restore to the needy because it is God who gives.”
When we offer our gifts, we are giving back to God what is already God’s. This includes our gifts of bread and wine that we use in the service. These are fruits of the earth, and the work of human hands. They will be returned to God in the Great Thanksgiving, to become the Body and Blood of Christ. In our offerings of bread and wine, we are giving ourselves back to God – all that we have, all that we have done, all that we are. We, too, will become the Body and Blood of Christ.
Liturgy always does three things: it remembers the past, it proclaims what is happening in the present, and it looks forward in hope to the future. The Eucharist is at once a memorial of Christ’s life and death, participation here and now in his resurrection, and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet of the Reign of God. You will hear all of these themes reflected as we pray over the bread and the cup.
We pray together over the gifts. Although most of the Eucharistic Prayer is said by the priest alone, it is said in the name of, and as the prayer of, the whole assembly. This is why we stand for this prayer, indicating that we are all active participants, or concelebrants, of the Eucharist.