Robin Jordan, in his review of the Anglican Church in North America’s new ‘Texts for Common Prayer’, is concerned that the new rite tends to put too much emphasis on the Offertory:
The offertory, like the entrance, is an ancillary (or secondary) rite. It is also one of those parts of the service that tends to attract ‘clutter’ which distorts the shape and meaning of the rite. Both forms of the new ACNA eucharistic rites contributes [sic] to this tendency with a rubric that permits the use of 1 Chronicles 29.11, 14 as an offertory prayer. The kinds of devotions that the offertory tends to attract overemphasize the offertory and give worship a Pelagian cast. When the offertory is given too much emphasis, it can overshadow the more important parts of the service, particularly the reception of communion.
I agree with his assessment that the addition of the separate Offertory prayer is excessive, especially if not simply sung by the congregation while the collection is being taken up. On the larger scale, though, I wish to consider what would make for an adoration in the Offertory that was balanced in view of the structure of the whole service.
J. I. Packer posits that the Holy Communion is structured by a three-part cycle, sin-grace-faith, repeated thrice:
The ante-communion: (1) acknowledgement of sin by the collect for purity and the hearing of the law, with the response Lord, have mercy upon us; (2) proclaiming of grace by New Testament readings; (3) responsive exercise of faith, in testimony (I believe), learning of God (the sermon), giving to God (the collection), and prayer for the church on earth.
(1) acknowledgment of sin in the confession; (2) proclaiming of grace, first in the prayer of absolution (God hath promised forgiveness of sins), and then in the comfortable words; (3) responsive exercise of faith, in thanksgiving for this grace (Let us give thanks; Glory be to thee, O Lord most High).
(1) acknowledgement of sin, in the prayer of humble access, confessing our unworthiness to come to the Table; (2) proclaiming of grace, in the prayer of consecration, which expounds the cross (a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world), and the delivering of the tokens of the cross to each worshipper; (3) responsive exercise of faith, in fresh thanks, self-giving, and adoration of God on high and His exalted Son.
Faith is the last of the three parts, and it is particularly in faith that one shows adoration to God. It is in the parts for expressing faith that it is most fitting for the people to sing. By the same token, the minister might make a profound bow at the following points:
- When the Creed was being sung, at ‘And was incarnate … and was made man, and was crucified,’ and again at ‘the life of the world to come.’ Also at the end of the Offertory (when presenting the alms and oblations).
- At the end of the Sanctus.
- Once he had finished communicating the people. At the holy Name in the following prayer, be it ‘O Lord and heavenly Father’ or ‘Almighty and everliving God’. In the Gloria, at the words ‘we worship Thee’, ‘Jesu Christ’, and ‘receive our prayer’, as well as at the end.
At three of these points, a genuflexion might be most fitting: at the end of the Offertory, at the end of the Sanctus, and immediately after all the people had received the bread and wine of the sacrament. For the Chinese, on the other hand, who do not have a custom of genuflecting except to present an object, it would be much more natural to kowtow (1) before the Epistle and Gospel readings (as edicts of the King of Kings), (2) after the Absolution and before the Comfortable Words, and (3) before taking the eucharistic species; for all these are the word of God.