At the celebration of the Mass, after the liturgy of the Word is completed, the liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the preparation of the altar and the presentation of the gifts. The norms for the celebration then say that “the offerings are then brought forward. It is a praiseworthy practice for the bread and wine to be presented by the faithful. They are then accepted at an appropriate place by the priest or deacon and carried to the altar. Even though the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as was once the case, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still keeps its spiritual efficacy and significance.”
In early centuries this procession with the gifts disappeared, likely due to the decrease in the number of those receiving Communion and the fact that the Church began using specially made unleavened bread instead of the common leavened bread. Though traces of the procession continued through the Middle Ages, the presentation of bread and wine by members of the congregation was, from the eleventh century, generally replaced by the giving of money. With the reforms of Vatican II, the procession has been restored. Now not only bread and wine but money or other gifts for the poor or for the Church are brought in procession.
The bread and wine are not to be confused with the gifts for the poor or the Church. While all of these items represent the labor and self-sacrifice of people, the bread and wine are brought for transformation, so that we will receive them back as the Eucharistic presence of the risen Christ. It is what has been called from ancient times a “holy exchange.” The money and food items, on the other hand, are not meant for transformation in this sense. Thus they do not need any special ritual attention other than to present them as gifts. They do not need to be blessed or be attended to with any particular ceremony. Their special character is ritualized simply by the act of bringing them in procession and their reception by priest or deacon. The norms for the celebration of the liturgy try to make this distinction clear by the directive that “these are put in a suitable place away from the eucharistic table.”
Many parishes have attractive baskets at the church entrance where food offerings can be placed. These same baskets are then taken in procession. They would then be placed somewhere in the sanctuary where they are visible but not competing for attention with altar, pulpit or the priest’s chair. The gifts should also remain there for the entire liturgy. Some parishes used to have ushers enter the sanctuary and take the money away as soon as it was placed there, presumably to take it to a safer place or so that people could begin counting it. Once presented in procession, the money becomes a symbol within the liturgy, and should be left alone until the liturgy is finished.