Christ and Mammon: A Liturgical History

Team Members/Contributors

L. Edward Phillips Emory University Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

Money (as an object of exchange, distinguished from wealth, per se) has played an undeniably important role in the history of Christian practice, but it did not figure prominently in the actual performance of the Mass. Rather, the liturgical offering entailed the presentation of bread and wine for the Eucharist. Kenneth Stevenson, Eucharist and Offering (1986), has noted that explicit connections between the giving of alms, the collection of money, and the liturgical concept of “offering” did not occur until the English Reformation of the sixteenth century. Furthermore, North American Protestants did not typically characterize money collections as an “offering” until late in the 19th century. However, by the middle of the 20th century, the money offering became, arguably, the most solemnly ritualized action in mainline Protestant worship, involving a procession of ushers, prayers, and sung doxology. I will examine this development in liturgical practice, particularly as it has ramifications for a Protestant recovery of the distinctive Christ-centered economics implicit in the Eucharist. Whereas the money offering may enact the economic inequality of individuals, the Eucharist recalls Christ’s offering for the world, invites us to offer ourselves in union with him, and enacts our equal need for grace.

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