The second ritual part of the Mass is the Eucharist itself: the blessing over the bread and wine, the breaking of the bread, the holy communion. Following the intercessions and before the Eucharistic prayer, there are some rather informal moments, moments that are more private and relaxed. Like the opening rites, this is a time of transition. The preparation of the table for the Eucharist and the collection are the only tasks of this rite.
We are setting the table. To have some members of the assembly do this says clearly whose table it is, and who provides the bread and wine. This is not the best place for songs about offering, or for any singing at all by the assembly. There might be instrumental or choral music.
The only things placed on the table, other than the altar cloth, are the vessels with the bread and wine and the book. A single container holds enough bread for everyone present; the directives are very clear in stating that the bread of the assembly's communuion is to be consecrated at this Mass, not taken from the tabernacle. The vessel should correspond to the kind of container we would expect to hold bread. For the wine, there is a chalice and communion cups that can hold a quantity sufficient to share with all present. The vessels should make their task obvious: to hold bread, to hold wine. As for the book if some support is needed, a stand or cushion, this should not be so large as to be distracting. We should avoid placing miscrophones or other distractions on the table.
If other objects are brought forward as part of the preparation rite, the bread and wine will not be the focal point. Anything that is part of the feast of season could be present from the beginning of the liturgy or could be carried in the entrance procession. This part of the Mass is the preparation of the gifts and table for the Eucharist. As with everything else in the liturgy, we are to do what we are doing well - not something else. With noble simplicty the gifts of bread and wine are brought forward by members of the assembly and are presented to the presider who in prayer acknowledges that these gifts are God's gifts and the work of human hands.
The General Instruciton notes that this time of preparation "is also the time to receive money or other gifts for the church. These are to be put in a suitable place, but not on the altar" (49). The collecting of money is the work of the ushers, whose manner reflects their basic task of hospitality. Enough ushers should be involved so that the time given to this collection is not out of proportion to other parts of the liturgy. The preparation time concludes with the presider asking all to pray together about the action we are now to begin.
[Source: Sunday Bulletin, St. Paul Roman Catholic Cathedral, Saskatoon, SK, Canada; June 22, 2008]