The Liturgy of the Word

March 19th, 2011  |  Published in New Roman Missal

Returning to the revised Roman Missal, today we are looking at the second major part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, paragraph 29 states. “When the Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself is speaking to his people and Christ, present in his own word, is proclaiming the Gospel.” These are profound words if we stop and reflect on them. It is not the lector, nor the priest or deacon who is speaking when the Scriptures are proclaimed, but God himself, Christ Jesus is present when the Gospel is proclaimed.

The words of Sacred Scripture are unlike any other words we will ever hear or read. They are the means through which God reveals himself to us. They are the means by which we come to know the extent of God’s love for us and the responsibilities that come with being followers of Christ. Along with all that, the Word of God as it is proclaimed in the Mass has a special sacramental power to bring about in us what it proclaims. The Word of God proclaimed at Mass is ‘efficacious’ that is, it not only tells us of God and God’s will for us, it also helps us to put that will of God into practice in our own lives.

How, then, do we respond to this great gift of the Word of God? We respond in word and song, in posture and gesture, in silent meditation and, most important of all, by listening attentively to that Word as it is proclaimed. Following each reading we express our gratitude for this gift with the words “Thanks be to God” or, in the case of the Gospel, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ,” and it is appropriate that a brief period of silence be observed to allow for personal reflection. Following the first reading we sing the Responsorial Psalm, a meditation on God’s word through the inspired words of one of the psalms.

The Gospel is the highpoint of the Liturgy of the Word. The readings from the Old Testament tell us of God’s promises and his preparation of his people for the coming of his Son; the epistles and other pre-Gospel New Testament readings offer the reflections of St. Paul and other contemporaries of the Lord on the life and message of Christ; in the Acts of the Apostles we have a history of the early Church. We believe that all Scripture, the Old and New Testaments, is inspired by the Holy Spirit, but the Church has always given special honor to the Gospel because in the Gospel we have the words and deeds of Christ himself. The proclamation of the Gospel is surrounded with marks of respect and honor: the Gospel is read by an ordained minister, a deacon, or, when there is no deacon, by a priest; the Book of the Gospels is to be carried aloft with honor in the entrance procession and placed on the altar until the Gospel reading to show the unity of Scripture and Eucharist; just before the Gospel is read the Book of the Gospels is to be carried in procession to the ambo (pulpit) accompanied by an acclamation sung by the people; it may be incensed before the reading and is kissed at its conclusion; finally, all stand as the Gospel is proclaimed. Through this posture and through the honor paid to the book containing the Gospel, the Church pays homage to Christ who is present in his Word and who proclaims his Gospel. When it is announced we will respond “Glory to You, O Lord”. The “O” having been added with the intention of showing greater respect.

Based upon Roman Missal Formational Materials provided by the Secretariat for the Liturgy of the USCCB, “2010