HOPE IN THE FUTURE
General Introduction ~ (at the start of Mass)
You may remember that as the first part of Stage 3 of Hope in the Future we looked at the welcome part of the Mass and Fr David asked us all questions instead of a normal homily. This week the aim is to reflect on the Liturgy of the Word. So today we are going to emphasise this part of the Mass by having a commentary before each section of the Liturgy of the Word.
This is particularly relevant as we are currently in the “Year of the Word”. This part of the Mass is centred around the Lectern or Ambo which can be called “The Table of the Word”, as at Mass we are fed by the Lord with his Divine Word, as well as with his Body in Holy Communion. In the readings from Scripture, God speaks to us and opens up to us the mystery of redemption and salvation. We are invited to make God’s Word our own by listening deeply and affirming our acceptance of it by the Profession of our Faith.
Today we are going to emphasise this part of the Mass by making a commentary before each section of the Liturgy of the Word to highlight each section of this part of the Mass.
Introduction to the Liturgy of the Word (after the Collect and before the First Reading)
Taking its influence from the Liturgy of the Word in synagogue worship, the Church has carefully and beautifully selected a variety of different literary styles. There is a three year cycle of readings for Sunday Mass as well as special readings for feast days and a separate cycle of readings for weekdays.
The First reading is usually, except in the Easter Season, taken from the Old Testament and speaks of some element of God’s faithfulness to his chosen people.
The Psalm (after the First reading)
We respond to the Word of God with God’s Word, usually taken from the Book of Psalms. These are sacred poems from the Old Testament which the Psalms are songs of great lament and / or of giving praise to God.
The Second reading (after the psalm)
This usually (but not always) consists of an extract from one of the letters of St Paul to the Church communities that he founded. St Paul gives instruction and encouragement to the early Church which is still relevant to our Christian lives today.
The Gospel (after the Second reading)
The Gospel is “the highlight” of the Liturgy of the Word. Apart from in Lent, the “Alleluia” Acclamation is sung to serve as our greeting of welcome to the Lord, who is about to speak to us in the Gospel and thus for this we stand.
The priest or other ordained Minister, who have been called by Christ himself, reads the Gospel. In some churches there is a procession with candles held by Altar Servers to show Christ is the Light of the World.
We then have a number of sacred actions, all of which remind us that Christ is present in the proclaiming of the Gospel. The priest greets us with “The Lord be with you” and then announces where the Gospel is taken from. He then traces the cross on the page from the Lectionary that he is about to read from. We trace the cross on our foreheads, our lips and our heart ; in order to say that we are going to think with our minds about the words of Christ in the Gospel: we are going to speak them with our lips and we are going to cherish them in our hearts. At the end of the reading we respond to the priest’s greeting with “Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ”. The priest then kisses the page of the Gospel that he has just read from as a sign of his love for Christ.
Homily (after the Gospel)
In the homily, the priest assists all who are present to hear the voice of the Lord in His Word. The priest takes a message from the Word of God which we have heard in the Gospel and other readings and explains it or relates the message to our lives, making it accessible to everyone present. Christ himself is always present and active in the preaching of the Church.
Creed (after the silence after the Homily)
In response to the Word of God that we have just heard, we stand alongside each other to publicly make our own, the faith of the Church. This is the great prayer of faith that has been used for centuries where we are proud to profess our faith and belief in our Triune God and his Holy Church.
Prayer of the Faithful (after the Creed)
These are statements of petitionary prayer, also flowing from the Word of God, which are put forward by the reader on behalf of all of us present. These are “prayers of asking” and they also flow from the Word of God. An important element of these prayers is the opportunity for each member of the congregation to silently pray for each intercession. The priest then directs a concluding prayer to the Father on behalf of us all. The Prayer of the Faithful concludes the Liturgy of the Word.