Because we recognize that Scripture is "God speaking to his people,"
we should never omit Scripture readings or replace them with other kinds of writings.
The Church gathers the Sunday readings into a three-year cycle and the weekday
readings into a two-year cycle. These become an ongoing instruction in our faith
and walk with God. Scripture is always read from the ambo. The collection of these
readings is called the Lectionary. We currently have four volumes to our Lectionary.
You may have noticed the brand new look of the Lectionary in your parish. As of
last Pentecost, a new translation of the readings became mandatory.
First we sit and listen attentively to a reading from the Old Testament. We ponder
the goodness of our God in a moment of silence. In response, we then sing (or
at least recite) a psalm, which is also Scripture. This "responsorial psalm"
is always meant to be just that a psalm that corresponds to the Lectionary
reading. Sometimes in the past parishes have used "songs" in their place,
but this is unsuitable. Since a psalm is the inspired word of God, the text should
not be changed, and the cantor or leader should preferably stand at the ambo from
which the Scripture is proclaimed.
On Sundays and solemnities we have a second reading again, followed by
a short silence. After each of these readings, the reader concludes by saying:
"The word of the Lord." And we respond, "Thanks be to God!"
The Gospel Alleluia
then precedes the Gospel. We stand and exultantly sing out "alleluia,"
usually followed by a verse that introduces the Gospel passage. (A different acclamation
occurs during the Lenten exclusion of the Alleluia.) We stand as a gesture of
greeting the Lord who comes in a unique way through his Gospel. In the Eastern
rites, the importance of attentiveness is underlined with repetitions of "be
While the assembly prepares, the deacon asks the celebrant for a blessing before
he proclaims the Gospel. Absent a deacon, the priest will ready himself by inaudibly
praying: "Almighty God, cleanse my heart and my lips that I may worthily
proclaim your Gospel." Your parish may have a Book of the Gospels. This book,
usually decorated more ornately than the Lectionary, may be carried in procession
to the ambo and may also be incensed in reverence.
The deacon or priest then announces the reading. We answer in gratitude and praise
for the Good News, "Glory to you, O Lord!" We make three small signs
of the cross on the forehead, mouth and heart which embody the prayer: "May
the word of God be on my mind, in my words and in my heart" as we aspire
to make ourselves one with the word of God. (The new Roman Missal has revived
this gesture once again for all to do.)
The deacon or celebrant then proclaims the Gospel and ends with an acclamation,
"The Gospel of the Lord." The assembly responds, "Praise to you,
Lord Jesus Christ!" The priest or deacon then kisses the book in a sign of
reverence and prays another inaudible prayer: "Through the words of the Gospel
may our sins be washed away."
We then sit and listen to the homily.
The archbishop continues his reflections on the liturgy.