This week, the Scriptures highlight the power of Christ who opens our ears so that we may hear God’s message to us today, and opens our mouths to respond with praise.
In our postmodern era, we are familiar with the shorthand of text messaging, disposable missalettes and multimedia extravaganzas. While this may enhance some communication, there is also an inherent danger that we will lose our appreciation for the printed word.
As we gather for worship, we use well-crafted books, and make every effort to use words with care. The Word of God is contained in beautiful volumes. The priest uses ritual texts and more formal language rather than “chatty” or casual speech. There are no “throw-away” words.
From the time of Pope Gregory the Great, books containing the Scriptures have been common. Because of the way books were bound in earlier days, the Gospels were contained in a separate volume, usually adorned with illuminations and ornate covers.
Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the church in the west utilized a Lectionary that contained all three readings for Mass. While a Book of the Gospels was prescribed for ordinations it was not used for Mass.
To highlight the importance of the word of God, the Vatican Council prescribed a three-year cycle of readings so more of the Scriptures would be read at Mass. In addition, the 1969 Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (GIRM) mentioned a separate Book of the Gospels carried in the entrance procession and placed on the altar.
The third edition of the Roman Missal and the 2002 GIRM also makes specific mention of the Book of the Gospels. In 1999 the United States’ bishops prepared a text, and in March of 2000 the Congregation for Divine Worship approved the new edition of the Book of the Gospels for use in the United States.
Christ is present in the proclamation of the word and so it is important that we LISTEN rather than read along. We show special reverence for Christ’s presence in the word by carrying the Book of the Gospels (not the Lectionary) in the entrance procession and placing it on the altar. Before the Gospel there is another procession from the altar to the ambo, accompanied by the Gospel acclamation (Alleluia). We stand for the reading of the Gospel and the deacon or priest incenses the Book of the Gospels.
This week, as we hear God’s word, our listening can be enhanced by the careful reading and proclamation by the lector and priest or deacon, the beauty of the book, and by our hearts and ears being open to all that God offers and asks of us.
Sr. Rehrauer is the director of Evangelization and Worship for the Diocese of Green Bay