The Liturgy Of The Word
In the liturgy of the word Christians come together to thank God for God’s gifts. Listening to God’s word (the Bible) they grow in faith more conformed to the mind of Christ. Liturgy celebrates the wonders of creation and gives thanks for the reality of redemption. The liturgy is a celebration not of what God has said, but of God today speaking to our hearts and souls.
A). The First Reading: -The Hebrew Scriptures: The first reading is mostly chosen from the Old Testament and during some seasons the Book of Acts might be read. This reading usually harmonizes with the Gospel reading (see below). This reveals the continuity between Israel and Jesus who comes not to replace but to fulfill Israel.
B). The Responsorial Psalm: The Psalm reflects themes in the readings. The Psalm consists of an antiphon. This is a vehicle of prayer and praise – an atmosphere of prayer within which the readings occur.
C). The Second Reading – The Christian Scriptures: This reading is also referred to as the Epistle, is usually from one of the letters in the New Testament which may also include the Book of Acts or the Book of Revelations. While the letters address particular situations in the early Church, their message transcends the centuries to motivate contemporary Christians and deepen our appreciation of the mystery of Christ.
D). The Gospel – Alleluia: “Alleluia” is a Latin echo of the Hebrew acclamation “Praise God!” and is a key word in Christian worship. Here it heralds the Gospel. In a solemn celebration the church deacon goes to the altar where the Gospel is enthroned. He lifts the book and, accompanied by servants (altar-boys) with candles and on some occasions incense (symbols of Christ’s light), processes with the Gospels held high while choir and community acclaim the good news with “Alleluia,” alternating with verses appropriate to today’s Gospel. Christians acclaim the most wonderful deed of God among humankind, Jesus Christ, here made visible in the book containing His words and message to us all.
E). The Gospel Reading: The Gospel is the climax of the liturgy of the word. Catholic faith teaches that in proclaiming the Gospel, Christ is truly present to the community. For this reason the community stands to witness to Christ’s resurrection which allows him to be present to his people.
As the deacon or priest introduce the Gospels all in the community sign themselves with the sign of the cross traced on the forehead, the lips and over the heart. This signing reminds us “Christ in my thoughts” <forehead>, “Christ from my lips or what I say”<lips> and “Christ in my heart” <over the heart>.
Hearing the Gospel proclaimed also reminds and identifies Catholics with the first community which heard these words for the mouth of Jesus. On the conclusion of the reading the minister proclaims, “This is the Gospel of the Lord.” He means not the book, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the “Good News” itself. The community affirms in faith by responding, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”.
F). The Homily (or mini-sermon): Christians believe that “faith comes through preaching.”(Romans 3:13-15). This idea is rooted in Jewish belief that the creative power of God’s word transforms human life.
The Scriptures are not always easy to understand and apply to present life. For this reason the homily breaks open the Scriptures, showing how the word of God addresses us today. What import does the Gospel have for our lives today, for the world we live in, for issues in the community forum?
G). The Profession of Faith: (the Creed): The Creed is a written profession summarizing the community’s search for an ever deepening understanding of Jesus and His message. The Nicene-Constantinople Creed is most often used at Mass, although the Apostles’ Creed may be used at some liturgies. Please note that both creed’s are used by not only the Catholic Church, but also by Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Orthodox and many other Christian faiths.
H). General Intercessions (Prayers of the Faithful): The people petition God for the needs of the Church, society, the parish, people in need, the sick and suffering, and those who have died. They direct our faith which has been deepened through prayer and listening to God’s word to specific situations today. These prayers conclude the Liturgy of the Word.