PROCLAIMING THE WORD
A guide for
Ministers of the Word
Dublin Diocesan Liturgy Commission
Written and Edited by Jane Ferguson & Liam Tracey, OSM
The Church has always revered sacred Scripture even as it has revered the body of the Lord, because, above all in the liturgy, it has never ceased to receive the bread of life from the table both of Gods word and of Christs body and to offer it to the faithful.
(Vatican II. Constitution on Revelation, 21)
Letter from the Cardinal
One of the many gifts which the Church has received from the Second Vatican Council has been a renewed appreciation of the importance of the Word of God. The Council urged that we develop a “sweet and living love for sacred scripture” which is “of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. ” (Vatican II. Constitution on Liturgy. 24) It also underlined the importance of the Liturgy of the Word saying that Christ “is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. ” (Vatican 11: Constitution on Liturgy, 7) Those who proclaim the Word of God have therefore a most important ministry within the Church.
The proclamation of the Word of God is not only important; it is also demanding. It requires an appreciation of the liturgy itself, a familiarity with the text, as well as an ability to communicate effectively in public. Above all, those who proclaim the Word of God to others must listen to it themselves through prayer and reflection.
1 am deeply grateful to all those who over the years have given so generously of their time and talents in this important ministry. 1 warmly encourage them to use this booklet. Finally 1 wish to encourage them to grow in the knowledge of Gods word as they proclaim the life-giving message among us.
Desmond Cardinal Connell
Archbishop of Dublin
Liturgy of the Word
First Reading People sit
This reading is taken from the Old Testament, except during the Easter Season when it is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, and it is chosen because of its relationship to the Gospel of the day. The reading concludes with “This is the word of the Lord” and the assembly responds with, “Thanks be to God”. A short period of silence follows so that the community can reflect on the words that have been proclaimed.
The Responsorial Psalm is the communitys response to the first reading. Psalms are hymns or songs; they have been an important element of Jewish and Christian prayer throughout the centuries. The Psalm is selected because of its association with the first reading and/or the liturgical season and the preferred manner of praying the Psalm is for a cantor to sing the verse and the assembly to sing the response.
This reading is taken from one of the Epistles, from the Acts of the Apostles or from the Book of Revelation. The reading is not usually related to the first reading or the Gospel but is semi-continuous. Like the other scriptural passages in the Sunday Lectionary, the second reading follows a three year pattern. The reading concludes in the same way as the first reading and is followed by a brief silence.
Welcoming the Gospel People stand
When the reader moves away from the ambo the assembly stands and sings the Alleluia verse; the verse accompanies the procession to the Ambo and concludes when the minister is ready to proclaim the Gospel. Alleluia means “Praise God” and should be sung to emphasise its joyful character. It is the assemblys greeting of welcome to the Lord who is about to speak to them. We can heighten our reverence for the Gospel proclamation when the Book of the Gospels is accompanied by candles and incense. During the Lenten season the word Alleluia is not used.
The Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us about the life and teachings of Jesus. The presider makes the sign of the cross on the first word of the reading while announcing the Gospel. The assembly responds with the words “Glory to you, Lord” and make the sign of the Cross on the forehead, lips and heart. This action shows that we want Gods word to shape our thoughts, be on our lips and shape our lives. Silence follows the proclamation of the Gospel.
Homily People sit
Homily means reunion, company or familiar conversation in Greek.
It is an integral part of the liturgy of the Word and its purpose is to develop and explain the Word of God. The homily connects the readings with our daily lives and should lead the assembly to thank God for all that God has done and continues to do in our midst.
Creed People stand
Creed comes from the Latin credo meaning I believe. Having heard God speak through the readings and the homily the assembly expresses their assent by recalling the main truths of their faith. We acknowledge that God is the Creator of the Universe, that Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose again and that the Holy Spirit continues to breathe life into us and guide us.
Prayer of the Faithful
By means of the Prayer of the Faithful the assembly exercises its priestly function by praying for all humanity. The assembly intercedes for the needs of the Church, civil authorities and the salvation of the world, for those who are oppressed and for the local community. Ideally the petitions should be introduced by the presider and read by a member of the assembly.
Preparing to Proclaim Gods word
1. Acquire a copy of the readings a week previously.
2. Underline key words and phrases and check out pronunciations.
3. Note the different types of text; poetry, narrative, dialogue etc.
4. Read the text aloud; if possible ask someone to listen to you and ask for
1. Prayerfully read the text; make the text your own. Read the text several times and ask Gods Spirit to enlighten your mind and touch your heart. Allow yourself to be transformed and shaped by Gods word.
2. Situate the text you are to proclaim in the bible, i.e. read around the text, find out what comes before and what comes afterwards.
3. Look up obscure passages/words in a biblical commentary or use liturgical resources such as Intercom, Scripture in Church etc. On-line resources such as www.textweek.com are invaluable aids in preparation.
4. Read through all of the readings. Note the connections between the first reading, the responsorial psalm and the Gospel. Ask yourself what are the main points of the readings? What is God saying to me through the readings? How do the readings relate to society today?
5. If possible prepare the text with a group and use every opportunity to attend Scripture courses or on-going formation courses for ministers of the Word.
6. Ask for help when you need it.
The Proclamation of Gods Word
Principles of Oral Interpretation
1. God speaks to us through the proclamation of the Scriptures. Ministers of the Word have the honoured task of being the mouth piece of God and their function is to provide the assembly with a meaningful encounter with the Word of God.
2. Ministers of the Word are entrusted to proclaim the Word in such a way that it makes it more comprehensible to those who listen: if the minister doesnt grasp the overall sense of the text then it will be more difficult for members of the assembly to absorb it.
3. The fullest meaning of the text is to be communicated. Convey particular significance on words, phrases, clauses where an important point is being made. Stress can be made by inflection, tone, reducing speed, a brief pause or by looking up at the assembly.
4. Adopt a tone that is sympathetic to the text.
5. Proclaim the Word slowly with clarity and faith-conviction.
6. Try not to draw attention to yourself, the message should be remembered not the person proclaiming the message.
The Demands of the Ritual Action
1. Be prepared! Ensure that the lectionary is open on the correct page and that the microphone is switched on and adjusted to the right height before Mass commences.
2. The Liturgy of the Word begins after the opening prayer, it is important that the minister waits until the people are seated before processing forward.
3. Body language is a primary means of communication, your approach to the ambo, your gestures and your stance will inform the assembly of the dignity and sacredness of the occasion.
4. The ambo represents the dignity and uniqueness of the Word of God; it is reserved for the proclamation of the Word, the Easter Exultet, the homily and the Prayer of the Faithful. Like the altar it is holy and sacred; it is not a table of convenience for papers, notes, etc.
5. The lectionary is the official liturgical book from which the readings are proclaimed. It is handled with dignity and respect. A misalette is not used in place of the lectionary; the beauty and style of the book speaks louder than the rustle of a scrap of paper!
6. There is no need to say, “The first reading is.. ..”, the assembly knows that it is the first reading, they only need to hear where the reading comes from. A reading from the prophet Isaiah”.
7. The reading concludes with, “This is the Word of the Lord”. There is no need to lift up the lectionary as Gods word has been proclaimed and is alive and present among the people gathered. It is more fitting to look up and connect with the assembly who now hold the Word in their hearts.
The Sound System
The sound system consists of three elements: the microphone which collects the sound; the amplifier which amplifies the sound and; the loudspeaker which sends the sound to the listeners. The immediate concern of the minister of the Word is the microphone. It is a very sensitive instrument; it should not be tapped as this can cause serious damage and it should be directed to the mouth of the person speaking.
As a general rule there are three main positions used for speaking into the microphone, each has its own technique and particular usage:
8 to 10 inches
Used for proclamation, neutral voice needed
Technique: Direct your voice to the people seated 5 to 6 benches from the front Higher tone of voice needed
6 to 8 inches
Used for teaching, stories told in a vivacious familiar manner Technique:
Direct your voice as if the group were 10 feet away Use a natural tone of voice
2 to 4 inches
Used for intimate speech and as a means of giving non-disruptive manner
Speak as if you are taking someone into your confidence
Articulate words slowly and carefully
The lectionary is the liturgical book that serves us for the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word. Every sacramental celebration has its own lectionary e.g. there is a lectionary for the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, for the celebration of the various rites of the Pastoral Care of the Sick etc. The word lectionary comes from the Latin word lectio, which means reading. The lectionary for the celebration of the Sunday Mass contains the readings and the songs for the Liturgy of the Word. Sometimes, the Gospel is to be found in a separate book that is the called the Book of the Gospels.
Our lectionary is organised in accord with the movement of the liturgical seasons. There is a cycle of Sundays that begins with the seasons of Advent and Christmas, it includes Lent and Eastertide and concludes with Pentecost. The readings for these seasons reflect the character and flow of these Sundays.
Between the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Lent we find a group of Sundays that are called Ordinary Time. The word ordinary derives from the word ordinal, which refers to numbers and means that these Sundays are numbered. A longer group of Ordinary Sundays occurs between the end of Eastertide at Pentecost and the beginning of a new Church Year at Advent.
The Gospel readings for the Sundays of Ordinary Time follow the flow of a particular gospel in a particular year. Thus we read Matthew in Year A, Mark in Year B and Luke in Year C. These are read in a semi-continuous fashion, that is from the beginning to the end, but sometimes skip verses and focus on the identity, public ministry and mission of Jesus. The Gospel readings for these Sundays guided the choice of the other readings. In our Catholic tradition the Gospel of John is read in Lent and Easter and fills out some of the Sundays in the Year of Mark.
The Sunday Celebration of the Eucharist
The Gathering Rites
The Lord is present among those who are gathered in His name
Welcome People are welcomed to the celebration
Entrance Procession Focuses all present
Veneration of altar, Presider kisses the altar; the symbol of Christ
Sign of the cross
Greeting Reminds us that Christ is present
Introduction to the celebration Brief introduction to the Mass of the day celebration
Penitential Rite Recognises the mercy of God given to us in Christ Jesus
(Gloria) The redeemed community sing praise to God
Collect/Opening Prayer The presider gathers the communitys prayer
The Liturgy of the Word
The Lord is present to His Church in His Word
First Reading Normally from the Old Testament
Psalm – A song to be sung
Second Reading Taken from the New Testament
Gospel Acclamation Joyfully acclaiming what is to come
Gospel Christ is present and speaks to his people
Homily Develops the readings or a text from the Mass
Creed Community gives assent to the Word of God
Intercessions The faithful intercede for humankind
The Liturgy of the Eucharist
The Lord is sacramentally present in the form of bread and wine
Preparation of the altar The Lords table is prepared as the centre of the liturgy
Presentation of the gifts Symbolises the communitys will to give itself
Washing of hands Self giving requires humility and purity
Prayer over the gifts That they become Christs body & blood
Dialogue with preface & sanctus God is praised as creator of all things
Words of institution The words of Christ are recalled as he gives himself to us(the priest has the intention to do what the church does)
Acclamation Proclamation of faith
Great Amen So be it, Lord
Our Father Prayer for daily food and forgiveness
Prayer for peace To renew a spirit of peace and love
Breaking of bread All share in one body
Communion procession Common-union in the body of Christ
Prayer after Communion That communion will bear fruit in our lives
The Concluding Rite
The Church is the presence of Christ in the world
Announcements Refer to the daily life of the community
Final blessing Seals our fruitful participation
Dismissal Sent to serve the Lord in everyday life
Order for the Blessing of the Ministers of the Word within the Celebration of the Eucharist
1. All liturgical celebrations are founded on the proclamation of the Word of God, as found in the sacred Scripture.
2. The following order is intended for those members of parish communities who have the task of proclaiming the Word of God at Mass and in other liturgical celebrations.
3. It is appropriate that the blessing be given by the parish priest.
Order of Blessing
4. The presider, in his homily, may preach on the meaning of the blessing of the ministers of the Word. He may recall all those charged with proclaiming the Word of God that they should do so with preparation, conviction, boldness and fidelity.
Prayer of the Faithful or General Intercessions
5. During the Prayer of the Faithful, it is fitting to pray for those who will be blessed as the ministers of the Word. The following intercessions may be used or adapted. The particular circumstances of each parish community may also influence the composition of the intercessions.
The presider says:
Gathered as the holy people of God, we give thanks for the Word of God which is ever new. Let us pray that God may hear our prayers and bless those chosen to proclaim the Word of salvation:
The cantor or reader:
For the Church, that we continue to build our lives on the Word of God broken and shared amongst us.
Lord hear us.
The cantor or reader:
For world leaders, that they may be open to Gods word calling to them to works of justice and the service of all. Lord hear us.
The cantor or reader:
For those who have not yet heard your Word, that we by the example of lives faithful to your Word, may be true signs of your love for them. Lord hear us.
The cantor or reader:
For those chosen to proclaim your holy Word, that they may be filled with a deep faith in your promise and announce it with joy. Lord hear us.
Prayer of Blessing
6. The presider extends his hands over the ministers, who stand or kneel before him.
God of love and compassion,
your Word of light, Jesus Christ,
is good news for all peoples.
Bless these ministers of the Word,
chosen for service in our parish of ……..
May they be faithful servants of your Word,
strong in proclaiming your wonders,
bold in announcing your peace,
and holy in their lives.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. AMEN.
7. The parish priest may present the lectionary to each new minister: N..,
may you announce the Word of God with courage.
Be worthy of the message you proclaim
among the people called to be Gods own,
and build up the body of Christ.