Mass: The Liturgy of the Word

Vatican Holy Thursday

Liturgy of the Word:

This is obviously the most scriptural part of the mass.

The bible does not simply talk about God: it is God’s own speech. We say that the scriptures are inspired by God, right? What does this mean? “Inspiration” comes from the Greek theopneustos, which means “God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16).

Vatican II document Dei Verbum:

“To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.”

Hearing God’s words is a big deal. The people of Israel prepared themselves for three days before God spoke to them and gave them the covenant. But we already did this in the introduction of the mass, right? What parts were these?

The manner that we read scripture in mass is very similar to how the Jews did in the 1st century: they also read the Law and the Prophets during synagogue worship. There is evidence that these readings might have actually been in three-year cycles.

Our Sunday readings are in three year cycles- that means that every three years all of the major highlights of the entire bible are covered. And during weekday masses, there is a two-year cycle of readings. This means that the priest doesn’t just pick his favorite readings every Sunday. This means that the entire Church hears the same readings around the world every day, just as it is the same mass every day around the world.


First reading: Old Testament (or Acts during the Easter Season). What do you get from the Old Testament? We cannot completely understand Jesus and the New Testament without the Old Testament.


Responsorial Psalm: After hearing the first reading, we respond not with our own words of thanksgiving but with God’s inspired words of praise and thanksgiving in the Psalms. The “antiphonal” movement (call and response) format is taken from the Psalms themselves, some of them are obviously written in that way, and also from Jewish tradition. Psalm 136 obviously shows this antiphonal nature. Often we just repeat the first line.


Second Reading: from Epistles, Acts, or Revelation. Practical applications on how to follow the call of Christ.


Gospel: Why do we stand for the Gospel? Check out Neh 8:5, it is a reverent posture by the Jews as the Law was being read. We say Alleluia (except for during Lent), which means “Praise Yahweh!” or “Praise the Lord!” There is a procession to show the solemnity of the moment. We do a special sign of the cross (why?), crossing our foreheads, mouths, and hearts- we do this to consecrate our thoughts, words, and actions to the Lord, asking that this Word in the Gospel would always be on our minds, lips, and hearts. Remember, we aren’t just hearing what Jesus says and does with other people, we personally hear Jesus’ words spoken to us!


Homily: What is the point of the homily? It is to explain the Scriptural readings and draw applications for our lives. The word homily means explanation. And this isn’t just a Christian thing. In the Jewish tradition, check out what the Levites (what was their role? The priests of Isreal!) did. Neh 8:7-8. Jesus himself expounded on the scriptures, Luke 4:18-30, Mark 1:21. The homily, like the Gospel, must be given by a deacon, priest, or bishop. Why do you think that this is? The preaching must be a passing on of the Church’s apostolic faith, not just the private thoughts of an individual.


Creed: The Nicene Creed comes from the Council of Nicea in 325. Why is it important that we say this? It summarizes the story of the bible and is a powerful reminder to me of how important it is that our faith remains the same as the Apostles.


Finally, we have the prayer of the faithful, were there are general petitions. In these petitions, we exercise our priestly role, in participating in Jesus’ prayer for the whole world that we see in John 17. Other examples of our priestly role? Spiritual sacrifices. (1 Peter 2:1-5)


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