The Liturgy of the Word begins our dialogue with God. It is essential to remember that the importance of this rite is not a class in religious or moral truths, but a conversation between our Creator and His people carried out in reading and reflection, attentive listening and responsive prayer.
The first part of this dialogue comes in the First Reading, usually taken from the Hebrew Scriptures, commonly known as the Old Testament. The Sunday readins are based on a three-year cycle through the course of which nearly all of Sacred Scripture is proclaimed. This first reading is chosen in direct relation to the theme of the Gospel to come.
Next, the psalm is proclaimed. As the very nature of the psalms are that of songs traditionally composed by King David, they are meant to be sung as acclamations and joys hymns to God the Father. Although simple words, the psalms are hymns that have been used to praise God for over five thousand years.
The Second Reading is chosen from among the New Testament scriptures where we can hear about the struggles of the Early Church. Although this reading does not always relate directly to the other two, its importance can be found in the realization that even the earliest of Christians had hard times as well.
As we listen to the Sacred Scriptures each Sunday, we are shaped by the Word of God. Although they are often simple readings, they gather generation after generation and sustain us in the image of Christ. As this Word of God speaks to us we can feel ourselves being called to follow Him. After the Second Reading, we have a moment of silence where all are seated and this Word enters our hearts.
As we stand in praise and acclamation, awaiting the presence of Christ in the proclamation of the Gospel, we should remember that as Christians we believe that just as Christ is present in His Body and Blood at the Eucharist, so too is he truly present in His Word during the Gospel. During the Sundays of Ordered, or Ordinary, Time, the Gospels are read in order, each Sunday continuing where the previous left off. In the season of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter, the Gospels are chosen to follow the theme of the season.
Following the Gospel, the celebrant or other ordained minister brings together the Scripture and the life of the community in the homily. Unlike a sermon that may be seen as a lecture on moral teachings, the homily follows more as a summary of the impact of Sacred Scripture on the daily lives of those present.
Next, the community stands in a profession of those beliefs that are central to our Christian faith: one God in three persons, the incarnation of the Son, the virgin birth, His death and resurrection, the Church He instituted, the resurrection of the dead, and the life in the world to come. We make reverence of the incarnation with a slight bow during the words recalling the event.
Finally, we offer the general intercessions, or prayers of our community. These prayers are offered for the whole Christian community, and as such, are not an occasion to specify individual concerns. Most often they begin by prayer for the Church and concluding with a pray for those who have left this life.
Our experience of the Liturgy of the Word is that of one people, finding ourselves in the presence of the Father. The Word of God is at first taken into our hearts during the proclamation of Sacred Scripture, it rises to our lips in a profession of faith and community prayer and finally draws us into the Sacrament we celebrate in the Eucharist.
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