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Commentary: Liturgy of the Word

It is common to hear the Real Presence mentioned when we talk about the Eucharist, but the Church also describes the “real presence” of Christ in the Word. We can experience this presence when we read the scriptures in our homes, but when we hear the scriptures at Mass we experience that presence together. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says, ‘When the scriptures are read in church it is Christ himself who speaks’.

The Liturgy of the Word begins with a reading from the Old Testament, this reading connects directly with the gospel to be read later by the priest. The psalm that follows is our response to the Old Testament reading. The Second Reading is usually taken from one of the letters of the New Testament. The entire text of the four gospels is read out over a three year cycle, and this mirrors the practice of the synagogue where the books of the Law and the Prophets are also read over a three year cycle.

Both the Creed and the Prayer of the Faithful form our response to the readings and the homily. The Creed was introduced into the Mass in the eleventh century and to a certain extent, reflects the concerns of that time. Perhaps in future versions of it there will be lines such as, ‘We believe that the Lord hears the cry of the poor and that no child should die for lack of food...’

The Prayer of the Faithful takes the following form. Prayers for the needs of the Church; then prayers for public authorities and the salvation of the world; prayers for those oppressed by any kind of need; and finally prayers for the local community. Ideally, the words used in these prayers should be influenced by the readings of the day.

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