GIRM 57-60: The Biblical Readings

Four sections treat some important issues regarding the proclamation of the scriptural passages at Mass. This is an expansion of sections 34-35 from the 1975 edition of the GIRM.

57. In the readings, the table of God’s Word is spread before the faithful, and the treasures of the Bible are opened to them.[Sacrosanctum Concilium 51] Hence, it is preferable that the arrangement of the biblical readings be maintained, for by them the unity of both Testaments and of salvation history is brought out. Nor is it lawful to replace the readings and Responsorial Psalm, which contain the Word of God, with other, non-biblical texts.[Vicesimus Quintus Annus 13]

The citation from John Paul II’s 1988 apostolic letter is new. The matter of replacing Biblical readings with other inspirational sources is no longer a serious one, and likely never was so among professional liturgists.

GIRM 58 is new to the 2000 edition:

58. In the celebration of the Mass with the people, the readings are always read from the ambo.

The challenge in some communities would be accessibility with older lectors or those with mobility issues. Ideally an ambo accommodates without sacrificing matters of artistry or acoustics.

59. The function of proclaiming the readings is by tradition not presidential but ministerial. Therefore the readings are to be read by a reader, but the Gospel by the Deacon or, in his absence, by another Priest. If, however, a Deacon or another Priest is not present, the Priest Celebrant himself should read the Gospel, and moreover, if no other suitable reader is present, the Priest Celebrant should also proclaim the other readings as well.

After each reading, whoever reads it pronounces the acclamation, and by means of the reply the assembled people give honor to the Word of God that they have received in faith and with gratitude.

Note the ordinary ministers of proclamation: a reader or deacon. The last two sentences are new to the 2000 edition. That the priest is able to proclaim the other readings is a concession to pragmatism. When might this be in force? Probably never at a Sunday Mass. Possibly on occasion when Mass is celebrated in a nursing home or a situation with very few numbers of people in attendance.

The old GIRM 35 on the reading of the Gospel:

60. The reading of the Gospel constitutes the high point of the Liturgy of the Word. The Liturgy itself teaches the great reverence that is to be shown to this reading by setting it off from the other readings with special marks of honor, by the fact of which minister is appointed to proclaim it and by the blessing or prayer with which he prepares himself; and also by the fact that through their acclamations the faithful acknowledge and confess that Christ is present and is speaking to them and stand as they listen to the reading; and by the mere fact of the marks of reverence that are given to the Book of the Gospels.

Some open questions on GIRM 60: How does your parish mark the reading of the Gospel as the high point? What forms of ritual add, and what might detract? Does the setting of Mass–Sunday, feast day, weekday–affect in any way the style and art of the proclamation? How often does the deacon’s role get usurped by other clergy?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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