Liturgicae Instaurationes 2: Liturgy of the Word

The Consilium walks the middle way in their assessment and advice for the Liturgy of the Word:

2. Of all the texts read in the liturgical assembly the books of sacred Scripture possess the primacy of a unique dignity: in them God is speaking to his people; Christ, in his own word, continues to proclaim his Gospel. (See SC 7 and 33.) Therefore:

a. The liturgy of the word demands cultivation with the utmost attention. In no case is it allowed to substitute readings from other sacred or profane authors, ancient or modern. The homily has as its purpose to explain to the faithful the word of God just proclaimed and to adapt it to the mentality of the times. The priest, therefore, is the homilist; the congregation is to refrain from comments, attempts at dialogue, or anything similar. To have only a single reading is never allowed.

b. The liturgy of the word prepares and leads up to the liturgy of the Eucharist, forming with it the one act of worship. (See SC art. 56. ) To separate the two, therefore, or to celebrate them at different times or places is not permitted. As for integrating some liturgical service or part of the divine office before Mass with the liturgy of the word, the guidelines are the norms laid down in the liturgical books for the case in question.

We seem to be seeing responses to particular problems. Cultivation of the Liturgy of the Word requires a faithfulness to the Lectionary. The Liturgy of the Word is more than just medium to long elocutions on some profound point of religion or philosophy. If something needs elaboration, the homily is more suited to that purpose. In fact, we note that the purpose of the homily is to “explain” the word of God, considering the needs of the people present. It would seem that whenever some point of Scripture is vague or unfamiliar, the homilist’s duty is not to skip over it, but to apply himself to examine it.

No other public comments or dialogue are permitted during the homily. As a blanket policy, that strike me as being a bit restrictive. On the other hand, I can appreciate that the “final word” should not be disputed in the minds of worshippers. After all, there are other settings for questions, answers, and faith discussion. Those are all needful, but using the “captive audience” of the liturgy as the backdrop for it would be an occasion of abuse.

Aside from the celebration of the sacraments, I’m not aware of any practice separating the two Liturgies. If any 60’s refugee has any story to tell on this one, I’m interested. I’d be surprised to hear of any traditionalist dispensing with the readings, even if they were the new, unfamiliar ones of the 1969 Lectionary. The importance of the Word is something that’s been hard to deny.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Liturgicae Instaurationes, Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Liturgicae Instaurationes 2: Liturgy of the Word

  1. Liam says:

    Well, there is an elderly priest in my territorial parish who on occasion, even with a deacon present, has simply read the Epistle and Gospel (allowing for the acclamation between them….). It’s just, well, odd. IIRC, national conferences can apply for an idult to permit such a practice, but the USCCB hasn’t. I’ve read accounts of similar actions in Ireland, but I’ve no idea if it’s licit there.

    And, yes, the homilist should take particular care to explain contentious, embarrassing and mystifying texts. We should not edit the readings to eliminate those situations so as to make the homilist’s job more straightforward. God’s word is not straightforward to us; that’s part of the point!

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