Taking A Reading

A recent commenter asked about the liceity of adding one word to the celebration of Mass:

A reading taken from the book of  …

My own bias as a liturgist is fewer words not more. Circumspection is a virtue. More words can sometimes reveal more about the person using them than about the Living God.

This is likely why the Roman Rite is as wise as it is: a stripping away of clutter and keeping things lean and trimmed. Maybe it is so judicious additions like homilies and hymns don’t seem so onerous.

These days adding a simple word like that doesn’t get one thrown in liturgy jail. It doesn’t invalidate the proclamation of Scripture. If the reading is well-rendered and followed up with good preaching, it will be forgotten. If it gets noticed, then maybe the liturgical acts are done poorly or a single person has been consistent in adding a word to the point of annoying the community. In that case, attention is drawn to a very unimportant part of the Mass, and away from the most important.

If it were my parishioner, I would ask, “Why do you do it?” And hopefully the conversation continues from there. Maybe I’d ask why we were taking something from the Bible. Are we going to give it back? Or give it away to the people assembled? The words of the rite seem open to interpretation, “A reading from the letter/book …” and if a believer needs it, she takes it. If another wants to pass it over, he waits for another morsel he needs instead.

When it comes to words in liturgy, I aspire to minimalism. I might ask why we even announce “A reading.” If a person is speaking words from the Lectionary and some folks are following along in the Missal, isn’t it obvious we’re having a reading? Why say it?

from the Holy Gospel according to Luke

That seems simple enough and communicates nothing less.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to Taking A Reading

  1. nassauny says:

    As a lector, I heartily endorse minimalism. I read the text, nothing more, nothing less. When a celebrant adlibs before Mass, he should subtract that time from his sermon.

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