Venerable Bruno Lanteri recommends these sentiments in his Spiritual Directory, “At the Epistle and the Gospel, that of a disciple.”
Background: Extraordinary Form of the Mass (Tridentine Mass)
Because Venerable Bruno wrote his preparation for the Tridentine Mass, it would be good to see what is going on at this point in the extraordinary form of the Mass.
After praying the Collect, the priest reads the Epistle (a letter from the New Testament) at the right side of the altar, thus the Epistle side. The Latin-English Booklet Missal for Praying the Traditional Mass says that the Epistle “teaches some truth God wishes His people to know and practice.” At the same time, Epistle is addressed to God. The priest uses His words to pray to him.
The priest reads the Gradual (a fragment from a psalm) and the Alleluia. He moves over to the left (Gospel) side of the altar. Represented by the Gospel side, liturgical north expresses the proclamation of the Gospel to all peoples. The priest reads the Gospel. He walks to the ambo, reads the Epistle and Gospel in the vernacular, and gives his sermon.
Lesson: Am I paying attention during the Liturgy of the Word?
During the Aug. 14, 2003, blackout in New York, my family and I were outside that evening to avoid the heat inside the house. My sister Anna returned from work in Midtown. She recounted to all of us her long trek. The way she told her adventures, I felt that I was with her: her long walk from Madison Square Garden to the 59th Street Bridge and down Queens Boulevard, her chase after a car offering a ride to her usual bus stop and her eventual arrival at home.
Her storytelling and my rapt attention capture the sense of Venerable Bruno’s recommendation for the Liturgy of the Word. He recommends having the sentiments of a disciple. A disciple listens. A disciple is formed by the words of the teacher. In the Scriptures, if Jesus wasn’t healing, he was teaching. His words captured imaginations, challenged authorities, encouraged others and revealed the depths of his love. Jesus wants us to be in the amazing story of our salvation.
For the congregation, we might be tempted to follow the readings with a daily missal, a missalette or Magnificat or The Word among Us. But we are reading, not listening. We are so attentive to follow the text that we disconnect from the same word to reach our hearts. It becomes an mental exercise only. Close those books and allow yourself to listen. Look at the person who is proclaiming. I have started doing this. I found myself more attentive and more receptive to what God is saying through His words. (The blogger God-Haunted Lunatic wrote a more in-depth argument to close the missalette.)
The only time I open the missalette is to sing or say the responsorial psalm correctly. That psalm is the entire congregation’s response to the first reading. We don’t just listen. We also respond. We answer God’s word with his word. A disciple answers the master with the master’s words to show that he is beginning to learn and understand.
For priests, deacons and lectors, being a disciple also means proclaiming the Word of God. Of course, you give what you receive. Have you read the Bible? If not, check my tips here to start. Have the Scriptures touched your heart in prayer? If not, you can follow my series of Ignatian prayer. Various techniques in public speaking can help to make the Scriptures come alive for others.
An easy way to prepare for Liturgy of the Word is to read and pray over the readings the week before. Family and friends can discuss insights and feelings about the readings. Bible study groups sometimes check out the Sunday Mass readings.
If you find your mind wandering during readings and homily, don’t worry. Begin again. Repeat Venerable Bruno’s request “Like a disciple” as many times as necessary to return your focus. That was just enough for me to draw me back.
Scripture passages for prayer:
- Matthew 5:1-2: Jesus teaches the people.
- Luke 5:1: The people sought to hear Jesus’ words.
- Luke 19:48: “All the people hung upon his words.”
- What is your favorite reading in today’s Mass? And why?
- How can you add reading Scripture into your daily schedule?
- What does Jesus want to teach you from this week’s readings?