Understanding the sacraments: The Word of God in the liturgy

The Lectionary for Mass Supplement contains additions for a number of optional memorials

By Father Randy Stice

In its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Vatican Council II stressed the multifaceted role of Sacred Scripture in the liturgy. “Sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. From it are taken the readings, which are explained in the homily and the psalms that are sung. From Scripture, the petitions, prayers, and liturgical hymns receive their inspiration and substance. From Scripture, the liturgical actions and signs draw their meaning” (no. 24). For this reason, in the reform of the liturgy it stipulated that “The treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word” (SC, no. 51).

The first edition of the reformed lectionary appeared in 1969 and expanded in 1981. New liturgical celebrations were added in the General Roman Calendar and in the Proper Calendar for the United States in the years following. The current four-volume Lectionary for Mass was published between 1998 and 2002 and included all saints and blessed at that time. This was then updated, augmented, and developed into the Lectionary for Mass Supplement that was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2015.

The Supplement contains additions for a number of optional memorials, including the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Jan. 3), Our Lady of Fatima (May 13), St. Josephine Bakhita (Feb. 8), The Most Holy Name of Mary (Sept. 12), St. John XXIII (Oct. 11) and St. John Paul II (Oct. 22). It also includes updated citations for canonizations since 2002: St. Damien de Veuster (May 10), St. Vincent (Jan. 23), St. Junípero Serra (July 1), St. Kateri Tekakwitha (July 14) and St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Dec. 9). There also are additions for selected Ritual Masses, Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, and Votive Masses.

In the Preface to the Supplement Bishop Arthur Serratelli, committee chairman, writes: “‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (Colossians 3:16). May the Lectionary for Mass Supplement be a valuable resource for parishes and liturgical ministers so that the words of St. Paul, first addressed to the Church in Colossae, may also encourage the Church in the United States to savor God’s word more deeply and so to grow in holiness” (Newsletter, Committee on Divine Worship, September 2016).

Bishop Serratelli’s words recall the words of the Second Vatican Council in its Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: “God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the spouse of his beloved Son. And the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church – and through it in the world – leads believers to the full truth and makes the word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness (cf. Colossians 3:16)” (Dei Verbum, 8).

This living voice speaks to us individually as well as collectively. In The Word of the Lord (Verbum Domini), Pope Benedict XVI wrote that the relationship between Christ, the Word of the Father, and the Church is not “a mere past event; rather, it is a living relationship which each member of the faithful is personally called to enter into. We are speaking of the presence of God’s word to us today: ‘Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Matthew 28:20)….In the word of God proclaimed and heard, and in the sacraments, Jesus says today, here and now, to each person: ‘I am yours, I give myself to you’; so that we can receive and respond, saying in return: ‘I am yours’”(VD, 51).

This reveals what Pope Benedict XVI calls “a dynamic definition of the Church’s life…she is a community that hears and proclaims the word of God. The Church draws life not from herself but from the Gospel, and from the Gospel she discovers ever anew the direction for her journey. This is an approach that every Christian must understand and apply to himself or herself: only those who first place themselves in an attitude of listening to the word can go on to become its heralds” (VD, 51).

The USCCB’s Secretariat of Divine Worship is working with publishers to produce editions of the Lectionary for Mass Supplement in the next few months. It can be used as soon as it appears. Citations from the Supplement will be incorporated into participation aids, ordos and other resources over the course of the year. May it encourage us “to savor God’s Word more deeply and so to grow in holiness” (Newsletter, Committee on Divine Worship, September 2016).

Father Stice is pastor of St. Mary Church in Athens and directs the diocesan Office of Worship and Liturgy. He can be reached at frrandy@dioknox.org.

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