Through the proclamation of the Scriptures at Mass, God speaks to us, his people, and Christ is especially made present to us in the Gospel.
The First Reading is from the Old Testament or the Acts of the Apostles (during the Easter season). It is chosen with the intention that it relates in some way to the Gospel. Thus, we can see that the New Testament brings the Hebrew Scriptures to fulfilment. We listen reverently to the proclamation. Silence should follow each reading so we can reflect on what we have heard.
The Responsorial Psalm follows, and typically relates in some way to the First Reading. The psalms are the hymns of the Hebrew Scriptures, and thus should be sung whenever possible. It is called the responsorial psalm due to its structure: the assembly sings or says a short response between each verse that is sung or read.
The Second Reading is typically from one of the Epistles (letters) of the New Testament, or the book of Revelation (during the Easter season). It is not deliberately chosen to relate to the other readings, but is organised for much of the year in a semi-continuous fashion; that is, we listen to an Epistle in short excerpts over a period of several weeks.
Standing for, and singing the Gospel Acclamation is a sign of the importance we place on the Gospel, which recount the words and ministry of Christ himself. The Gospel is always proclaimed by a priest or deacon. It is also arranged for much of the year in a semi-continuous fashion. The three-year Scripture cycle means a year each can be dedicated to listen to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke respectively. The Gospel of John is typically reserved for particular feast days and seasons.
After the Gospel, we sit again while the priest or deacon breaks open the Scripture readings for us in the Homily. Explanations of the readings are given, and the teachings of these texts are applied to our own experience here and now. Explanations of liturgical rites and prayers may also be given to deepen our understanding of them.
Having listened to God’s word, we then respond, firstly (on Sundays and solemnities) by reciting together the Profession of Faith, which usually takes the form of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Apostle’s Creed (during Lent and Easter), or on particular occasions (such as Easter Sunday), the renewal of baptismal promises.
The Liturgy of the Word then concludes with the Prayer of the Faithful, which is also known as the General Intercessions or Universal Prayer. Participation in this prayer is one of our rights and duties as members of the priesthood of the baptised. The structure of intentions in this prayer should usually be:
- For the Church
- For public authorities and the salvation of the world
- For those afflicted by any need
- For the local community
Prayers for the dead may also be added. These petitions are always addressed to God. After each intention is named, and before we are invited to respond, a moment’s silence should be given so we can make our own prayer from the intention.
- Ezra Summons the People to Obey the Law (Neh 8:7-9)
Texts of the Order of Mass
- from the current edition of the Roman Missal (Universalis Publishing)
- Liturgy of the Word
- God Speaks – We Listen
- Introducing the Scriptures
- Introducing the Gospels
- Gestures and Actions – Assembly
What Are You Doing? The Assembly’s Guide to Mass
The Catechism of the Catholic Church