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Liturgy: Words After the Gospel

ROME, OCT. 21, 2003 (Zenit) - Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Q: Is it absolutely necessary for a priest to raise up the Lectionary after reading the Gospel and saying, "This is the Gospel of the Lord"? I find this very cumbersome. Also, what is the correct proclamation at the end of the readings? Some say, "The word of the Lord"; others, "This is the word of the Lord." Also, can a priest proclaim the Gospel and preach from behind the altar? -- E.S., Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A: This subject is dealt with in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (No. 134) and substantially repeated in other places: "Then he proclaims the Gospel and at the end says the acclamation 'Verbum Domini' (The gospel of the Lord), to which all respond, 'Laus tibi, Christe' (Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ). The priest kisses the book, saying quietly, 'Per evangelica dicta, deleantur nostra delicta' (May the words of the Gospel cleanse us of our faults).

As you can see, the text makes no specific reference to raising the book at this moment, so there is no requirement for doing so. The expression "The Gospel of the Lord" does not refer primarily to the book but rather to the Word that has been heard.

When a bishop celebrates the deacon may take the Book of the Gospels to him so that he may kiss it. The new GIRM (No. 176) provides that on solemn occasions he may now also impart a blessing with the book.

English being a widely spoken tongue, there are slight variations in some texts of the Mass in different regions. In the United States, "the Word (or Gospel) of the Lord" is used, while elsewhere most countries use the "This is" form. As you are writing from a country where English is not the local language you may follow whatever Lectionary you use at Mass. As a new translation of the entire missal is under way, some of these variations may eventually be eliminated.

In Masses celebrated with a congregation the Gospel should be read at the ambo (see GIRM, No. 134). The homily, however, may be preached from another place in accordance with GIRM, No. 136: "The priest, standing at the chair or at the ambo itself or, when appropriate, in another suitable place, gives the homily. When the homily is completed, a period of silence may be observed."

Under normal circumstances the altar should not be used for the homily, as it is good liturgical practice to leave the altar unused until the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins.

There may be situations, however, when the occasion and the particular circumstances of the presbytery might allow it. For example, in those countries where the traditional custom is to celebrate marriage in front of the altar within the precincts of the sanctuary, the priest may sometimes preach from the altar in order to directly face the future spouses, especially if the Church lacks a mobile amplification system.

_________________________

Follow-up: Stoles and Chasubles

In my reply on the use of chasubles in concelebrations (Oct. 7) I mentioned that one reason they could be omitted would be excess humidity which might damage the vestments.

An Irish priest correspondent asks: "What about excessive humidity which might cause damage to the priest? Surely he is more important than the chasuble!"

I must admit that I have never thought of the chasuble as a health hazard, except the time I tripped while wearing one a couple of sizes too big for me, but I agree that avoiding excess perspiration in humid conditions would justify leaving it aside for concelebrants.

Of course neither the principal celebrant nor the lone celebrant may do so. As one who has often had to celebrate during the clammy, muggy, Roman summer, I can attest that the problem is somewhat alleviated by using lightweight chasubles.

Several readers asked if the rules regarding chasubles applied equally to the deacon's dalmatic (an outer vestment usually made of the same color and design as the chasuble, but different in form, in having sleeves).

It is true that this beautiful diaconal vestment has all but disappeared from many of our churches, stemming in part from the fact that, unlike the chasuble, it is not strictly obligatory and, while functioning at Mass, the deacon may always use the second option of wearing only alb and stole, worn like a sash from the left shoulder.

Another factor is probably economic, as it requires parishes to purchase at least one complete set of vestments for each liturgical color. This would probably be rather steep for those parishes that only sporadically benefit from the services of a deacon. However, those parishes regularly served by a deacon from the seminary or by an established permanent deacon would do well to restore the use of the dalmatic, especially for the most important celebrations, as it notably enhances the dignity of the celebration.

Like the chasuble the dalmatic is usually used only for Mass and not for other sacramental rites.

As both chasuble and dalmatic are the proper vestments of each minister, they are not interchangeable. The deacon may never wear the chasuble nor may the priest wear the dalmatic, not even on those occasions when he carries out some of the diaconal functions (see the Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 22).

On some very solemn occasions, such as ordinations, the bishop may wear a (usually lightweight) dalmatic underneath the chasuble.

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