Sunday of the Word of God: ‘A day of awakening’
By Vatican News staff reporter
Pope Francis instituted ‘The Sunday of the Word of God’ to be held every year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time, with the Apostolic Letter in the form of a Motu proprio “Aperuit illis” issued on 30 September 2019.
The Pope intended it to be a day dedicated to the celebration, reflection and dissemination of the Word.
Importance of Sacred Scripture in our lives
A note released on Saturday by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and signed by the prefect, Cardinal Robert Sarah, explains that The Sunday of the Word of God is a means to help people “reawaken an awareness of the importance of Sacred Scripture for our lives as believers, beginning with its resonance in the liturgy which places us in living and permanent dialogue with God.”
It adds that the day is also “a good opportunity to reread some ecclesial documents, especially the Praenotanda of the Ordo Lectionum Missae.”
The note itself is divided into ten points, the first of which points out that “through the proclaimed biblical readings in the liturgy, God speaks to his people and Christ himself proclaims his Gospel.” It indicates that “One of the ritual possibilities suitable for this Sunday could be the entrance procession with the Book of the Gospels or simply placing the Book of the Gospels on the altar.”
The document then specifies that the biblical readings arranged by the Church in the Lectionary should not be replaced or suppressed, and that versions of the Bible approved for liturgical use should be used.
“The proclamation of the texts of the Lectionary constitutes a bond of unity between all the faithful who hear them,” says the note, which also recommends the singing of the Responsorial Psalm.
Focusing on the homily, it invites bishops, priests and deacons to “explain and enable all to understand Sacred Scripture” and to “make it accessible to their communities”, carrying out this ministry “with special dedication, treasuring the means proposed by the Church”. The importance of silence in liturgical celebration is also emphasized, because, “favouring meditation, it allows the word of God to be received inwardly by the listener.”
With regard to those who proclaim the Word of God in the assembly - priests, deacons and lectors - the note specifies that “specific interior and exterior preparation, familiarity with the text to be proclaimed and the necessary practice in the way of proclaiming it” are required.
It also insists on the care of the ambo from which the Word of God is proclaimed, and while “the homily and the intentions of the universal prayer can be proclaimed from it”, “it is less appropriate to use it for commentaries, announcements or for directing singing.”
There is also a request to take care of the material value and the good use of “books containing the readings of Sacred Scripture”, adding it is “never appropriate to resort to leaflets, photocopies, and other pastoral aids as a substitute for liturgical books.”
In order to make Sacred Scripture and its value in liturgical celebrations better known, the Congregation urges the promotion of formation meetings, in proximity to or in the days following the Sunday of the Word of God, to highlight in greater detail “the criteria for the liturgical distribution of the various biblical books in the course of the year and its seasons, as well as what the structure is of the Sunday and weekday cycles of the readings for Mass.”
Finally, the document identifies the Sunday of the Word of God, where the community celebration of Lauds and Vespers is promoted, as “a fitting occasion to deepen the link between Sacred Scripture and the Liturgy of the Hours, the praying of the Psalms and Canticles of the Office, as well as the biblical readings.”
It also suggests that St. Jerome be proposed as an example “for the great love he had for the Word of God.”