Missa – Evangelium
At the heart of Catholicism, whether its doctrines and tradition, its prayers, its worship or its all its practice and function, the whole system of belief which we call our faith comes down to Jesus, who if we are patient to seek, we will certainly find. On several occasions I have had people ask me about praying to Mary and why catholics would worship her instead of Jesus? But even in our veneration of Mary, which is not “worship”, I would quickly point out that right in the center of the “Hail Mary” prayer, is a pause as the prayer bows to her Child. “and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”.
This Jesus centeredness is certainly found in the Mass as well and in several ways. In these recent blogs on the mass we have now come to the heart of the Liturgy of the Word. We have read from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Psalms, and the Christian Scriptures in the New Testament and now we will hear from the very Gospels.
The Gospels consist of 4 books which were accepted by the church as inspired. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is believed that they were some of the last books written; coming long after many of the Epistles. In our canon they come right at the beginning of the New Testament which fits them into a chronological order with the rest of the writings, but right in the “center” of the Bible. But in history, before the Bible was assembled into a single book or before it became easy to do this by means of a printing press, the Gospels were often contained in their own volume which was called the Evangeliarium, or a Gospel Book. These books are noteworthy in that the cover is often in Gold and has the symbols of the 4 Evangelists on them, though this is not always the case. The celebrated Book of Kells is an example of a Gospel Book from the middle ages.
During the Mass as preparation for the Gospel reading begins, the congregation will stand as a sign of importance. Instead of just announcing the Gospel and beginning to read, we honor this ‘Good News’ of our Lord by singing “Alleluia” as the Deacon. accompanied by candle bearing altar boys, lifts the Gospel Book for all to see. The “Alleluia” will usually have a verse that emphasizes “hearing the word”, and in some masses incense is also used to herald the Gospel reading. The candles are used to draw attention to the Gospel, with their symbol of light.
As mentioned the center of our worship always comes down to Christ, and this is the climax of the Liturgy of the Word. Our attention now on the reading, which will be from either the deacon or the Priest, again demonstrating the importance of the Gospel, we wait for the introduction. “A reading from the Gospel of ______”. At this point all will sign themselves with the cross “signum crucis” on their forehead, mouth and heart; symbolizing Christ in my thoughts, my words, and in my heart. And then the reading begins telling us of the events of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of the Most High God, as he lived and died among us. And of how He rose again.
Upon completion of the reading the we hear the words “This is the Gospel of the Lord”, speaking not about the scroll or the book but the very heart of what the word means, and that is the “Good News”. And our response is “Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ”.