Here it is, the second week of Easter. The ice on the lake in my neighborhood is gradually receding. The grass is a slightly greenish shade of brown, and the geese are arriving, and I’m thinking about the proclamation of the word in the liturgy.
Unlike liturgical musicians, whom I admire without a thought of emulation, lectoring is a ministry I have practiced. It now feels like a natural outgrowth of my teaching ministry in the church, although, on reflection, it might rather be the foundation of my teaching.
One April, 14 years ago, when I still lived in a state without icy lakes or Canada geese, I had just been received into full communion with the Catholic Church. I was asked to read the scripture for the one of the first mystagogical prayer services, which took place on the Wednesdays of Easter. I practiced and nervously waited, terrified that I wouldn’t remember when to go forward to the ambo.
I started to read. Suddenly, the text didn’t seem like the same text I had practiced. Of course, the words were still the same (although I did, on another occasion years later, practice the wrong text – a cautionary experience!). The listening assembly, though, the community with whom I had been preparing for many months, changed the taste of the reading as I proclaimed it. I found myself not trying to read the word of God, but listening to it, and hearing it in a way that I could not have heard it in the silence of my own study.
That experience has endured. When I read the scriptures at liturgy, I never expect them to say exactly what I thought they said. And years later, I said a hearty Amen when I first read Kathleen Norris’s The Cloister Walk:
“Being a lector is a unique experience; it feels nothing like reading poems, my own or anyone else’s, to an audience. And it’s certainly not a performance; no emoting, or the monks would have my hide. The Liturgy of the Word is prayer. You pray the scriptures with, and for, the people assembled, and the words go out to them, touching them in ways only God can imagine. The words are all that matter, and you send them out as prayer, hoping to become invisible behind them.”
– Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk, 68. Emphasis mine.
May God send the Word into your heart this week.