CDW Note on the Sunday of the Word of God

Today the daily Bulletin of the Holy See’s Press Office contains a Note of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on the Sunday of the Word of God.

This comes more than a year after Pope Francis published Aperuit Illis, a motu proprio instituting the Sunday of the Word of God. There was some commentary here on PrayTell on this new observance at that time and at the time of its first observance, at the start of 2020, I published a piece on “almost obligatory” Irish contribution to the observance.

This new Note is to be welcomed, although one might wonder why it took fourteen months to be published after Aperuit Illis. Rather than providing liturgical texts or changes to the rubrics, helps parishes to mark the observance without changing the existing liturgical texts. At the end of the document, it explains that “the purpose of this Note is to help reawaken, in the light of the Sunday of the Word of God, an awareness of the importance of Sacred Scripture for our lives as believers”.

It makes ten points and can be read in a few minutes. I agree with the introduction’s recommendation that the observance provides all of us with an “opportunity to reread some of the Church’s documents and especially the Praenotanda of the Ordo Lectionum Missae.”

It promotes the use of the Book of Gospels, “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.” It stresses that the readings of the Mass from the Lectionary cycle must be respected and that other readings cannot be substituted for them.

The importance of the beauty of the books used during the Liturgy of the Word are stressed and the CDW asks that “care be taken to ensure that these books are of a high quality and used properly. It is never appropriate to resort to leaflets, photocopies and other pastoral aids as a substitute for liturgical books. This is unfortunately the case in many places. Indeed, one of the silver linings of the COVD-19 crisis here in Ireland is that some parishes have stopped using these disposable Mass leaflets (other parishes, however, have simply printed more, so that fresh leaflets are available for each liturgy).

One of the most memorable paragraphs is number 7 which speaks about the Ambo:

Because of the importance of the word of God, the Church invites us to pay special attention to the ambo from which it is proclaimed. It is not a functional piece of furniture, but a place that is in keeping with the dignity of the word of God, in correspondence with the altar: in fact, we speak of the table of God’s word and the table of the Body of Christ, referring both to the ambo and especially to the altar. The ambo is reserved for the readings, the singing of the Responsorial Psalm and the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet); the homily and the intentions of the universal prayer can be delivered from it, while it is less appropriate to use it for commentaries, announcements or for directing singing.

Hopefully all of us will be able to mark the Sunday of the Word of God in a meaningful way (see the Irish Bishops’ suggestions) in our assemblies. Unfortunately, on January 24, 2021 many of us will still be struggling with the challenges of COVID-19. But it might be no harm for us to start thinking about the role of the Word of God in our liturgy as part of a new liturgical catechesis that will have to form part of our parish lives in 2021 as we see best how to attract people back to church after a year lost to liturgy during the lockdowns.


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