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Changing the Words of the Liturgy
Several people have phoned to ask me why in some parishes the reader concludes the first and second readings with the words “The word of the Lord” instead of the usual “This is the word of the Lord”.
This shorter version is the one proposed in the revised Sacramentary which is currently awaiting approval from Rome. There were several reasons for making this change. Firstly, “The word of the Lord” translates the Latin original more accurately and in a way that other languages have done. Also, it provides a parallel with the words that are used at the distribution of communion: “The body of Christ”, “The blood of Christ”.
When the minister presents the host to the communicant, he or she does not say “This is the body of Christ” because that narrows the meaning to one aspect of the body of Christ alone – the real presence in the consecrated bread. The less specific “The body of Christ” also contains within it the understanding that it is through sharing communion that the church becomes the body of Christ, that you and I are members of the body of Christ broken and given for the world.
Similarly, the phrase “This is the word of the Lord” has a tendency to become the equivalent of a narrow “pointing gesture” (reinforced when the reader insists on raising the book whilst saying the words!) rather than a faith acclamation to God who speaks when the scriptures are read. It is not the lectionary which is the word of God, but rather the word which has been proclaimed in the midst of the assembly of faith, that living, active word which creates, is effective and endures. Because the Australian Lectionary is out of print, some parishes are using the Canadian one which includes the new form of words after the readings.
Actually, it amazes me that some people jump up and down when a slight change is made to words used in part of the Mass even though the meaning remains unaltered (or is even enhanced or clarified, as in the example given above) yet remain unmoved over a re-wording that does substantially change the essence of what is being conveyed.
I’ll explain what I mean. I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard the presider say just before communion “Happy are we who are called to this supper”! The wording given in the Order of Mass is actually “Happy are those who are called to his supper” which has a different meaning altogether. The first form limits the prayer so that it applies only to those who are at this gathering. It is restrictive and exclusive.
The formula that is given in the Rite comes from scripture: “Happy are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev 19 : 9). The reference is to the eschatological banquet of the Lord to which people from all times and places are called.
Using the correct form of words enable us to look beyond the here and now and places our celebration of the eucharist into the context of the “one holy, catholic and apostolic Church” which transcends time and space.