Words After the Gospel

Author: Father Edward McNamara



ROME, 21 OCT. 21 2003 (ZENIT).

Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Q: Is it absolutely necessary for a priest to raise up the Lectionary after reading the Gospel and saying, "This is the Gospel of the Lord"? I find this very cumbersome. Also, what is the correct proclamation at the end of the readings? Some say, "The word of the Lord"; others, "This is the word of the Lord." Also, can a priest proclaim the Gospel and preach from behind the altar? —E.S., Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A: This subject is dealt with in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (No. 134) and substantially repeated in other places: "Then he proclaims the Gospel and at the end says the acclamation 'Verbum Domini' (The gospel of the Lord), to which all respond, 'Laus tibi, Christe' (Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ). The priest kisses the book, saying quietly, 'Per evangelica dicta, deleantur nostra delicta' (May the words of the Gospel cleanse us of our faults).

As you can see, the text makes no specific reference to raising the book at this moment, so there is no requirement for doing so. The expression "The Gospel of the Lord" does not refer primarily to the book but rather to the Word that has been heard.

When a bishop celebrates the deacon may take the Book of the Gospels to him so that he may kiss it. The new GIRM (No. 176) provides that on solemn occasions he may now also impart a blessing with the book.

English being a widely spoken tongue, there are slight variations in some texts of the Mass in different regions. In the United States, "the Word (or Gospel) of the Lord" is used, while elsewhere most countries use the "This is" form. As you are writing from a country where English is not the local language you may follow whatever Lectionary you use at Mass. As a new translation of the entire missal is under way, some of these variations may eventually be eliminated.

In Masses celebrated with a congregation the Gospel should be read at the ambo (see GIRM, No. 134). The homily, however, may be preached from another place in accordance with GIRM, No. 136: "The priest, standing at the chair or at the ambo itself or, when appropriate, in another suitable place, gives the homily. When the homily is completed, a period of silence may be observed."

Under normal circumstances the altar should not be used for the homily, as it is good liturgical practice to leave the altar unused until the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins.

There may be situations, however, when the occasion and the particular circumstances of the presbytery might allow it. For example, in those countries where the traditional custom is to celebrate marriage in front of the altar within the precincts of the sanctuary, the priest may sometimes preach from the altar in order to directly face the future spouses, especially if the Church lacks a mobile amplification system. ZE03102120  

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