“Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy,” the church stated at the Second Vatican Council ( SC 24), and in reforming the liturgy it directed that “the treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.” (SC 51)
In the scriptures ” the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as support and energy for the Church, strength of faith for her sons and daughters, food for the soul, a pure and everlasting source of spiritual life.” (DV 21)
The Word of God is meant to be a feast for us.
Our present Sunday and weekday lectionaries, which we follow in this blog, answer the church’s wish expressed at the council. They make the treasures of the scriptures more available for the faithful. They’re a feast.
Yet as we know feasts, meant to be fulfilling, can sometimes be overwhelming and seem too much. We may not be able to take them all in.
Our lectionaries may seem like that: too much to take in. For example, we read from Mark 1-12 for the first 9 weeks of our church year. We read from Matthew 5-25 from weeks 10 to 21. We’ll read afterwards from Luke till the end of November, when Advent begins.
In that same period we read numerous selections from the Old Testament and the New Testament, this week from Jeremiah, one of the major prophets. A big banquet.
We might be tempted to yearn for the older lectionary for the Tridentine Mass, which was used in the Extraordinary Celebration of Mass in Latin. It contains a much smaller sample of scripture readings: about 22 percent of the Gospels, 11 percent of the epistles and less than1 percent of the Old Testament. But that approach abandons the church’s desire to be open to the treasures of the scripture and a deeper biblical spirituality.
We might also be tempted to abandon the liturgy altogether for another way of spirituality or devotion. But that would means abandoning the prayer of the church.
In her Constitution on the Liturgy, the church emphasizes the place of the Word of God in the mystery of the Eucharist. She believes that “the two parts which, in a certain sense, go to make up the Mass, namely, the liturgy of the word and the eucharistic liturgy, are so closely connected with each other that they form but one single act of worship.”
In both the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist we’re to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” (SC 56) Jesus Christ is with us in the liturgy, not just to be adored, but to be our Teacher and Lord. He speaks to us through the scriptures and comes to us in the Bread.
As he was with his first disciples, he is with us as our patient Teacher and Lord. The lectionaries are meant to be read again and again. We must be patient and learn from them.