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A liturgy question: Why drop ‘This is’ from ‘The Word of the Lord’?

    Recently, the Clarion Herald received a letter from a reader wondering why the change in wording was made at the conclusion of the readings at Mass. Instead of saying, “This is the word of the Lord,” the words “This is” were dropped.” Msgr. Kenneth Hedrick offers the following explanation.
    At their meeting in November 1991, the Bishops of the United States voted to request from the Holy See approval to change the words that conclude the readings at Mass from “This is the word of the Lord” to “the word of the Lord,” with a similar translation for the conclusion of the Gospel proclamation.
    The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments confirmed that action and this new phrasing became mandatory in Lent of 1992.
    Why was this change made?
    First of all, it was done to make what we say in English correspond to the Latin of the Roman Missal and the Lectionary – “Verbum Domini” for the readings, “Evangelium Domini” for the Gospel.
    Obviously, this was something of a foreshadowing of the adherence to the Latin texts  that we have seen with the implementation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition.
    But what prompted this request from our bishops?
    You and I witnessed it in many of our parishes.  What began to happen was that both readers and deacons not only said, “This is the Word of the Lord,” but they began to hold up the Lectionary or the Book of the Gospels as they made that proclamation, as if the book itself was the word of the Lord.  
    The problem is that is not exactly accurate, not exactly faithful to our theology.  The prophet Ezekiel says, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.”
    St. John, in his Gospel announces, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  In other words, what we believe is that the word of God is not a static, printed word; the word of God is alive, active, dynamic, interactive, incarnate, personal. The Word is alive.  It is alive in our proclaiming it; alive in our hearing it, in our accepting it, in our embracing it; alive in the person of Christ speaking to us. The Word of the Lord is not printing or pages; it is a person, and that is Jesus Christ. This Christ speaks to us sometimes in words of consolation and support, sometimes in words of challenge, sometimes in words that singe our consciences, sometimes in words that spur us into action, all dynamic realities.  There is no limit to how God uses words to direct us, no limit to how Christ wants to act with us and through us.  There should be, then, no gesture that seems to limit what, where, how and who this Word of the Lord truly is.
    Msgr. Kenneth Hedrick is director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship and pastor of St. Angela Merici Parish in Metairie.

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