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Although evidence is meagre, there is a good reason to believe that a proclamation of God’s word sometimes took place in conjunction with the early celebration of the Eucharist. Apostolic letters were read out at Christmas assemblies (cf: Colossians 4:16, Philemon 2, Revelation 1:3) and it is likely that at least some of these gatherings were for celebrations of the Eucharist. There is also evidence e.g. Acts 20: 7-8 to suggest that instruction and explanation took place at the Eucharistic meal.

Although the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist were often celebrated independently of each other, their general fusion occurred in the east by the early sixth century.

Each separate Catholic rite developed its own number and selection of readings. Whereas four or even six readings occur in some eastern rites, the general rule is three readings, usually the prophets, the apostles, the gospels.

The Scriptures were often read in a semi-continuous manner (and we do that in our weekday Masses even today). The reader read the whole book from beginning to end although certain verses or chapters are omitted.

The Lectionary arranges the Sunday reading in a three-year cycle, the characteristic feature of each year being the gospel: Year A is based on Matthew (in this year now), Year B on Mark and Year C on Luke. St. John’s gospel occurs on the First Sunday of Lent, during the Easter Season and on certain Sundays during Year B.

For weekdays there is a two-year cycle: the gospels remain the same each year but the first reading varies.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal (The Church’s Textbook):

The only change to the response is Glory to you, O Lord.

Questions for Reflection:

1. What is the purpose of the Liturgy of the Word?

2. Do I listen attentively to the readings?

Scripture: Proverbs 4: 20-21