Introduction to the Liturgy of the Word and/or Silence

This post is part of a series on Getting the Most Out of Mass: tips to best dispose yourself to receive graces available during Mass (this will be specifically about Sunday Mass, but some of these ideas will also apply to daily Mass). Today, we transition from the Introductory Rites for Mass to the Liturgy of the Word.

(The introduction and the silence are optional parts of the Mass, so you might not experience them at your parish.)

What

After the Collect, everyone sits to listen to the Bible readings.

The priest may choose to give an introduction to those readings.

There may be a brief period of silence during this time before the readings.

Why

Why Sitting?

We have finished the Introductory Rites of Mass and transitioned into the Liturgy of the Word. This is the time in Mass when we listen to the Bible readings and Homily and then wrap them up with the Profession of Faith (the Creed) and the Universal Prayers (the “Lord Hear Our Prayer” prayers). Since the beginning of this section of Mass is so focused on listening, we sit for this time. This puts our bodies in a posture of receptivity and the hope is that our hearts and minds will follow that lead.

Why an Introduction?

Just as we discussed in Preread The Scripture Readings for Mass, the Church wants to steep us in Holy Scripture (the Bible), and part of being able to absorb what God has for you in Holy Scripture is having a context to better understand what is being read. Therefore, a priest may choose to give everyone a quick introduction to the readings.

The Priest may, very briefly, introduce the faithful to the Liturgy of the Word.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 128

Why Silence?

The best way to prepare to listen to God speaking through His written Word is silence. The more we are able to quiet ourselves (externally and internally), the better we will be at listening for any prompting God may have for us. A prompting may be a better understanding of something about God, the Church, life, etc.; a different way of looking at something; a conviction that you ought to change something in your life or do something for another person (or other people); etc.

The Liturgy of the Word is to be celebrated in such a way as to favor meditation, and so any kind of haste such as hinders recollection is clearly to be avoided. In the course of it, brief periods of silence are also appropriate, accommodated to the assembled congregation; by means of these, under the action of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God may be grasped by the heart and a response through prayer may be prepared. It may be appropriate to observe such periods of silence, for example, before the Liturgy of the Word itself begins, after the First and Second Reading, and lastly at the conclusion of the Homily.

Ibid. 56

Going Deeper

As you sit down, focus your mind and heart on listening to what will be read and spoken throughout the liturgy of the Word. Try as much as you can to be present to what is being said and be alert for any ways that God prompts your heart toward Himself. If your Mass has a pause for silence, use this extra time to calm your mind and heart even more to be docile to whatever God has for you.

If your Mass has in introduction, listen attentively to this introduction. Try to make any connections from your preread of the readings and any study you have done to prep you to more fully understand the readings that are about to be read.

What About You?

  • Do you have any particular ways that help you prepare to be focussed on the readings?
  • Can you recall a time that the silence before the readings and/or a priest’s introduction to the readings especially helped you get more out of the readings?
Photo Credit: New York Times

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