Sunday, July 14, 2013

Talking about listening to the readings at Mass

This is going to be the crux of the Children's Liturgy of the Word, isn't it?  If they don't understand the Liturgy of the Word, what liturgy will they be attending?  So, here goes...

Sounds and Noises
What is your favourite sound?  Get the children to describe what they like to hear.  Mine is "Dinner is ready!"

What is the difference between sounds and noises? What would you prefer to hear?  A sound or a noise?  Noises normally are sounds that we don't like, find annoying and are devoid of meaning.  On the other hand, we like sounds and can appreciate & understand them.  A sound, therefore, is a noise with a meaning. 

Sounds and its meaning
Some sounds have meaning.  Discuss sounds that have meaning. For example, if you  hear an ambulance siren, what does it mean?  Or a phone ring?  Or a knock on the door? What other sounds do you know that tells us something?

Some sounds are special. Not just they tell us something, they make us to do something. For example, if Daddy hears an ambulance siren when he is driving, what does he do? What do you do when you hear the phone ring?  Or the doorbell ringing? Be careful here that you don’t encourage the children just opened the door before checking who it is.

If we ignore what these sounds tell us to do, the results could be disastrous. Imagine what would happen if people did not pull aside when they hear the ambulance siren.

Readings at mass
You may not need to tell the children all the explanations in this section at one go, but it is good to know and be prepared with the answers when asked.  You could also feed them into your discussions as they are already prepacked in bite-sized chunks.

Three year cycle
Readings run in a three year cycle. The readings for most Sundays will therefore repeat every three years.  2013 is the Year C.  The exception is the readings for feastdays & solemnities, which could be the same every year. I will touch on feastdays in a separate blog.

First reading and responsorial psalm

Normally, there are three readings at mass on Sunday. The first reading is normally from the Old Testament.  The Old Testament is that part of the Bible before Jesus came. The first reading is normally chosen to support the message in the Gospel.  As such, it can seem rather random, but really, they have been chosen so that all 46 books of the Old Testament will be read at least once in the three years.

The first reading is followed by a responsorial psalm, normally taken from one of the 150 psalms in the Old Testament Book of Psalms.  In a way, it is the congregation's response to the first reading.

Second reading
The second reading is normally taken from the letters. which could be written by St Paul, St James, St Peter, St John, etc. It runs as a separate series of readings independent of the first reading and the Gospel readings.

We should be responding to the second reading by a period of silent reflection but I find it sadly missing at almost all the masses I attend.

Gospel means "Good news" and the Gospel reading is the most important reading all. So important that we stand up to listen to the Gospel reading. Also, the Gospel reading can only be read by a priest or deacon.  Sometimes, the priest incense the altar before reading the Gospel to indicate that he will be reading the Gospel with a clean soul.

We greet the Gospel with an Acclamation.  In all Sundays other than in Lent, we sing the Alleluia whereas during Lent, the 'Praise and Glory to God' is sung.  The priest brings the Gospel from the altar to the lectern.  In Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches, the Gospel is welcomed to even greater acclaim with the Gospel Book having its own procession.

When we stand to listen to the Gospel reading, there is a dialogue that takes place between us and the priest. I find this dialogue very interesting. The priest says "The Lord be with you." and we reply "And with your spirit." Then, the priest says “A reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Luke." and we reply, "Glory to you O Lord."  Note that there are two 'you' in this dialogue and they refer to different people. The first 'you' (And with your spirit) refers to the priest. The second 'you' (Glory to you) refers to Jesus. So, when we have that dialogue before the Gospel, it is at that point that the priest is no longer speaking but it is Jesus telling us about his own story.  That definitely is cause for some respect.

At the second response, we make a sign of the cross on our forehead, our lips and our chest.  It is a more ancient form of the sign of the cross that we normally do.  If opportunity arises, I tell the children that this is a silent prayer that we make: When we hear your word Lord, give us good thoughts (forehead), speak good words (lips) and give us love (chest).

Books for reading
The readings are read from a book called a Lectionary, which contains all the readings for all the Sundays of the year. If you get the chance, you should show it to the children.  Children like to see that there is an order to things, and having a structure to the mass as well as the readings is no different.

The readings for Lent, Easter, Advent and Christmas are all specially selected to support the theme of the season.  The readings for the rest of the year, called Ordinary Sundays, will follow a series, either that for the Gospel or that for the second reading.

Sometimes there is a separate Gospel book, and usually covered in a cloth covering.  In Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches, the Gospel book can be rather elaborate with gold embroidery. The Gospel book is often brought in by a reader separately at the beginning of mass during the procession with the altar servers and the priest.

Who reads where
If you interested, the person who reads the readings is called a 'lector' while the lectern at which the readings are read is called an 'ambo'.  In some old churches, there could be two ambos, one for the lay reader and another for the priest to read the Gospel.  In some old churches in England, the priest ambo is in the form of an eagle, which is the symbol of St John, who wrote the fourth Gospel. 

What the readings make us do
The readings at mass are like sounds that tells us something.  What does it tell us?  It tells us about God & Jesus and his love for all of us.

And as these are special sounds, they don't just tell something, they also make us do something. What does it make us do?  It makes us want to spread the good news and share God's love with everyone we meet. If we do not do, we will be like the person who do not pull the car aside when they hear the ambulance siren. Would we like to be like that?

Paying attention at mass
What is the difference between hearing and listening?  So, are you hearing or listening to the readings at mass?  In both hearing and listening, we are given something, but only in listening do we take and receive that something.

Jesus said that when two or three people are gathered in his name, he will be there.  He is there in the people gathered, he is there in the bread & wine, and he is there in the Gospel because he is the Word of God.  Only when we listen do we receive the Word of God.

I have a little story to tell the children that if we do not pay attention at mass, we could end up with very strange results.  

A priest once went up to the mike at the end of the mass when he remembered that he forgot to tell the congregation he will be going away next week.  So, instead of saying "Go forth, the mass is ended", he said "I will be going away next week" but nothing came out from the speakers due to some malfunction.  The people heard him say something, but wasn’t paying too much attention, and they replied "Thanks be to God".  So, make sure you pay attention at mass.

When we listen to the Gospel, we are listening to Jesus himself, and in listening, we receive God's Word in us.  We do this by carrying out the commandments of Jesus in the Gospel when we listen to what he tells us to do in the Gospel.

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