Celebration of the Word
Requirements: a candle (preferably a paschal candle), a large and imposing Bible, a large crib with the Infant Jesus, a censer, flowers and a wooden table that is not too high. The Bible and the candle should be outside the room before the celebration. The crib is placed on the table, adorned with flowers.
Also required, besides the Presider who will be in charge of the celebration, is one person who will read all the scriptural texts, and another person who will read the passages from Dei Verbum. These two Readers will be in a prominent place behind the table, and they will be presented in their respective roles.
The comments or petitions can be read by different persons. Two persons should be assigned to lead the procession with the Bible.
Reader I: “The sacred Synod hears the word of God with reverence and proclaims it confidently” (DV 1).
The Presider presents the celebration of the Word, its motivation and development, and invites those present to participate in it.
Reader 1: “In the sacred Books, the Father, who is in heaven, goes out lovingly to meet his children and converse with them” (DV 2). “From the fullness of his love He speaks to human beings as friends and lives among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company” (DV 2).
Reader 2: “The Lord used to speak with Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Ez 33:11a).
Commentator: The Lord comes to visit us in order to talk with us for a while, to foster our friendship with Him. He does not always achieve his purpose. Sometimes He does not find us, not because we are not there, but because we avoid Him and hide ourselves from Him. We muddy our relationship with Him and impede our dialogue with Him.
Reader 2: “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself’” (Gen 3:8-10).
The Presider invites us to acknowledge our fears for relating with God, and to dispose ourselves to engage in a dialogue with Him.
Reader 1: “Let them remember that prayer should accompany the reading of sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for “We speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine sayings” (DV 25).
A moment of silence may be observed.
Eternal Word of the Father, through whom all things have come into existence: Lord, have mercy.
True Light, who came into the world and the world did not receive you:
Christ, have mercy.
Son of God, who became man and made your dwelling among us:
Lord, have mercy.
Reader 2: “So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him” (Lk 15:20).
Two persons leave the celebration room. One of them takes the candle and lights it; the other takes the Bible. They return to the room, the Candle Bearer goes in front, the Book Bearer follows, showing the Bible to the assembly. As they enter, the group either sings a song or proclaims 1 Jn 1:5.
Song: relating to the theme of light.
The Book Bearer stands behind the table, showing the closed Bible to all present. the Candle Bearer stands beside him.
Reader 1: “God graciously arranged that the things He had once revealed for the salvation of all peoples should remain in their entirety, throughout the ages, and be transmitted to all generations” (DV 7). “The Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God, and, because they are inspired, they are truly the Word of God” (DV 24).
Reader 2: “Jesus performed many other signs as well —signs not recorded here— in the presence of his disciples. But these have been recorded to help you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, so that through this faith you may have life in his name” (Jn 20:30-31).
Prayer (all together): verses taken from Psalm 119 (Grail Translation).
Open my eyes, that I may see the wonders of your law.
Keep my eyes from what is false; by your word give me life.
See, I long for your precepts; then in your justice, give me life.
Remember your word to your servant by which you gave me hope.
This is my comfort in sorrow, that your promise gives me life.
I yearn for your saving help; I hope in your word.
Because of your love give me life, and I will do your will.
I will never forget your precepts, for with them you give me life.
Save me, for I am yours; since I seek your precepts.
Your word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path.
Lord, I am deeply afflicted: by your word give me life.
If you uphold me by your promise I shall live; let my hopes not be in vain.
My eyes yearn for your saving help and the promise of your justice.
The unfolding of your word gives light, and teaches the simple.
Let your face shine on your servant, and teach me your decrees.
Uphold my cause and defend me; by your promise, give me life.
Numberless, Lord, are your mercies; with your decrees give me life.
See how I love your precepts; in your mercy give me life.
Let my pleading come before you; save me by your promise.
Lord, I long for your saving help and your law is my delight.
4. Presentation and Veneration of the Gospel
Reader 1: “The words of God, expressed in human words, are just like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the weak flesh of humanity, became like other men: (DV 13).
The Book is placed open in the crib, and the candle is placed alongside it. The censer is lighted. Meanwhile the Word is proclaimed and Dei Verbum is cited.
Reader 2: “The Word, the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love” (Jn 1:9,14).
Reader 1: “For He sent his Son, the eternal Word who enlightens all men, to dwell among men and to tell them about the inner life of God” (DV 4).
Commentator: This Bible is not just a collection of written books, just as the bread of the Eucharist is not just a heap of cooked wheat grains. This Bible contains the gospel of Jesus Christ, made writing for us; just as the very Son of God was made flesh for us. This open Bible has opened God’s heart for us, allowing us to enter into intimacy with Him. Receiving it and venerating it is receiving and adoring Jesus Christ, the living gospel of God.
Reader 1: “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since from the table of both the word of God and of the body of Christ she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life” (DV 21).
Song of adoration
The Presider, standing behind the table, invites the participants to receive the Word as Mary did. Whoever wants to can stand before the table of the Word. The handing over and veneration of the gospel is done in silence, except for the words that the Presider exchanges with each of those who approach.
Presider: (to the person standing before the Word) “Receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Participant: (kneeling before the Word) “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word and I shall be healed.”
Some time may be set aside either for a homily or for a sharing on what the group is celebrating.
Song: Relating to the theme of the Word of God.
Reader 1: “Easy access to sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful” (DV 22). “This sacred Synod earnestly and specifically urges all the Christian faithful…to learn by frequent reading of the Scriptures…For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself” (DV 25). “In this way, therefore, through the reading and study of the sacred books, let the word of God spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere” (DV 26).
This can be led by a reader
“If you accept Jesus as the Truth, will you listen to him?”
It is Jesus who speaks to you when you listen to his Word: the Word of God, the Bible.
“Will you commit yourselves to reading some Bible passages?”
The Bible is a fountain from which everyone who is looking for the Truth should drink.
To drink a little each day from the fountain of God’s Word is not something that is beyond your strength or abilities.
Wherever you may go, you can always carry the Book of the Word, the Bible, with you…
Like a traveler’s canteen, you can always drink from it each and every day.
This canteen never runs dry: it is a fountain.
Even when you don’t understand everything it says to you, can you forget that in it is the fountain of Truth?
Keep on drinking. It will quench your thirst even when you don’t understand it; even then it is still God’s Word, the Truth.
Studying the Bible will help you to understand it.
“But will you forget that the essential thing is not to understand the whole Truth, but to drink of it?”
Happiness does not consist simply of understanding the gospel, but rather of living it. The essential thing is to live the Truth.
Pray with the apostles: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Word of Life.” The day will come when you will understand.
At the end, a period of silence may be observed.
6. Sending Forth
Reader 1: “Christ the Lord, in whom the full revelation of the supreme God is brought to completion, commissioned the apostles to preach the gospel, which is the source of all saving truth” (DV 7). “The force and power in the word of God is so great that it remains the source and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her children, the food of the soul, the pure and perennial source of spiritual life” (DV 21). “Let the treasure of revelation entrusted to the Church increasingly fill the hearts of men” (DV 26).
Song: relating to the theme of sending forth.
Reader 2: “These words are trustworthy and true… Happy the man who heeds the prophetic message of this book… Worship God alone… Do not seal up the prophetic words of this book… It is I, Jesus, who have sent my angel to give you this testimony about the churches… The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ Let him who hears answer, ‘Come!’ Let him who is thirsty come forward; let all who desire it accept the gift of life-giving water” (Rev 22).
Commentator: All peoples are called to be enlightened by the light of the Word. All generations are invited to quench their thirst in the fountain of the Word. All human beings are invited to the table of the Word which we have shared. You are the messengers of this Good News.
Reader 2: “Therefore, you must go out into the byroads and invite to the wedding anyone you come upon” (Mt 22:9).
Presider: “May the Lord be in your heart and on your lips that you may worthily proclaim his Gospel. Go in peace, in the name of the Lord.”