The Liturgy of the Word is composed of readings from sacred Scripture, the Homily, the Creed and the Prayer of the Faithful. The readings are not merely stories of long-ago events. In the readings, God speaks. God’s speech is not like ours; for God to speak is to reveal who God is. God speaks the Word, his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Each of the readings provides some insight into the way that God speaks to us in Jesus Christ.
The First Reading is usually taken from the Old Testament and relates how God created the world, called Israel as His people, and supported them even when they were unfaithful. The second reading is taken from the New Testament and relates the history of the early Church, in the form of letters to early communities and in other forms such as the historical (Acts of the Apostles) or apocalyptic (Book of Revelation). After each, the people respond, recognizing God’s word with gratitude: Thanks be to God. In between the readings, the people reflect and respond with the responsorial psalm. The Gospel reading, taken from one of the four Evangelists, focuses on the life of Jesus. Beyond thanking God as we do for the other readings, we cry out: “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ” who has come among us now through this proclamation of the Gospel.
In each of these readings, God speaks to the people gathered and reminds us that God who acted in the past is present now and will act on our behalf, as for Abraham or Peter or Mary Magdalene. This “reminder” is not merely the passive sense of remembering. Rather it speaks of God active and present in the midst of this community gathered at this time. The readings serve as a foundation for us to remember God in our midst and to ensure that we respond.
The homily follows the Gospel and in it the priest or deacon speaks in the name of the Church and seeks to make this immediate connection more prominent and more focused.
The Creed, or Profession of Faith, follows the homily. It is not something outside of Scripture but a summary of it, the basic statements of who God is and how God works. With the new translation we will pray “I believe.” I can speak only for myself. But all the individual voices come together to present a single voice, that of the Body of Christ.
Some other words and phrases in the Creed will change. We will now pray that the Son of God is “consubstantial to the Father.” The word “consubstantial” comes from the Latin: “con” (with) and “substantia” (substance). It emphasizes that the Father and the Son are both equally God even though they are different Persons of the Trinity. Also, we will now pray “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” The root word of “incarnate” comes from the Latin “carne” (flesh). The change in translation helps to stress that Jesus became man not when he was born but when he was conceived in the womb of Mary.
The Liturgy of the Word closes with the Prayer of the Faithful to draw the gathered community beyond themselves and recognize the needs of the Church universal and indeed the whole world. We pray these prayers not to remind God of what we need but to remind us of our obligation, to help God make these prayers.
See the General instruction of the Roman Missal (##55-71) and Chapter 3 in Father Jeremy Driscoll’s book, “What Happens at Mass.”