Book of the Gospels
In a decree dated May 23, 2000, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, confirmed the November 1999 approval by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of a vernacular edition of The Book of the Gospels for use in the dioceses of the United States of America.
The Book of the Gospels includes an original introduction along with all the Gospels contained in volume I of the Lectionary for Mass and selected Gospels for Ritual Masses. The Book of the Gospels will be offered to publishers within the next several weeks and, by a decree of Bishop Jospeh A. Fiorenza, NCCB President is authorized for use after September 30, 2000. A copy of the Holy See's decree of confirmation, Bishop Fiorenza's decree of promulgation and the introduction to the Book of the Gospels is provided here for the information of our readers.
At the request of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Joseph Fiorenza, President of the Conference of Bishops of the United States of America, in a letter dated 27 March 2000, and by the power of the faculties granted to this Congregation by the Supreme Pontiff JOHN PAUL II, we hereby gladly confirm the text of the Book of the Gospels, presented in English, as found in the attached texts.
In every copy of this text published, this Decree, by which the requested confirmation of the Apostolic See is granted, must be included ex integro. Two copies of the text as published shall be sent to this Congregation.
All things to the contrary notwithstanding.
Given from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 23 May 2000.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
In accord with the norms established by decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites in Cum, nostra ζtate (January 27, 1966), this edition of the Book of the Gospels is declared to be the vernacular typical edition of this liturgical book in the Latin rite dioceses of the United States of America, and is published by authority of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Book of the Gospels was canonically approved for use by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on November 16, 1999 and was subsequently confirmed by the Apostolic See by decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on May 23, 2000 (Prot. 2742/99/L).
On the feast of Saint Jerome, September 30, 2000, the Book of the Gospels may be published and used in the liturgy. On the First Sunday of Advent, December 3, 2000, its use is mandatory. From that day forward no other English version may be used.
Given at the General Secretariat of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington D.C., on June 29, 2000, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.
Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Bishop of Galveston-Houston
National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Reverend Monsignor Dennis M. Schnurr
Introduction to the Book of the Gospels
I. The Centrality of the Gospel in the Life of the Church and her Liturgy
- In the fullness of time, God "sent His Son, the Word made flesh, anointed by the Holy Spirit, to preach the Gospel to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart, to be a bodily and spiritual medicine, the Mediator between God and man..."1 Entrusted by the Lord to his Apostles, this Gospel was set down by the Holy Evangelists in written form so that the events fulfilled in Jesus might be known and believed, and that through this belief every person in every time might "have life in his name."2
- Thus, the Church has received the Gospel from the Apostles to whom the Lord explained the Holy Scriptures.3 From that time onwards the Church has never failed to come together to read "what referred to him in all the Scriptures"4 and to celebrate the paschal mystery wherein "the victory and triumph of his death are again made present."5
- By the power of the Holy Spirit, the word of God proclaimed is the foundation of every liturgical celebration and "the rule and support of all our life. The working of the Holy Spirit precedes, accompanies, and brings to completion the whole celebration of the Liturgy. But the Spirit also brings home to each person individually everything that in the proclamation of the word of God is spoken for the good of the whole gathering of the faithful. In strengthening the unity of all, the Holy Spirit at the same time fosters a diversity of gifts and furthers their multiform operation."6
- From the time of the Apostolic Fathers, the Church has consistently read the Sacred Scriptures, especially the Gospels, as an integral part of the celebration of the Eucharist which helps to prepare the congregation for the Liturgy of the Eucharist itself. While the whole corpus of the Scriptures is venerated by the Church as the word of God, the Gospels have always been proclaimed as the very voice of her Bridegroom. Especially on Sunday, "the day of the Resurrection...the day of Christians...our day,"7 the Church proclaims the Gospel passages which are at the heart of her faith.8
- Formal liturgical books containing readings from Sacred Scripture have been common in the Church from the time of Saint Gregory the Great.9 In our own day every effort is made to assure that the Scriptures are bound in books which are "worthy, dignified, and beautiful." 10
- This is particularly true of the Book of the Gospels which is venerated above all the books of readings by Churches of both East and West.11 So clearly is the Book of the Gospels a sign of Christ present in the liturgy, that it is revered with the same holy kiss given to the altar.
For this reason it is desirable that "cathedrals and at least the larger, more populous parishes and the churches with a larger attendance possess a beautifully designed Book of the Gospels, separate from any other book of readings."12
- Thus the Book of the Gospels as a sign of the presence of Christ in his word proclaimed is always accorded a place of honor in the Church's liturgy. It is borne by the deacon in solemn procession for the veneration of the entire congregation and accompanied by candles and incense at Mass. The imposition and presentation of the Book of the Gospels to a newly ordained Bishop illustrate that the faithful preaching of the word of God13 is among his principle duties. The presentation of the Book of the Gospels to the newly ordained deacon "symbolizes the office of the deacon to proclaim the Gospel in liturgical celebrations and to preach the faith of the Church in word and deed."14 Finally, the enshrinement of the Book of the Gospels whenever the Church gathers in a council or synod is a sign of the presence of Christ himself as teacher and guide.15
- Every time the Church unites herself with Christ in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the Body of the Lord and the eternal Word of divine truth are received as from a twofold table, as a participation in the one sacrifice of praise.16 While opening up a vast treasury of Sacred Scripture in the Liturgy of the Word, the Church nonetheless acknowledges the preeminent place of the Gospels17 by according "special marks of honor" to their proclamation.18 The proclamation of the Gospel is reserved to the deacon, if he is present, or to a priest. It can be preceded by a procession which marks the coming of Christ, present in the words of life he unfailingly addresses to his followers whenever, as members of the Church, they gather in his name. The procession may be accompanied by particular marks of reverence, above all, the use of incense and lighted candles. To the proclamation and the accompanying manifestations of reverence, all the faithful present respond in faith, receiving the message of the Gospel into their hearts and praying that it may purify and transform their lives, building up the Body of Christ which is the Church.
- In the Entrance Procession the vested deacon reverently carries the Book of the Gospels before him so that it may be seen by the faithful.19 With the priest he makes the proper reverence and goes up to the altar, placing the Book of the Gospels on it. The deacon then kisses the altar at the same time as the priest.20 In the absence of a deacon, the reader reverently carries the Book of the Gospels in procession. The reader follows the acolytes and other ministers in procession. The reader places the Book of the Gospels on the altar, but the reader does not kiss the altar.
- After a brief silent reflection on the last reading from the Lectionary, or as the occasion dictates, after the responsorial Psalm, the reader removes the Lectionary. The candle bearers go to the altar where the Book of the Gospels has been placed.
- The faithful stand to welcome and acclaim the Word made flesh and to honor the Book of the Gospels, which is a sign of his presence. All sing the Gospel Acclamation which ends when the deacon reaches the ambo.21
- The deacon, accompanied by the thurifer, goes to the priest celebrant. As the congregation begins to sing the Gospel Acclamation, the deacon assists the priest who puts incense into the thurible.22
- After the preparation of the incense, the deacon bows before the priest and asks for the blessing. The priest blesses him with the words, The Lord be in your heart...The deacon answers, Amen.
- When no deacon is present, a concelebrating priest may proclaim the Gospel.24 When no concelebrant is present, the priest celebrant proclaims the Gospel. Unless the celebrant is a Bishop, the concelebrant bows before the altar, praying inaudibly, Almighty God, cleanse my heart ...25
- When the celebrant is the Bishop, the priest asks for the blessing in the same manner as the deacon.26 Everything else is carried out by the concelebrating priest in the same manner as a deacon.
- After receiving the blessing, the deacon, preceded by the thurifer and acolytes with lighted candles or other symbols of reverence that may be customary, takes the Book of the Gospels from the altar and carries it to the ambo, accompanied by the Gospel Acclamation.27
- Once he has reached the ambo and placed the Book of the Gospels on it, with hands joined, he greets the faithful. Acolytes with candles may position themselves on either side of the deacon at the ambo as he proclaims the Gospel.
- Then the deacon announces the reading while making the sign of the cross with his thumb, first on the book at the beginning of the Gospel passage he is about to read, then on his forehead, lips and breast." Together with the deacon who proclaims the Gospel, the faithful sign themselves similarly that the Word may enlighten their minds, cleanse their hearts and open their lips to proclaim the praise of the Lord.28 All present respond with the words:28 Glory to you, Lord. The deacon then incenses the book three times, to the center, left and right.29 The Gospel is then proclaimed in a clear voice.
19. In order to stir the hearts of the faithful and convey the importance of the Gospel itself, the greeting, the announcement of the reading, the concluding acclamation and even the entire Gospel may be sung.30 Musical settings should be easily understood and enhance rather than obscure the meaning of the sacred text.31
- At the end of the Gospel, the deacon proclaims The Gospel of the Lord without raising the book from the stand. All present respond with the words: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.32
- Then the deacon kisses the book, saying in a low voice: "Through the words of the Gospel...."33 If the celebrant is a Bishop, the deacon either may bring the Book of the Gospels to the Bishop, who reverences it with a kiss, or he may kiss the book himself. The Book of the Gospels is then reverently taken to some other suitable place.34
- The Book of the Gospels is not carried in the procession at the end of Mass.
In recent years, the Secretariat for the Liturgy has received numerous inquiries from sufferers of Celiac-Sprue disease whose intolerance for the "gluten" found in wheat breads effectively precludes their reception of the Eucharist under the form of bread. In response to these concerns, the Secretariat has studied this issue carefully and consulted with researchers throughout the United States. Conference officers have, likewise, pursued an active dialogue with various dicasteries of the Holy See.
The following summary of the issues at stake in this important pastoral question are presented to our readership in order to assist Diocesan Offices for Worship in their response to those seeking their assistance.
While each person suffering from Celiac-Sprue disease reacts differently to different amounts of gluten, most doctors advise them to adopt a totally gluten-free diet. This advice is based upon studies which appear to document histologic evidence of inflammatory changes seen on small intestine biopsies when known gluten doses are as low as 100 mg. While it appears that the long term effects of such small inflammatory changes are not readily apparent, some preliminary studies indicate a possible increased rate of cancer with minimal gluten intake, including lymphoma.
Given the need for total abstention from hosts containing gluten, the common advice given to Celiac-Sprue sufferers is to receive the Precious Blood alone. Priests are thus well advised to clearly teach the doctrine of concomitance, the Church's belief that under either species the whole Christ is received. Likewise, priests should recall the right which each Catholic in good standing has to receive Holy Communion (Canon 843). In the light of this right, the Precious Blood must be made available to sufferers of this disease who request it, even if it is not offered to the rest of the congregation.
Additional concerns emerge when the Precious Blood has been "contaminated" with gluten either by the fermentum or intinction. In such instances it is appropriate to provide a separate chalice for the benefit of those unable to tolerate any amount of gluten.
In seeking to respond to this pastoral challenge, many have reexamined the question of "What is valid matter for the Eucharist?" Some have suggested the use of rice flour in place of wheat, or the replacement of the gluten in wheat flour with xanthum gum or some other naturally occurring binding agent.
The Code of Canon Law (924 §2) is of assistance in answering this question:
The bread must be made of wheat alone (mere triticeus) and recently made so that there is no danger of corruption.In a circular letter to Episcopal Conferences dated June 19, 1995, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expanded on this canon in the light of the dilemma faced by sufferers of Celiac Sprue disease:
- Special hosts quibus glutinum ablatum est [in which gluten has been removed] are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist;
- Low-gluten hosts are valid matter, provided that they contain the amount of gluten sufficient to obtain the confection of bread, that there is no addition of foreign materials, and that the procedure for making such hosts is not such as to alter the nature of the substance of the bread.
In the light of the increasing scientific evidence that even a small amount of gluten may be dangerous to sufferers of Celiac Sprue disease many would hesitate to recommend the use of
"low gluten" hosts. Thus the only viable solution seems to be the offering of the Precious Blood to such persons.
Diocesan Directors of Worship are urged to help priests and parish liturgists to be sympathetic to those suffering from this disease and to become sensitive to ways in which they can legitimately assist them in approaching the Lord's table to receive Christ in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.
Liturgical Calendar 2002
The NCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy has prepared the 2002 edition of the liturgical calendar for dioceses of the United States of America. The calendar lists each day's celebration, rank, liturgical color, lectionary citations and Psalm cycle.
For a number of years the information in the annual calendar prepared by the Secretariat was made available only to commercial publishers of other calendars and similar publications in the United States. For the past several years it has been published in an inexpensive format and made available to anyone who wishes a copy.
The Liturgical Calendar 2001 (81/2 x 11", 3 hole punched) can be purchased by writing to: Sister Clelia Cecchetti, SP at the NCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy (see address on the masthead).
All orders must be accompanied by a check made out to "Committee on the Liturgy" in the amount of $7.00 per copy, including printing, postage, and handling. An electronic file of the calendar is available in WordPerfect 9.0 format for $10.
English Language Translation of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani
On April 20, 2000 Pope John Paul II signed an Apostolic Constitution for the promulgation of the editio typica terita of the Missale Romanum. In consideration of the extended efforts required to prepare the new edition of the Missal for publication, the Institutio Generalis will be published as a fascicle shortly after Pentecost 2000.
With the consent of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Committee on the Liturgy commissioned its Secretariat to prepare a study translation of the Institutio Generalis which will be published on the same day as the Latin text. The study translation utilizes the most recent translation by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy except for those parts which have been added or modified in the English text.
In order to make the study translation available to as wide an audience as possible, the Secretariat for the Liturgy has prepared an 81/2 x 11" unbound, three-hole punched and shrink-wrapped edition. Copies may be ordered by sending a check for $12 per copy to Institutio Generalis at the NCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy (see address on the masthead). Dioceses wishing to reproduce the text at their own expense may do so by paying a fee of $5 per copy.