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Approaching Mystery 3: Liturgy of the Word


Tom Plant

on 27 February 2013

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Transcript of Approaching Mystery 3: Liturgy of the Word

ET VERBUM CARO FACTUM EST What does the phrase 'Word of God' mean to you? Today, we're going to look at the meaning of the Word of God in early Church history, the liturgy, and private prayer. So first, a bit of history. The Jews of Jesus' time, as now, regarded Scripture as the Word of God. They call their Scripture the 'Tenakh' or 'Tanakh.' Bearing in mind that Hebrew has no vowels, the word is spelt TNK: an acronym for the three sections of the Jewish scriptures. Torah, the Law;
Nebi'im, the prophets;
and Kethuvim, the writings. Chief among these is the Torah, written on sacred scrolls which are brought out of the Ark where they are kept to be read at the Sabbath service, with great reverence. Early Christians, on the other hand, wrote down the bits of Scripture they needed for their services on codices, common workers' notebooks. What does this imply about the different value of Scripture for traditional Jews and early Christians?
What replaced the Torah as the high point of the sabbath service? A hint from Christian Scripture: Et Verbum caro factum est. Jn 1.14 'And the Word was made Flesh.' For Christians, Jesus is the living Word of God. He is the living embodiment of God's Law: He is our Torah. The Eucharist became the high point of Christian sabbath worship, relativising the words of Scripture to sacramental communion with the living Word. The Liturgy of the Word in the Eucharist But this is not to say that Scripture is unimportant: far from it. The Liturgy of the Word follows the following format in all traditional churches, the Anglican church included: 1. Old Testament
2. Psalms
3. Epistle
4. Gospel
5. Sermon We hear the voice of the prophets; we sing together the prayer of the Psalms; we hear the Apostles; and finally we hear of Christ Himself, in the Gospel and in the living interpretation of the Church. The Gospel is given particular veneration, because it is the closest account in human words we have of the teachings of the divine and living Word, Jesus Christ. In historic churches, it is brought among the people, as Christ was incarnate among us; it may be venerated with incense and a kiss; and it is traditionally read or sung by an ordained Deacon. Here is a helpful summary of the place of the Gospel in the liturgy from a Roman Catholic perspective. And here, we see the practice of veneration of the Gospel from one of the oldest traditions and closest to ancient practice, that of the Orthodox Church. The Liturgy of the Word leads us to encounter with Christ in Communion. But we can also hear the living Word of Christ today, through Scripture. Many practices of praying with Scripture have developed in the history of the Church. In the next presentation, we are going to try one of these together. Since the Reformation, the Church of England has always given a particularly high regard to Scripture. It has not fully embraced the Protestant maxim of 'Scriptura Sola,' but places Scripture at the head of a triangle of: Scripture Tradition Reason
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