Scripture


At the heart of the people of God,
Holy Scripture is the substance of liturgical texts.

Holy Scripture is made up of the Old Testament (common to both Jews and Christians) and the New Testament, which includes the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, Epistles written by apostles and the Revelation of Saint John. This priceless gem, a superbly detailed history of the People of God culminating with the mystery of Christ, is venerated by all Christians. Yet, while the Protestants consider that reading the Bible is enough to nourish their faith in salvation, the Catholics gain access to Scripture only by means of the Tradition which created it and which has carried it down the ages, according to the Church's living teaching and especially thanks to the liturgy.

There are, then, numerous editions of the Bible, which vary according to different confessions. Catholic editions always include notes of explanation, inspired by the living Tradition of the Church. During the last two decades, some marvelous ecumenical translations have been made, with notes which point out, when necessary, the different churches' interpretations; this is an important step towards Christian unity.

Roman Catholic liturgy is extremely biblical, perhaps even more so than the liturgy of the eastern churches, whose large number of long prayers are still inspired by the Scriptures; the Book of Psalms is the great inspiration behind the celebration of the "Hours". The liturgy of the Word, the first part of the mass and of other offices, consists of readings taken from the Bible, and the most important among them is always a passage from the Gospels.

These readings, which are essential for a true understanding of the liturgy, must be done with skill and respect; the lector is an officially appointed minister. The proclamation of the Gospel is reserved for the celebrant, or for the assisting deacon, and is accompanied by various rites.

The evangelistary is a book worthy of its role, beautifully but soberly bound and decorated. It is laid on the altar at the beginning of the mass, then carried in procession to the ambo (from the Greek anabaino, "to go up"), the place of the Word. The cathedra, positioned near the middle of the nave, is used to perform this function.

Nowadays, the ambo is placed in the sanctuary, not far from the altar, so that both parts of the mass work together in the best possible way. It consists of a slightly raised platform, equipped with a lectern, from which the lectors and the cantor the deacons and the celebrant address the congregation. The oldest churches in Rome have preserved magnificent ambos, such as Saint Clement's, which dates to the twelfth century.

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