“Illumine our heart, O Master who loves mankind, with the pure light of Your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Your gospel teachings… that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, thinking and doing such things that are pleasing to You” (Priest’s prayer)
The Divine Liturgy from the opening through the sermon is called “Liturgy of the Word.” We mean by Word the living Word who is the Son of God having come into the world as Jesus Christ in order to save sinners, the first among them being me. The readings of epistle and gospel are about the Word of God explained for us, a lesson for our instruction; but we might ask:
A. Why does the instruction happen here, when we assemble for the Holy Eucharist;
B. Why is it important to listen to the readings – more than significant – mandatory, so that the Church will never allow the Holy Sacrifice to be offered unless the readings from the Bible precede the Communion?
Readings from Holy Scripture are read in nearly all of the sacred services both liturgical and private. A vital connection bonds Christ as Word with Christ as Living Sacrifice.
“Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you.” (John 15:2)
I hope to receive Holy Communion, but my Lord is telling me that I am already in communion with Him. “Every branch that bears fruit He prunes,” so the afflictions that upset me are for my welfare. I came hoping for relief, to somehow leave Church having shed the pain and anguish that I brought with me for the Lord to remove. He is telling me that I’m being pruned. The dead leaves I’ve been clinging onto must be clipped off. The rotted fruit that gives me only heartburn has to be eliminated from my memory if my soul is to be sweet and I am to be pure again to “taste and see how good the Lord is.” He is telling me: “You are already clean.” Am I really, or is the pollution from my past clogging up the arteries from my mind to my heart? Proleptic phrases are saying that Christ’s point of view is different, since He doesn’t look at me the way I see myself, at this moment in fleeting time when my failings possess me. How can I possibly see what He sees in me, unless I accept the forgiveness that only He can bestow, and then get on beyond this wallowing in my inadequacies and take a seat at His mystical table?
“Because of the Word which I have spoken to you.”
Yes, Lord Jesus, I have heard Your word spoken through Your holy lips two millennia ago, heard and written down by Your chosen apostles to enter my heart by the voice of the deacon, to resonate in my feeble mind and ring a silent sound that stimulated me to take it to heart. That is what You must have meant as remembered and recorded by Your divine apostle John. You entered through my ear to my mind and descended into my heart. Your Word rests there – more than a spoken word, You abide there for my comfort and peace. Your Father in You, You in me and I in You; and wonder of wonders, the heavenly Father, Creator of heaven, earth and of me also in me: All through the power and gift of the Holy Spirit, third Person of the Holy Trinity. Aware of all that, I feel now I am ready to receive You from the sacred chalice.