CONGREGATIO DE CULTU DIVINO ET DISCIPLINA SACRAMENTORUM
Prot. N. 602/20
THE SUNDAY OF THE WORD OF GOD
The Sunday of the Word of God,
instituted by Pope Francis and to be held every
year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time, reminds us, pastors and faithful alike, of the importance and value of
Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the
word of God and the liturgy: “As Christians, we are one people, making our
pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who
speaks to us and nourishes us. A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as
a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our
knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to
speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this
reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with Sacred Scripture;
otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, inflicted as we are by
so many forms of blindness”.
This Sunday, therefore, presents an ideal opportunity to reread some of the
Church’s documents and especially the Praenotanda of the Ordo Lectionum Missae,
which present a synthesis of the theological, ritual and pastoral principles
surrounding the word of God proclaimed at Mass, but which is also valid in every
other liturgical celebration (Sacraments, Sacramentals, Liturgy of the Hours).
1. Through the proclaimed biblical readings in the liturgy,
God speaks to his people and Christ himself proclaims his Gospel; Christ is the centre and fullness of all Scripture, both the Old and New
Testaments. Listening to the Gospel, the high point of the Liturgy of the Word, is characterised by a special veneration, expressed not only by gestures and acclamations, but by the Book of the
Gospels itself. One of the ritual possibilities suitable for this Sunday could be the entrance
procession with the Book of the Gospels or simply placing the Book of the Gospels on the altar.
2. The arrangement of the biblical readings laid down by the
Church in the Lectionary opens the way to understanding the entirety of God's
word. It is therefore necessary to respect the readings indicated, without replacing
or removing them, and using only versions of the Bible approved for liturgical
use. The proclamation of the texts of the Lectionary constitutes a bond of unity
between all the faithful who hear them. An understanding of the structure and
purpose of the Liturgy of the Word helps the assembly to receive God’s saving
3. The singing of the Responsorial Psalm, which is the
response of the Church at prayer, is recommended; the psalmist’s function in every community, therefore, should be enhanced.
4. In the homily, beginning with the biblical readings, the
mysteries of faith and the norms of the Christian life are explained throughout
the liturgical year. “Pastors are primarily responsible for explaining Sacred Scripture and helping
everyone to understand it. Since it is the people’s book, those called to be
ministers of the word must feel an urgent need to make it accessible to their
community”. Bishops, priests and deacons must develop a commitment to carry out this
ministry with special dedication, making use of the means proposed by the
5. Particular importance is attached to silence which, by
favouring meditation, allows the word of God to be received inwardly by the
6. The Church has always paid particular attention to those
who proclaim the word of God in the assembly: priests, deacons and readers. This
ministry requires specific interior and exterior preparation, familiarity with
the text to be proclaimed and the necessary practice in the way of proclaiming
it clearly, avoiding all improvisation. It is possible to preface the readings with appropriate and short
7. Because of the importance of the word of God, the Church
invites us to pay special attention to the ambo from which it is proclaimed. It is not a functional piece of furniture, but a place that is in keeping
with the dignity of the word of God, in correspondence with the altar: in fact,
we speak of the table of God’s word and the table of the Body of Christ,
referring both to the ambo and especially to the altar. The ambo is reserved for the readings, the singing of the Responsorial Psalm and
the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet); the homily and the intentions of the
universal prayer can be delivered from it, while it is less appropriate to use
it for commentaries, announcements or for directing singing.
8. The books containing the readings from Sacred Scripture
stir up in those who hear a veneration for the mystery of God speaking to his
people. For this reason, we ask that care be taken to ensure that these books are of a
high quality and used properly. It is never appropriate to resort to leaflets,
photocopies and other pastoral aids as a substitute for liturgical books.
9. In the run up to or in the days following the Sunday of the
Word of God it is fitting to promote formation meetings in order to highlight
the importance of Sacred Scripture in liturgical celebrations; it can be an
opportunity to learn more about how the Church at prayer reads the Sacred
Scriptures with continuous, semi-continuous and typological readings and to
explain the criteria for the liturgical distribution of the various biblical
books in the course of the year and its seasons, as well as what the structure
is of the Sunday and weekday cycles of the readings for Mass.
10. The Sunday of the Word of God is also a fitting occasion to deepen the link
between Sacred Scripture and the Liturgy of the Hours, the praying of the Psalms
and Canticles of the Office, as well as the biblical readings. This can be done
by promoting the community celebration of Lauds and Vespers.
Among the many Saints, all of whom witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Saint
Jerome can be proposed as an example because of the great love he had for the
word of God. As Pope Francis has recalled, he was a “tireless […] scholar,
translator and exegete. [He had a] profound knowledge of the Scriptures, [and]
zeal for making their teaching known. [...] In his attentive listening to the
Scriptures, Jerome came to know himself and to find the face of God and of his
brothers and sisters. He was also confirmed in his attraction to community
The purpose of this Note is to help reawaken, in the light of the Sunday of the
Word of God, an awareness of the importance of Sacred Scripture for our lives as
believers, beginning with its resonance in the liturgy which places us in living
and permanent dialogue with God. “God’s word, listened to and celebrated, above
all in the Eucharist, nourishes and inwardly strengthens Christians, enabling
them to offer an authentic witness to the Gospel in daily life”.
From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,
17 December 2020.
Robert Card. Sarah
✠ Arthur Roche
 Cf. Francis, Apostolic Letter Motu proprio
Aperuit illis, 30 November
Aperuit illis, n. 8; Vatican Council II, Constitution
n. 25: “Therefore, all the clergy must hold fast to the Sacred Scriptures through
diligent sacred reading and careful study, especially the priests of Christ and
others, such as deacons and catechists who are legitimately active in the
ministry of the word. This is to be done so that none of them will become ‘an
empty preacher of the word of God outwardly, who is not a listener to it
inwardly’ since they must share the abundant wealth of the divine word with the
faithful committed to them, especially in the sacred liturgy. The sacred synod
also earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful, especially
Religious, to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the ‘excellent
knowledge of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 3:8). ‘For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ’”.
 Vatican Council II, Constitution
Dei Verbum; Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation
Sacrosanctum Concilium, nn. 7, 33;
Institutio generalis Missalis
Romani (IGMR), n. 29; Ordo lectionum Missae (OLM), n. 12.
 Cf. OLM, n. 5.
 Cf. IGMR, n. 60; OLM, n. 13.
 Cf. OLM, n. 17; Caeremoniale Episcoporum, n. 74.
 Cf. OLM, nn. 36, 113.
 Cf. IGMR, nn. 120, 133.
 Cf. IGMR, n. 117.
 Cf. IGMR, n. 57; OLM, n. 60.
 Cf. OLM, nn. 12, 14, 37, 111.
 Cf. OLM, n. 45.
 Cf. IGMR, n. 61; OLM, n. 19-20.
 Cf. OLM, n. 56.
 Cf. OLM, n. 24; Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,
Homiletic Directory, n. 16.
Aperuit illis, n. 5;
Homiletic Directory, n. 26.
 Cf. Francis, Apostolic Exhortation
Evangelii gaudium, nn. 135-144;
 Cf. IGMR, n. 56; OLM, n. 28.
 Cf. OLM, nn. 14, 49.
 Cf. OLM, nn. 15, 42.
 Cf. IGMR, n. 309; OLM, n. 16.
 Cf. OLM, n. 32.
 Cf. OLM, n. 33.
 Cf. OLM, n. 35; Caeremoniale Episcoporum, n. 115.
 Cf. OLM, n. 37.
 Cf. OLM, nn. 58-110;
Homiletic Directory, nn. 37-156.
 Institutio generalis de Liturgia Horarum, n. 140: “Following ancient tradition, Sacred Scripture is read publicly in the
liturgy not only in the celebration of the Eucharist but also in the Divine
Office. The liturgical reading of scripture is of the greatest importance for
all Christians because it is offered by the Church herself and not by the
decision or whim of a single individual. Within the cycle of a year the mystery
of Christ is unfolded by his Bride […]. In liturgical celebrations prayer always
accompanies the reading of Sacred Scripture”.
 Cf. Francis, Apostolic Letter
Scripturae sacrae affectus, on the
Sixteenth-hundredth Anniversary of the Death of Saint Jerome, 30 September 2020.
 Cf. Francis, Apostolic Exhortation
Evangelii gaudium, n. 174.