The History of Mass Traditions

Rev. William O'Brien, C.M

On Sundays, some feast days, and on special occasions, e.g. a wedding or funeral, God speaks to us in a second reading. This reading will come from an Epistle, the Acts of the Apostles, or the Book of Revelation.

There is often a connection between the first reading and the Gospel; there is usually no direct  link between the second reading and the other two.

In accord with the tradition of the Church, all stand for the Gospel as well as for its preparatory acclamation– usually the Alleluia, except during Lent.

Standing is a sigh of readiness, of our baptismal dignity, and of the resurrection of Christ and the promise of our own resurrection.

The word “Alleluia” comes from the Hebrew and means “Praise Yahweh.” This is not a response to the readings that went before; rather, it looks ahead to the reading of the Gospel. It is a joyful shout or acclamation in anticipation of hearing the words of Christ coming to us through one of the four Gospels.

Since it is suppose to be a joyful shout or acclamation, the word “Alleluia” should never be said always sung. If it is not sung, it should be omitted. If the Book of the Gospels has been carried in the entrance procession and placed on the altar, the priest goes to the middle of the altar.

Bowing, he prays, inaudibly: “Almighty God, cleanse my heart and my lips so that I may  worthily  proclaim you Gospel.” He then carries the book to the ambo at the conclusion of the singing of the Alleluia.

After greeting the people- “The Lord be with you” and receiving the response-”And also with you,” the priest (deacon) says, “A reading from the Holy Gospel according to…” While saying this, he makes the sign of the cross first on the book , then on his forehead, lips, and breast. The people make the response, “Glory to you Lord.”

The gesture of signing the book and then the forehead, lips, and heart, indicates our desire that we grasp the words of Jesus with our minds, speak with our lips, and believe with our hearts.