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Chapter 29: Prayer: The Fundamental Category of Christian Action

Appendix 2: Sacred Scripture in the liturgy

Because the redemptive act of Jesus is the culminating revelatory sign and because Scripture is the primary literary expression of divine revelation, it is appropriate that the liturgy, which makes the redemptive act present to us for our participation, make abundant use of Scripture. Because God’s revelation in Jesus also includes the perfectly appropriate human response to his love, Scripture is used in the liturgy not only as the means by which God speaks to us, but also as the means by which we in turn speak to him. God speaks to us especially in the Liturgy of the Word; with Jesus we respond most especially in the psalms and other scriptural prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours (see SC 6, 7, and 83–84).

The revelation of God’s redeeming love is proclaimed in the words of Scripture and carried out by the deeds of the sacraments (see SC 6); the worshipping response of Jesus as head and the Church as his body is expressed in words certainly acceptable to the Father, since drawn from Scripture, and carried out by a liturgy of Christian life united with the redeeming life of our Lord Jesus (see Rom 12.1–2).

As divine communication, the liturgy brings heaven to earth, most especially by the real presence of Jesus in glory in the Eucharist; as human response, the liturgy brings the earthly Church and all of her participating children into the heavenly courts, to sing with the angels (see SC 8; also, the ending of all Prefaces). Thus a real continuity between Christian life in this world and in heaven is attained in the liturgy.

The reading and hearing of Scripture within the liturgy is, in a special sense, sacramental. It is Jesus “himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church” (SC 7). This presence, of course, is mediated by the one who proclaims the word in the name of the Lord, and who makes his own role clear by the concluding assertion: “This is the word of the Lord” or “This is the gospel of the Lord.” If Jesus appeared to us “live” on a television screen and we heard him through its speaker, we would not doubt that he speaks to us now and we hear him doing so. God has chosen instead to use the better instrument of a living human person. We ought not to allow this medium to detract from our sense of the real presence of Jesus when we listen to him speaking in the liturgy.

Science is not in science books; it is in the minds and activities of people who do science. Operas are not in their printed scripts, but only in their staged performances. Similarly, the communication which is revelation and faith is not actual in the text of Scripture as a literary document but rather in the careful reading and prayerful hearing of the word, primarily in the liturgy, and then by extension in personal prayer. For this reason, study of Scripture which is in continuity with the liturgy—as the faithful study of Scripture can and ought to be—is itself an important form of prayer (see DV 21 and 25).