The Importance of The Word
One of the important features of Exeter Cathedral School is our regular Eucharist that’s held in our Cathedral. After all, the School is an Anglican Foundation. Of course, we haven’t been able to have an ECS Eucharist in the Cathedral because of C-19. In this letter, I’m moving on to the third of the five aspects of the Eucharist.
The words you and I use, no matter how seemingly trivial or important though they may seem, can have creative but also destructive. A good listener is the one whose words are spoken gently and creatively – lovingly, indeed. If you’re like me, you’ll remember words you’ve used that you regret and even wish you could take back. The words of great spiritual teachers come from a life-time’s practice in listening and inner stillness. As a Christian my experience is that this particularly true of Jesus. Similar strengths and skills can be seen in the life and history of many religious and spiritual traditions. Jesus’ words were and still are immediate, but they are also perennial – they are applicable in all times. That’s why from the beginnings of Christianity Jesus has been known as The Word – Logos, which means the expression of the Divine in the Present Moment.
The Word in Eucharist
At the third part of the Eucharist, there’s the Ministry of the Word. This is when The Word serves you and me who listen; really listen in as an engaged way that we can. More often than not, there are two readings in the Eucharists. The first comes from either the Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Scriptures, lying at the roots of Judaism and Christianity. The second is always a reading from one of the Gospels: Matthew Mark, Luke or John. The choice of the readings depends on the season of the year. In order to listen deeply to The Word, I think it helps to read in advance what will be read at a Eucharist. That, of course, is not always possible. However, on a Sunday, when you are at a Eucharist you will be able to find what the readings are for the following Sunday. Even if you only read the Gospel in advance, you will find benefit when you read it gently to yourself. That allows the reading in the Eucharist to drop down into your consciousness and become part of you.
The Gospel Reading
At the Eucharist, when the Gospel is said, it’s introduced by the singing of ‘Alleluia’ which underlines the central significance of Christ as The Word, as told in the Gospel passage chosen for the day. At that point, everyone present turns to face the person who reads from Gospel Book from which the passage is read.
Following immediately on the Gospel is the Sermon. The word ‘sermon’ is probably a combination of an address, which is joined by those who listen. There’s an expectation that at that moment, when the priest with all present, join together in the presence of Christ in The Word as it applies to way we live the Christ-like life. Although the sermon may contain some teaching, it’s about energising the people listening to be more and more confident in the Christ within them.
Bishop Martin Shaw