Taste and See: Alive by God’s word

hagia sophia

Yesterday’s blog concerned the first of the two alternative Gospel Acclamation in the Lectionary for Mass on the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The other alternative Acclamation is the subject of today’s blog.

Alleluia, alleluia!
Open our heart, O Lord,
to accept the words of your Son.
Alleluia!
cf.Acts 16:14

The reflection is simply this. How hard is it to have our hearts open and so to hear, and then accept, the words of God’s Son. How hard to hear the words that are already rather familiar?

How many times, for example, had you already heard yesterday’s parable of the kindly landowner? And so did you feel the need to listen carefully, or was there a feeling of ‘I know this one…’ And a drifting off to think of other things? Distractions come so easily.
And even if they don’t, it requires a certain readiness to let the words we hear raise questions about us: to let the reading be about ‘me’ and not just about ‘them’. About me and my relationship with God and neighbour, and not some more or less abstract moral teaching that is proffered for the good of the community, but may well not have anything much to do with me.
The wonder of the scriptures proclaimed is that this is a sacramental encounter offered to us. Jesus really speaks through the form of story and teaching; speaks personally and individually to each one present.
Hearing him, and not just the words, is not easy, and so yesterday we had the opportunity, even as we stood and sang to greet the gospel, to pray for help for openness and attentiveness of heart and mind and person to hear and accept Jesus’ speaking to us collectively, and to each one individually.
What did you hear yesterday?
What are you doing with what you heard, to take it deeper?
And if you did not hear, why might that be? Maybe go back to the gospel today, in a time of personal prayer. Seeking again, to be open to the Lord who welcomes you with love.

Speak Lord: as we sing your praises.

Heavenly host

The Gospel Acclamation we may sing at Mass today, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, reminds what that acclamation is all about.

Alleluia, alleluia!
Blessings on the King who comes,
in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest heavens!
Alleluia!

cf.Lk19:38,2:14

The verse explains the meaning of our acclamation of the Gospel.

In this acclamation we greet the Lord who has already spoken to us in a more hidden or obscure way through readings from the inspired writings of the people of Israel and from the earliest Christians, and who now speaks to us more directly in the words of the Gospel. It is the same Lord Jesus, God’s Word, who speaks through readings from the Old and New Testament. But now, in the Gospel reading,  the words are accounts of his teaching, of his life and the impact he has on others. We more easily and, again, directly, recognise his personal presence.

And because of the primacy of the Gospel reading in the Liturgy of the Word, we stand to greet and hear it; we sing words of praise to greet the Gospel; we have a dialogue which again gathers and focuses us so we might hear the words well, and take the Word to heart, and respond in prayer.

In the Catholic tradition we sing Alleluia to greet the Gospel – except during Lent. The Orthodox retain it even in Lent.

Often people have sung it for years and never wondered what the word means. Our English word is a transliteration of the Hebrew הללו יה and simply means ‘Praise God’. The mellifluousness of the word lends itself to enthusiastic singing. That said, the singing of Alleluia can sometimes seem tired and unenthusiastic: going through the motions but seeming not to mean a word of it!

Maybe today at Mass we can recover the deep praise and gratitude evoked by the verse and the ancient Hebrew word. And maybe include a (quieter?) singing of the word in our daily prayer, singing the praise of God to gather ourselves for the time of prayer, or at its conclusion.

Maybe we more often think of angels singing ‘Glory to God’ or ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’. Listen carefully. The stone angels in the picture above are singing ‘Alleluia’, apart, that is, from the ones blowing their trumpets! Photograph shows detail of carving at the West door of St Trophime, Arles. (c) Allen Morris, 2014.