Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Random question re: enthroning the Scriptures

A question came in recently from a reader who wanted to know what happens to the Book of the Gospels outside of Mass. In other words, is it put in a drawer or placed somewhere to be venerated, etc.?  Well, it's actually a very good and timely question for the following because just a few months ago, the Vatican released a document which resulted from a world-wide synod of Catholic bishops who met to discuss the role of the Scriptures in the modern Church. The document, called a "post-synodal apostolic exhortation" (boy, there's a mouthful for ya), is basically the Pope's way of publishing some of the thoughts, decisions and recommendations which came out of the synod.

Pope Benedict XVI blesses the people with a Book of the Gospels during Mass.

One interesting recommendation put forth in the document reads as follows: "The Synod Fathers also proposed that churches give a place of honor to the sacred Scriptures, even outside of liturgical celebrations. It is good that the book which contains the Word of God should enjoy a visible place of honor inside the Christian temple, without prejudice to the central place proper to the tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament." (You can read the complete document here.) Surprisingly, little online "ink" has been spilled discussing this proposition, so I'd like to initiate a little discussion here.

It leaves me with some questions that I think are worth pondering and that I hope you readers can answer in the comments. In no particular order, they are: What do you think of this proposal to enthrone a book of the Scriptures in a place of honor in the church outside of its use during Mass? Does your home parish already do something similar to this? If so, how is it done in your church? (in other words, how and where are the Scriptures enthroned?). I also wonder if there are historical precedence for this.

I know this is somewhat off-topic for our regular fodder on this blog. But in an area like the Deep South, I think that any act that helps to further prove our love and respect for the Scriptures as Catholics (some will even be amazed that this needs to be proven to anyone, but trust me - it does), can go a long way in softening hearts and breaking down walls with some of our more evangelically-minded Christian brothers and sisters. I personally think that this is a great idea from the Synod and I'm glad that it made its way into this document. I think it's possible to envision a time in the near future when many parish churches will have a permanent place of honor and repose for the book of Scriptures outside of Mass -- not unlike the place of honor we give to the holy oils in our ambries -- perhaps near the entrance to the nave or near the sanctuary. It seems to be a natural outgrowth, too, of the liturgical honor paid to the Book of the Gospels during the Mass, as it is processed to the ambo accompanied by candle-bearers and often incensed before being read.

So, chime in on this little exercise in the comments (you're welcome to do so anonymously, if you wish) and lets discuss giving the Scriptures a place of honor in our churches. For now, in most parishes, the Book of the Gospels is put in the sacristy when not in use during Mass. But in the future, either it (or, perhaps a full Bible) may be enthroned in your local parish church in a place of honor, in accordance with the wishes of this synod.