A digest for the congregation: Your parishioners would like to know some of the historical background behind today's readings. Your parish's liturgy or education commissions, with its clergy, may decide to satisfy that need with the brief introductions below. As lector, you may have to get the organizational ball rolling.
At the liturgy, the presider may speak these before the first and second readings, and before rising for the gospel acclamation. Print this page, cut it at the blue lines, and give the introduction paragraphs to the person who will speak them. The liturgy committee, lector and presider should pay the charge described below.
The Bigger Picture:
|December 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception (Lectionary Cycles A, B & C).
Before the first reading:
The setting here is the familiar story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They've just yielded to the serpent's temptation and eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge.
Between responsorial psalm and second reading:
The letter to the Ephesians was written by a Jewish Christian convert, to Gentile Christian converts. It asserts that God had a long secret plan to reconcile Jews and Gentiles, and that God has just recently revealed that plan in the life, death and rising of Jesus.
Before the gospel acclamation:
[Speak no introduction before today's familiar and straightforward gospel selection.]
To pay for use of the words above, please subtract an equal number of optional words from other places in the liturgy (click here for some suggestions).
Good preparation for the lector would be to read this selection in its slightly larger context. Start reading at Genesis 2:4b, and read all of chapter 3.
You'll see that the story addresses some of humanity's greatest concerns in a series of terse parables:
- How did we come to be here?
- What's our place in the scheme of things?
- Why do men and women long for each other so?
- Why do I feel like I have some power, but not always enough power?
- Why do I fear death?
- How much freedom do we really have?
- Why am I so curious, but why does so much knowledge elude me?
- Can I count on God to take care of me? How much?
As originally written, the verses that comprise today's first reading, and the ones that follow, seem intended to address questions that are more particular, but still big questions:
- Why do we naturally feel shame and why don't we like to be seen naked?
- Who is really responsible for our problems?
- Why are we naturally afraid of snakes?
- Why is childbearing so hard?
- Why is work so hard?
So, now you have an idea of the context. How shall you proclaim this to a congregation assembled on this feast day? Just tell the story. Representing the author of Genesis 3, you're a storyteller with some hard-earned and well thought-out insights into the great questions above. So when you tell the story, you're not just a cub reporter who has interviewed some bystanders. You're a sage. You know the members of your audience and how they wrestle with these questions. Tell them the story to reassure them that, while life is hard, they can trust God. They really can.
The Historical Situation:
Here is another attempt to paint the big picture. Paul's questions are not unlike those of Genesis, just more focused. How does our conversion to Christ fit into God's larger plan? (Much of the letter to Ephesians is about the recent revelation that God's plan was always to bring Gentiles and Jews together in Christ. See other editions of Lector's Notes about Ephesians
This calls for a certain grandness in your proclamation.
And this is another case where your preparation should include a meditative reading of all the verses Paul wrote here, not just the few extracted for the lectionary. So see Ephesians, chapter 1.
|Where are the usual several other commentaries on these passages?
|The Catholics among the authors I like to cite write their columns for people preparing for Sunday Eucharist. When December 8 is a Sunday, the church celebrates Advent and postpones today's observance to a weekday. So there's no Karban, Cleary or Saint Louis U. treatment of this feast's readings.
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Last modified: November 7, 2012