“Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,

By David Trumbull

( We here at SaveOurCatholicChurch.com are proud to present another in what we hope will be a continuing series of offerings from a noted local writer here in Boston. Mr. Trumbull is a “converted” Roman Catholic, hence he actually approached his baptism “with reason and heart”…choosing to be a Catholic, choosing to come to Rome. As a convert to Catholicism he joins many notables such as Johann Christian Bach, Robert Bork, Tony Blair, G.K. Chesterton, Graham Greene, Newt Gingrich, Dietrich Von Hildebrand, Russell Kirk, Malcolm Muggeridge, John Henry Newman and Robert Novak.    I personally consider David’s thoughtful intelligence just as great as any of these men listed. I’m serious. If we’re fortunate enough to have him write for SOCC.com enough times – you’ll be just as sure as I am on this.  – Allan Gillis )

 

ezra-read-the-law

David Trumbull writes:

The verse which captions this article is from Nehemiah Chapter 8 and was the first reading at Mass a few weeks ago. “Interpreting it,” what does that mean, and why is it relevant to readers of http://saveourcatholicchurch.com/? We are not theologians nor scholars. Nor was Ezra, at least not in his capacity on the day described in the passage, which states “Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand.” Did he then “interpret” the law by giving a homily, as do our priests at Mass? If so, the passage would seem to have little direct application to us lay men. I cannot rule out that possibility. But I prefer to understand the passage another way.

“Ezra read plainly from the book.” Aside from the impracticality, in ancient times, of giving everyone in the assembly a missalette, not to mention the fact that not all could read, there is a reason Ezra read aloud to the assembly. Throughout the scriptures, God calls his people with the spoken Word. The written word comes later as a memorial of the event. So, today, in the Mass, before we receive Christ in the Eucharist we encounter God in the spoken Word. “When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel” — General Instruction of the Roman Missal Number 29.( http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/general-instruction-of-the-roman-missal/girm-chapter-2.cfm).

I am suggesting that Ezra was a lector, a ministry that perhaps you perform at your local parish. If you are not a lector, I want you to consider whether this ministry is for you.

Recently, I had an Ezra experience, when, after a Mass at which I read, someone came up and praised my reading. (That’s always awkward, it’s about the message, not the messenger.) After my customary, “It’s not me it’s the best material” response, she said, “But when you read it, it makes sense.” Knock me over with a feather! No wonder so many worshippers follow along in the missalette (not in itself a bad thing); they don’t understand what they are hearing from the lecturn!

The ministry of lector requires much preparation, is downright frightening to execute, and emotionally draining once dispatched. It is also tremendously satisfying to breathe life into a passage so that people hear it, perhaps for the first time, as the lively Word of God, not an old text that comes ‘round the cycle every three years at about this time of year. Among the myriad crises in the church, one must choose carefully which few to personally throw oneself into the breach. For me the ministry of lector is one of those few. I urge others to consider it.

“Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read. Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people: ‘Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep’— for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.”

One thought on ““Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,

  1. Allan Gillis

    Well-said David! But, one can only consider it as a task at a Novus Ordo parish. The Extrordinary Form Mass doesn’t mix laity with clergy. There is a very clear job description for each and a very clear delineation between that which consecrated hands and trained minds do at Mass. I fear for the impact blurring these roles has had on the liturgy and the church as a whole.

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