General and Introductory Materials
Part 3 Theological Issues

Chapter d37 The Role of Sacred Scripture in the Liturgy

Preliminary Questions


Time Line - Early Christian Writings and Events

General Notes on Sacred Scripture

The Role of Scripture in the Liturgy

Biblical Spirituality

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

"Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." (Constitution on Divine Revelation, 25, quoting St. Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah, Prol.: PL 24,17)

What role does Sacred Scripture play in your prayer?  Do you have a system for reading the Scriptures or do you just "open the book and read?"

What role does Scripture play in your communal prayer? How is the Bible read during the course of the year?  Were you interested in reading the Bible when you were an adolescent? Why or why not?

What have you been taught about the structure of the Lectionary? What is the relation between the Lectionary and the liturgical year? Do you see any value in an ecumenical Lectionary?

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Some things I have written on the Bible and the Liturgy

68. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. "The Lectionary and the Liturgical Year: How Catholics Read Scripture," Scripture from Scratch, Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, July, 1995. Text available at

The importance of Scripture in the Liturgical Year is explained in Chapter y13 Overview of the Liturgical Year

The manner in which the Bible is read at the liturgy is explained in Chapter y15 The Roman Calendar and The Roman Lectionary

On-line Resources

Bible Study Spot contains links to about everything you would want relating to the Bible.

The Vatican web-site has a biblical concordance at

The Carmelite Order launched a three-language Internet site with Scripture meditations for each Sunday of the liturgical year, in Cycles A-C.

Saint Martha parish in Kingwood Texas has a great website with online Bible study links and many other links to scripture


An excellent site for background to the Sunday readings and other useful information for preparing your homily can be found at The Center for Liturgy at St. Louis University


The Catholic Lectionary Website by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.  contains an extensive analysis of the amount of Scripture in the Lectionary now and 1962.

Roman Documents

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy ("Sacrosanctum Concilium"), December 4, 1963.

Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation ("Dei Verbum"), November 18, 1965.  The complete text is available on the Vatican website at;

Books and Articles 

Gaillardetz, Richard R.  By What Authority?  A Primer of Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Sense of the Faithful.  Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 2003.  ISBN 0-8146-2872-9  ($14.59)  [Chapter 1.  What Does It Mean to Say the Bible Is Inspired?  Chapter 2.  What Is the Canon of the Bible?  Chapter 3.  What Is the Relationship between Scripture and Tradition?]

David Power.  The Word of the Lord: How Liturgy Uses Scripture

Catechetical Materials

Scripture from Scratch. St. Anthony Messenger Press. A basic bible study program on video cassette. The program contains eight two-hour video cassettes for a total of 16 hours of basic Bible study. Each videocassette contains two one-hour sessions. Each session lasts about 60 minutes and includes a 15-minute period of questions and answers The basic Scripture From Scratch program includes 16 hours of informational and inspirational talks (on eight VHS video cassettes), one Participant's Manual and one Facilitator's Manual. The cost is $299.95. Additional Participant's Manuals are $11.95 each and Facilitator's Manuals are $3.95 each. An inexpensive Preview Videocassette ($4.95) is available. St. Anthony Messenger Press; 1615 Republic Street; Cincinnati OH 45210 (call toll free: 1-800-488-0488, fax 1-513-241-0399).

Sunday to Sunday. An effective new video resource for studying the Sunday lectionary readings. Designed for active group discussion. Each video package contains programming for two months. Each weekly program features a Scripture scholar, interpretive Bible readings, and an application of the Scriptures to daily living. To receive an introductory tape for only $9.85, contact: Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association, 3031 Fourth Street, NE Washington, DC 20017-1102. Phone 202-832-5022. Also available bimonthly on audio cassettes for $19.95.

Share the Word. Exegesis of the Sunday Readings and Homily background information. Published bimonthly. Available free from Share the Word, 3031 Fourth Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20017-1102.

Bible Study Spot contains links to about everything you would want relating to the Bible.

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Time Line -- Early Christian Writings and Events

30 Death of Jesus
30-60 Preaching of Peter and Paul
50 "Q" written
56? Death of Paul (or 60?)
60 PHILIPPIANS - PHILEMON - Gospel of Thomas. Death of Peter
69 Ignatius become bishop of Antioch
69 Clement of Rome (69-70? 96?)
70 Major revolt - fall of Jerusalem - Titus destroyed the temple - Judaism founded
70 MARK - LETTER TO THE HEBREWS - Epistle of (Pseudo-) Barnabas (70-135?)
90 Council of Jamnia - MATTHEW - LUKE/ACTS - JOHN - I PETER.
105 Didache - II PETER
107 Ignatius of Antioch written
120 Shepherd Hermes
125 Earliest surviving gospel fragments P52
150 Polycarp of Smyrna
200 Earliest surviving fragments of Matthew and Luke
300 Codex Sinaiticus - earliest surviving complete New Testament (discovered 1844)
313 Edict of Constantine

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General Notes on Sacred Scripture

1. Scripture - Not a book but a library.

2. Stages of Theological development

a. the experience (conversion / paschal mystery)
b. sing the experience (metaphor)
c. pray and reflect and tell and retell
d. write it down
e. analyze the experience: catechism / dogma / systematic theology
f. exegete the writing - literary criticism / historical theology

3. Outline of the Historical Periods used by Fuller

a. Before Christ
b. Life of Jesus
c. Baptism in the Post-Paschal Community
d. The Hellenistic Church Aside from Paul
e. The Pauline Homologoumena
f. The Deutero-Pauline and Early Catholic Literature


4. Outline of the Historical Periods used by Brown (Raymond E. Brown, The Churches the Apostles Left Behind. New York: Paulist Press, 1984.)

a. I Thessalonians, Galatians, I & II Corinthians (50­­'s), Romans, Philippians, Philemon (60­­'s)
b. The Pauline Heritage in the Pastoral Epistles
c. The Pauline Heritage in Colossians / Ephesians
d. The Pauline Heritage in Luke / Acts
e. The Petrine Heritage in I Peter
f. The Heritage of the Beloved Disciple in the Fourth Gospel
g. The Heritage of the Beloved Disciple in the Epistles
h. The Heritage of Jewish/ Gentile Christianity in Matthew

5. Exegesis

a. plot / theme
b. text and context
c. author and author's context
d. audience and audience's context
e. literary form or genre
f. date and context

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The Role of Scripture in the Liturgy

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy ("Sacrosanctum Concilium"), December 4, 1963.

24. Sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from Scripture that the readings are given and explained in the homily and that the psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration; it is from the Scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the reform, progress, and adaptation of the liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for Scripture to which the venerable tradition of both Eastern and Western rites gives testimony.

51. The treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that a richer share in God­­'s word may be provided for the faithful.  [Flannery's translation:  "... so that a richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word."]  In this way a more representative portion of holy Scripture will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years. 

Our current Lectionary contains 14% of the Old Testament and 71% of the New Testament (85% of the Bible); whereas the Missal of 1963 (the Missal in use before our current Lectionary) contained only 01% of the Old Testament and 17% of the New Testament (18% of the Bible).  This new arrangement was to implement SC 51)

General liturgical principle - real presence in the word - Glory to you, Lord. - "To accomplish so great a work Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, "the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross," but especially in the eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised ­'wh ere two or three are gathered together in my name there I am in the midst of them.­­­'" (Vatican Council II. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 7. DOL 7.)  For further information on Anamnesis see  Chapter d18 Glossary of Liturgical Terms

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Biblical Spirituality

A method for the prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture

Biblical spirituality is a way of life directed by the Holy Spirit who is manifested and communicated through the Bible.  Biblical spirituality is rooted in a prayerful reading of the Bible.  The following might be helpful for reading the Bible prayerfully.  It outlines the three steps in the composition of the Bible to show how by working back through them, we can arrive at an experience of God.

Part One:  The Composition of the Bible

Step one:  Experience.  There was an original experience of God working from within history.  This involves the reaction of faith by the individual or group that had the experience.

Step two:  Theological Reflection.  Next there followed a period of reflection, animated by faith, upon the data revealed in the experience.

Step three:  Writing.  Finally the experience with its concomitant reflection was put into words and written down for the community. 

Part Two:  Prayerful Reading of the Bible

Step one:  Writing. What does the text mean?   First we must understand the text as an expression of the writer's experience of God.  What does the text itself mean?  What is its purpose?  Why did the author write it?  What is the writer trying to say about God?

Step two:  Theological Reflection.  What does it mean to me?   The second step involves personal, theological, and spiritual reflection on the text:  a sharing in the sacred author­­'s faith-reaction.  What does the text mean to me?  This prepares me to become assimilated to the mystery I am contemplating.  Sharing with others is often very helpful for getting the feel of a text at this second step. 

Step three: Experience.  Pray for the experience.  The object of step three is to contact the religious experience, the saving event, the mystery happening for me and to me.  Here, in prayer, we open ourselves to the Spirit as the Spirit makes me aware of God present to me at this moment in my life:  saving, re-creating, forgiving, loving, and promising.  Here the mystery becomes real and leads me to union with God through Christ in the Spirit - which is the object of all prayer and good work.

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To Think About

1.  Anscar Chupunco says that in our culture we normally eat first and then sit around and talk. He has suggested that at Eucharist the meal sharing more properly comes before the story telling. What do you think about this arrangement for the structure of eucharist?

2.  "Like Phoebe (Rom 16:1), Prisca (1 Cor 16:19), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2-3), Nympha (Col 4:15), Mary (Rom 16:6), Junia (Rom 16:7), Tryphaena and Tryphosa (Rom16:12), who were Paul's co-workers, religious Sisters collaborate with the Church's ordained ministers as catechists and lay pastoral ministers."

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 06/10/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at