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The Liturgy of the Word: Acclamation Before the Gospel
After the First (and, in some cases, Second) Reading and the Responsorial Psalm, the readings take a turn for the Paschal: outside of Lent the Alleluia frames a verse from Scripture or stands on its own to rejoice that the Gospel is about to be proclaimed.
The Acclamation before the Gospel
When someone illustrious for whom everyone is gathered comes into a room and prepares to speak, people often rise to their feet and applaud. The Acclamation before the Gospel, as a sacred minister representing Christ proceeds to the ambo to proclaim his Word, is a sort of standing ovation to welcome the Man of the hour, and, truly the Man of history who is about to speak through the sacred minister: Jesus Christ.
The readings take a Paschal turn when it’s time for the Gospel to be proclaimed. Christ is the Pasch, the Paschal Lamb, and during the Acclamation, our postures and prayers reflect that. We ordinarily rise to our feet during the Easter season more often than other liturgical seasons, so at every Mass, before Christ speaks in His Gospel, we rise to our feet during the Acclamation.
We frame the verse before the Gospel with Alleluias, the most succinct Paschal expression of joy and praise. We don’t say the Alleluia during Lent, but we still frame the verse with some other praise for Christ. We can imagine the lack of Alleluias during Lent as building up to Easter anticipation and stocking them Alleluias for a veritable explosion of them in the prayers of the Easter season, symbolizing the explosion of joy and praise at the news of the Resurrection when sin and death are conquered.
At the beginning and end of the Easter Season, a Sequence is also sung or recited commemorating lyrically the mysteries of Christ and the Holy Spirit that are being celebrated. On those occasions, the Sequence is a required prayer, but this tradition has also inspired Sequences on other special liturgical occasions as well. Outside of Mass, these Sequences are wonderful prayers and sources of meditation.
All these attitudes, postures, and prayers are a preparation for a Christ-centered moment.
Welcoming the Man of the Hour
In John’s Gospel Our Lord often speaks about his Hour to come. It is the Hour of His Passion and Death, but, in John’s mind, the moment of his exaltation and glory as well. We don’t just welcome him in His Word with a standing ovation during the Acclamation, but with a standing “exaltation.” The Paschal Lamb was slain, to take away the sins of the world, and we exalt and glorify him for that, just as Our Heavenly Father exalted and glorified him. Easter only has meaning in the Man of the Hour, making it happen, not just for himself, but for all of us.
This moment can help us to learn to change gears in every moment of our spiritual life: to not just lend a fleeting thought to God in general, distant and seemingly indifferent, but to acknowledge that he has drawn near to us not only in history but in our personal history. When he draws near he merits our exaltation and glory. Let’s not only welcome him with a standing “exaltation” in Mass but whenever he draws near to us.
Sometimes he’s already near, and adopting a Paschal attitude and making a standing “exaltation” is the perfect way to acknowledge that in our lives. Let’s not be shy about recognizing the Man of the Hour.