Accipit et Tradit

Accipit et Tradit,” these are the rubrics from the institution of lectors when the bishop takes up the Bible which he will place in the hands of the men to be instituted.[1] Rubrics take their name from the red ink used in liturgical books to distinguish the description of an action from the prayers to be read aloud. As the adage goes, “do the red and say the black.” It is in this instance, however, that the rubrics “say” exactly what the Church is about to pray for and command of the man to be instituted as a lector. Lector is a ministry in the Church whereby one is commissioned to proclaim the Word of God to the world. This finds its highest and most visible expression in the performance of the readings at Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours, but the ministry is not limited to a liturgical function. What is demanded by the Church in this ministry is a lifetime commitment to reading and preaching the Word of God, a commitment which is modeled in the rubrics referenced above. Accipit et tradit means to receive and hand on, or if we wish to be more literal, to accept and to tradition. The words are listed in careful order. Since we cannot give what we do not have, we must receive the Word of God in order to hand it on. There is a temporal link such that we must first listen attentively to the Word of God so that we may then be able to preach it. The order of the words might suggest, however, that the two instructions, receive and hand on, listen and preach, are also ordered by importance. The lector is primarily receptive to the Word of God, not just in temporal consequence, but by the nature of his ministry. The first words we hear from the lector are always, “a reading from…” He thus reminds us that the words are not his own, that he too is a recipient of the word he proclaims. The Church provides clear expectations regarding the lector’s mode of receptivity to the Word of God: “Meditate on it constantly, so that each day you will have a deeper love of the Scriptures.”[2] His capacity to give voice to the Word of God stems from a life of daily meditation. To receive the ministry of lector means to accept the call and responsibility to be set aside as a man of prayer in the Church. Daily prayer is his primary service to the Church, a service made visible in the proclamation of the readings in the liturgy, which is always an act of adoration. The commission to preach and teach is an act of handing on the tradition, which depends on the existence of those who have sat receptively at the feet of Jesus. By performing that primary duty of meditation, he is able to properly and reverently articulate the Word of God by teaching the faithful through speech and action, so that the Word of God might grow strong in their hearts and they might be prepared to receive the sacraments worthily. Please pray for the men in formation, that remaining steadfast in prayer, we might grow daily in our love for the scriptures and be shaped into courageous preachers of the love of God.

[1] Pontificale Romanum (1595-1596). Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997.

[2] Roman Pontifical. International Commission on English in the Liturgy, 1978.

Seminarian Matthew Kelly

About the Author: Seminarian Matthew Kelly

Matthew Kelly is currently in 1st Theology studying at the Gregorian University and is in formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.