Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Lectoring With Style And Grace

To be an effective lector calls for adequate preparation that includes study, prayer, and practice. A lector is given the task of approaching with reverence that complex body of sacred literature we call the Scriptures, once described by St. Augustine as “of mountainous difficulty and enveloped in mysteries.” St. Isidore of Seville, a doctor of the Church, wrote that a lector should be “deeply versed in doctrine and books and thoroughly adorned with the knowledge and meaning of words” so that the reading “would move the minds and feelings” of the listeners.

Unless the readings are done well, people will not hear God's voice speaking through these texts and be truly nourished at the table of the word. So the work of the lector is essential, and it cannot be assumed that all have this talent.

The office of lector is also a ministry. The word ministry, also from the Latin, means to serve, and offers another perspective on the role of the lector: a form of service to the community. What this means is that the role of the lector does not belong to the presider but to others who have been called to serve in this particular way.

The ministry of lector continues the mission of preaching the word by proclaiming it in the liturgical assembly. Lectors do this “in the service of the faith.” The words Paul wrote to the Romans about the importance of preaching can also be heard to apply to lectors: “How shall they call on the Lord in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe unless they have heard of him? And how shall they hear unless there is someone to preach?... Faith, then, comes through hearing and what is heard is the word of Christ” (Rom 10:14,17).

Observations and Ruminations

When you think of preparing to lector, it may seem the main task is to practice the readings aloud. But preparing to lector involves not only speech preparation but also spiritual preparation. How then do we go about in preparing to lector?

Spiritual Preparation
The print on the page can be translated into sound coming from your mouth, but the reading has not passed through your head, heart, or soul. To avoid this happening, the first stage of preparing to lector is to engage in some kind of spiritual preparation. Spiritual preparation includes:
  1. Prayer – Pray continuously, unceasingly and let God’s voice permeate in your whole being
  2. Listen to the Word - For the word of God to be given expression through us, we have to allow it to make an impression on us. Before speaking the word of God to others, you have to listen it yourself – a deep down listening.
  3. Study the Word – Study the text with the help of biblical commentaries. Get the pronunciation right. Find out the meaning of the word as well.
  4. Praying with the Word – Throughout this time of spiritual preparation, you might find yourself drawn toward prayer. Continue praying with the Word.
Speaking Preparation
Reading at Mass is an act of public address. It is a speech act, even though the words you speak are not your own. They are recognised and accepted by the Church as “The word of the Lord.” And so, it is crucial that the word of God be proclaimed in a style of speaking that communicates. Speaking preparation includes:
  1. The requirements of the text – There are certain genres, or types of readings, that share characteristics appropriate to their form. Among the genres lectors commonly encounter are the story, the letter, and the poem. Each of these has its demands.
  2. The requirements of the listener – Includes Voice Quality, Vocal Variety, Rhythm, Intonation, Diction, Pace, Pause, and Person-contact rather than eye contact.
  3. The requirements of the space or setting – Includes microphone matters, familiarity of text, and much more.
Ultimately, as a lector, one should strive to transform from a skill level to a work of art, so that one would be able to read well, clearly, meaningfully and captivatingly. May our lectors improve in their efforts, and proclaim the Word of God as it is meant to be listened.

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