In the past I attended a church where at the end of the Scripture reading, the reader would say:
This is the Word of the Lord
And the congregation would respond:
Thanks be to God
Does anyone know the origins of this tradition?
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The origin of this particular form is the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (General Instruction of the Roman Missal), the document "governing the celebration of Mass of the ordinary form of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church since 1969." (1)
Here's the English translation from the latest edition of said document:
- After the collect, all sit. The priest may, very briefly, introduce the faithful to the Liturgy of the Word. Then the lector goes to the ambo and, from the Lectionary already placed there before Mass, proclaims the first reading, to which all listen. At the end, the lector says the acclamation, Verbum Domini (The word of the Lord), and all respond, Deo gratias (Thanks be to God). (General Instruction of the Roman Missal)
(Prior to 1991, Verbum Domini was translated as "This is the Word of the Lord.") (3)
Episcopalians have adopted it into the liturgical rubric. Lutherans as well. There are probably others. But generally, we can thank the Roman Catholics and Vatican II.
Conceptually, the origin is scripture.
But the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:25)
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)
"Thanks be to God" is, in its Latin form "Deo gratias", used after the epistle reading in the traditional Catholic (Latin) mass, which was codified by Pope St. Pius V in the 16th century, but which actually goes back much farther. I'm not sure how much older this particular usage is, but I wouldn't be surprised if it went back another thousand years or so. In the traditional mass, this "Deo Gratias" is not said aloud by the whole congregation (though we may, and I do, "say" it mentally) but by the altar servers.
"This is the Word of the Lord", on the other hand, seems to have been introduced in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960's, though it may have been in use earlier in some Protestant denominations.
After Vatican 2 the Latin Mass was translated into English fairly hastily and many phrases were made more simple; for example the Priest said 'The Lord be with you' and the people responded 'And also with you'. When the Roman Missal was revised on the First Sunday of Advent in 2011, the people's response was changed to 'And with your Spirit'. This change was more in keeping with the Latin response 'et cum Spiritu tuo'.
At the same time the words the lector was to say at the end of the readings were changed to 'The Word of the Lord'. Since the first translation after Vatican 2 the lector had said (and the Lectionary read) 'This is the word of the Lord' almost implying that what had just been read was the complete word of God (which of course it is not).
The same change was made at the end of the Gospel so the Priest should now say 'the Gospel of the Lord' (and not 'This is the Gospel of the Lord')