OFFICE FOR LITURGY

of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford

First Sunday of Lent (Year A)

In the Cycle of Sunday Readings, the oldest are those of Year A in Lent – these Gospels have accompanied the Church for many centuries. We must realise why: Lent was originally the time of immediate preparation of candidates for Baptism at Easter (something which has been reintroduced to the Church by RCIA): those already baptised used it as a time to prepare for the renewal of Baptismal promises. This is why so much of the Scripture in Lent is about Baptism, New Life and Salvation. What is the new life of Baptism? What are we set free from? What is sin?  We begin Lent by hearing about sin and temptation; the Gospel will tell us of Jesus’ own temptations, something he shares with us, though he did not sin. The other Scripture readings prepare us for the Gospel, in which Jesus, the new Adam, triumphs over temptation.

Notes for Readers

From the Catechism

First Reading: Genesis 2:7-9. 3:1-7.
 
The reader is telling a story - so be a storyteller. This story from Genesis will be familiar, which makes it harder to read to a congregation: when we are familiar with a story we can tend to ‘switch off’ slightly. The reader will have to make a special effort to engage the congregation. For example, without ‘acting’, try to make the voice of the serpent sound different from the rest of the reading - remembering that temptation is meant to be attractive! Also try to emphasise the ‘goodness’ of the Lord God in the first two paragraphs. Slow down for the last lines, where Adam and Eve realise what they have done: “Then, the eyes of both of them were opened / and they realised that they were naked.”
 
Second Reading: Romans 5:12-19.
 
This is a very complicated reading: it will need careful preparation. Some sentences are very long - make sure you think about where to breathe and pause. For example, there’s one very awkward sentence you might decide to read like this:
   “If it is certain /
   that death reigned over everyone as a consequence of one man’s fall /
   it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, /
   will cause everyone to reign in life /
   who receives the free gift /
   that he does not deserve /
   of being made righteous.”
 
Saint Paul explores the concepts of sin and the justification brought about by the righteousness of Jesus. Paul uses the technique of balancing two ideas: the sin of Adam and the righteousness of Jesus. Use the voice to create a rhythm in reading these balanced ideas: rise on the first half (e.g. “as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone...”) and fall away again on the second (“so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified.”). Identify each contrast, and bring them out strongly in reading.  This reading acts as an important pivot between the story of Adam’s sin in the first reading, and Jesus’ rejection of sin in the Gospel.
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