The Order of Reader
The lector is a reader. Readings from the sacred books formed part of the divine services even in the Old Testament. In the Christian Church such readings were incorporated from the very beginning into the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery. The first part of holy Mass constituted the so-called Mass of the catechumens, or instruction service, for those who prepared for baptism and were not allowed as yet to assist at the whole Mass. The instructions were based on Holy Scripture, and the reader would read the text.
It must be remembered that the ancient manuscripts were not as easy to read as a modern book. No distinction was made between small letters and capitals, words were not clearly separated, punctuation marks not used. Reading, therefore, required careful preparation in order to be done correctly, fluently, and distinctly.
It seems that in the beginning capable laymen took care of this reading, but at a very early date readers were ordained; even boys possessing the necessary knowledge were admitted to this order. As the Mass of the catechumens lost its original significance, and reading at the divine services was taken over more and more by members of the major orders, readers began to form the schola cantorum and took care of the singing, probably before the seventh century.
The rite mentions as another duty of lectors the blessing of bread and first fruits. The faithful as well as the catechumens would bring along these things to be blessed, and since the catechumens were dismissed before the beginning of the Mass of the faithful, it was convenient that the lector should perform the blessing before they left. Canon 1147 reaffirms this privilege of the lector. It is the only case where a cleric in minor orders is authorized to perform a blessing.
At the present time it is customary in seminary chapels that a reader sings the Epistle during a simple High Mass; but the singing of the Epistle at the solemn High Mass is reserved to the subdeacon. Readers, however, sing the prophecies on Holy Saturday and the Saturday before Pentecost.
If the lectorate is conferred during Mass, this is done:
Saturday before Passion Sunday: after the Kyrie.
Holy Saturday: after the Gloria.
Saturdays of Ember weeks: after the second lesson.
On other days, if the Mass has Gloria: after the Gloria; if the Mass has no Gloria: after the Kyrie.
The Call. The bishop, with his miter on, sits on the faldstool before the middle of the altar. The archdeacon bids the candidates come forward; the notary reads their names:
Let those come forward who are to be ordained to the office of reader: N.N., etc.
Each one answers, adsum, goes before the altar and kneels, holding the burning candle in his right hand.
The Instruction. When all are assembled, the bishop address them as follows:
Dearly beloved sons, chose to be readers in the house of our God, know your office and fulfill it; for God is powerful to give you in increasing measure the grace of everlasting perfection.
The reader's duty is to read what he preaches (or: to read the Scripture text for the preacher), to sing the lessons, to bless bread and all new fruits. Endeavor, therefore, to read the word of God, that is, the sacred lessons, distinctly and intelligibly, without any mistake or falsification, so that the faithful may understand and be edified, and that the truth of the divine lessons be not through your carelessness lost for the instruction of the hearers.
But what you read with your lips, you must believe in your hearts and practice in your works; so that you may be able to teach your hearers by word and example.
Therefore, when you read, stand in a high place of the church, so that you may be heard and seen by all. This your bodily position is to signify that your life ought to move on a high plane of virtue, so that you may give the example of a heavenly life to all those by whom you are heard and seen. May God by His grace accomplish this in you.
The Bestowal of the Office. The bishop now presents to the candidates the book containing the lessons, that is, a missal, breviary, or bible. The ordinands touch it with the right hand, while he says:
Receive, and be readers of the word of God. If you fulfill your office faithfully and profitably, yours will be the reward of those who have duly administered the word of God from the beginning.
Let us beseech, beloved brethren, God, the Father Almighty, graciously to bless these servants whom He deigns to assume into the order of reader. May they intelligibly read what is to be read in the Church of God, and carry it out in works. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, who lives and reigns with Him in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. R. Amen.
Let Us Pray
Let us bend our knees. R. Amen.
Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God, vouchsafe to + bless these Thy servants for the office of reader. May they by constant application to reading acquire knowledge and proficiency, read aloud what must be done and practice what thy have read, so that by the example of their virtue in both respects they may give support to holy Church. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. R. Amen.