Can Scripture be dramatized and adlibbed rather than read at mass?

I heard of a parish that does this on Holy Saturday…It sounds like a liturgical abuse to me, but I am no expert?

Can anyone here tell me if this is permissible?

No. Here are the relevent sections of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:

Reading and Explaining the Word of God

  1. When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel.

Therefore, all must listen with reverence to the readings from God’s word, for they make up an element of greatest importance in the Liturgy. Although in the readings from Sacred Scripture God’s word is addressed to all people of every era and is understandable to them, nevertheless, a fuller understanding and a greater effectiveness of the word is fostered by a living commentary on the word, that is, the homily, as part of the liturgical action.42

And again:

The Vocal Expression of the Different Texts

  1. In texts that are to be spoken in a loud and clear voice, whether by the priest or the deacon, or by the lector, or by all, the tone of voice should correspond to the genre of the text itself, that is, depending upon whether it is a reading, a prayer, a commentary, an acclamation, or a sung text; the tone should also be suited to the form of celebration and to the solemnity of the gathering. Consideration should also be given to the idiom of different languages and the culture of different peoples.

And, once more:

The Biblical Readings

  1. In the readings, the table of God’s word is prepared for the faithful, and the riches of the Bible are opened to them.61 Hence, it is preferable to maintain the arrangement of the biblical readings, by which light is shed on the unity of both Testaments and of salvation history. Moreover, it is unlawful to substitute other, non-biblical texts for the readings and responsorial Psalm, which contain the word of God.62
  1. In the celebration of the Mass with a congregation, the readings are always proclaimed from the ambo.
  1. By tradition, the function of proclaiming the readings is ministerial, not presidential. The readings, therefore, should be proclaimed by a lector, and the Gospel by a deacon or, in his absence, a priest other than the celebrant. If, however, a deacon or another priest is not present, the priest celebrant himself should read the Gospel. Further, if another suitable lector is also not present, then the priest celebrant should also proclaim the other readings.

After each reading, whoever reads gives the acclamation, to which the gathered people reply, honoring the word of God that they have received in faith and with grateful hearts.

So, the GIRM makes no allowances for dramatization of the readings. This would be an abuse.

Here is what Redemptionis Sacramentum says on the matter:

[58.] All of Christ’s faithful likewise have the right to a celebration of the Eucharist that has been so carefully prepared in all its parts that the Word of God is properly and efficaciously proclaimed and explained in it; that the faculty for selecting the liturgical texts and rites is carried out with care according to the norms; and that their faith is duly safeguarded and nourished by the words that are sung in the celebration of the Liturgy.

[59.] The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy.

Unfortunately, many take Holy Week, especially the Triduum, as the time for creative experimentation. The Rites for these particular days have their set rituals and these are drawn from ancient practice and codified in the GIRM.

Now, the only option that the pastors and parishes have regarding the readings for the Easter Vigil regard the number. Paschale Solemnitatis notes that:

  1. The readings from Sacred Scripture constitute the second part of the Vigil. They give the account of the outstanding deeds of the history of salvation, which the faithful are helped to meditate calmly upon by the singing of the responsorial psalm, by a silent pause, and by the celebrant’s prayer.

The restored order for the Vigil has seven readings from the Old Testament, chosen from the law and the prophets, which are everywhere in use according to the most ancient tradition of East and West; and two readings from the New Testament, namely, from the apostles and from the gospel. Thus, the Church, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets,” explains Christ’s paschal mystery. [90] Consequently, wherever this is possible, all the readings should be read in order so that the character of the Easter Vigil, which demands that it be somewhat prolonged, be respected at all costs.

Where, however, pastoral conditions require that the number of readings be reduced, there should be at least three readings from the Old Testament, taken from the law and the prophets; and the reading from Exodus (ch. 14) with its canticle, must never be omitted. [91]

I hope this helps.

Thank you I was appalled when I heard about it

The problem I have with dramatization of the Gospel reading, even ones that are as simple as a dramatic reading with just a lector at the ambo, is that the Gospels themselves give no dramatic stage direction. In other words, the Gospels say what was said, not necessarily how it was said.

The meat of the Gospels are the words themselves. No need to get the message all muddled with bad acting.

This wasn’t a dramatic reading it was adlibed …I don’t want to hear someones iterpretation of scripture …I want to hear it read directly from the Bible

There is one exception to how the readings are done, particularly the Gospel reading, in terms of performance. The Palm Sunday and Good Friday readings are often done by several people, often a lector, with the priest performing the role of Christ. I’m certain this is noted in the GIRM as well or on the USCCB site, but cannot find that allowance at present.

Even in this case, dramatic performance of the readings aren’t to be done. They are simply read.

I have seen that done and they are always read from scripture…not improvised

Paschale Solemnitatis does not give any directions indicating that the Passion should be read dramatically.

  1. The passion narrative occupies a special place. It should be sung or read in the traditional way, that is, by three persons who take the part of Christ, the narrator, and the people. The passion is proclaimed by deacons or priests, or by lay readers. In the latter case, the part of the Christ should be reserved to the priest.

The proclamation of the passion should be without candles and incense; the greeting and the sings of the cross are omitted; and only a deacon asks for the blessing, as he does before the Gospel. [37] For the spiritual good of the faithful, the passion should be proclaimed in its entirety, and the readings that proceed it should not be omitted.

It is supposed to be done with sobriety.

The Passion chanted in dialogue by three cantors (ideally Deacons) and the choir or congregation has ever been a feature of the Roman liturgy.

There used to be in some medieaval manuscripts a playlet interopolated into Matins on Easter called Quem quarestis (Whom do you seek?) in which three clergy in copes bearing censers, representing the Myrrh-bearing Women chanted this Gospel story in dialogue with another representing the angel. It’s the oldest liturgical drama in the West.

This and many others, however, either fell out of use or were eventually suppressed.

Hope this answers your question.

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