Ending the Second Office Reading

Date: May 6, 2023
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.


Question: When the Office of Readings is celebrated publicly with a congregation, how does the reader/lector/ priest end the second reading? I have heard different lectors/priests saying different endings. Does he say, “End of the reading,” or “Word of the Church”? Or should he repeat at the end of the reading once again from where the reading was taken? For example: “This was a reading taken from the Sermons of St. Augustine.” Can you throw some light on this? -- J.V., Pune, Maharashtra, India


Answer: Although it would be impracticable to quote all that the introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours says about the readings and responsories, we offer the following selection.


“64. There are two readings: the first is from the Scriptures, the second is from the writings of the Fathers or church writers, or else is a reading connected with the saints.


“65. After each reading there is a responsory (see nos. 169-172).


“66. The scriptural reading is normally to be taken from the Proper of Seasons, in accordance with the rules to be given later (nos. 140-155). On solemnities and feasts, however, it is taken from the proper or the common.


“67. On solemnities and feasts of saints a proper second reading is used; if there is none, the second reading is taken from the respective Common of Saints. On memorials of saints when the celebration is not impeded, the reading in connection with the saint replaces the current second reading (see nos. 166 and 235).”


With respect to the scriptural readings in general the document makes the following introduction:


“140. The reading of sacred Scripture, which, following an ancient tradition, takes place publicly in the liturgy, is to have special importance for all Christians, not only in the celebration of the eucharist but also in the divine office. The reason is that this reading is not the result of individual choice or devotion but is the planned decision of the Church itself, in order that in the course of the year the Bride of Christ may unfold the mystery of Christ ‘from his incarnation and birth until his ascension, the day of Pentecost, and the expectation of blessed hope and of the Lord's return.’ In addition, the reading of sacred Scripture in the liturgical celebration is always accompanied by prayer in order that the reading may have greater effect and that, in turn, prayer -- especially the praying of the psalms -- may gain fuller understanding and become more fervent and devout because of the reading.”


Regarding the second readings:


“159. In keeping with the tradition of the Roman Church the office of readings has, after the biblical reading, a reading from the Fathers or church writers, with a responsory, unless there is to be a reading relating to a saint (see nos. 228-239).


“160. Texts for this reading are given from the writings of the Fathers and doctors of the Church and from other ecclesiastical writers of the Eastern and Western Church. Pride of place is given to the Fathers because of their distinctive authority in the Church.


“259. Those who act as readers, standing in a convenient place, read either the long readings or the short readings.”


Finally, with respect to the responsories:


“169. Its responsory follows the biblical reading in the office of readings. The text of this responsory has been drawn from traditional sources or freshly composed, in order to throw new light on the passage just read, put it in the context of the history of salvation, lead from the Old Testament to the New, turn what has been read into prayer and contemplation, or provide pleasant variety by its poetic beauty.


“170. A pertinent responsory also follows the second reading. It is less closely linked with the text of the reading, however, and thus makes for a greater freedom in meditation.


“171. The responsories and the portions to be repeated even in private recitation therefore retain their value. The customary reprise of the whole responsory may be omitted when the office is not being sung, unless the sense requires this repetition.


“172. In a similar but simpler way, the responsory at morning prayer, evening prayer, and night prayer (see nos. 49 and 89), and the verse at daytime prayer, are linked to the short reading as a kind of acclamation, enabling God's word to enter more deeply into the mind and heart of the one listening or reading.”


There is nothing indicated in the introduction nor in the rubrics regarding how to conclude the biblical and patristic readings. Likewise, there is nothing said regarding how to conclude the brief scriptural readings of the other offices.


This is not an omission. As mentioned above in No. 172 the responsories, whether short or longer: “are linked to the … reading as a kind of acclamation.”


Hence, the responsories are the proper conclusion to the readings and may be sung or recited according to circumstances.


Therefore, the reader says absolutely nothing after concluding the scriptural or patristic reading but returns to his or her place in silence.


* * *


Readers may send questions to Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, city, state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

Return to Liturgy

At ePriest, we are dedicated to supporting Catholic priests as they serve their people and build up the Church.

We invite you to explore our resources to help your own ministry flourish!

Sign Up Now