Thursday, October 3, 2013
Last Gospels Other Than John 1:1-14

For those Catholics familiar with the Traditional Roman Liturgy, the Last Gospel is a common element of the Mass.  The Last Gospel is the passage from the Gospel according to St. John in chapter 1, verses 1 to 14 inclusive, where Jesus is described as the Word-Man-Flesh. It is so named the Last Gospel because of its place in the Liturgy - namely, at the conclusion of the Mass.

The text of the Last Gospel is perhaps best known for its opening lines: In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum... (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...)

Reading of the Last Gospel by Servus Tuus

But can the Last Gospel change?

Yes.  In one example, the third Mass on Christmas Day there is no Last Gospel recited since the Gospel from the Mass is of John 1:1-14 already. However, this is according to the 1962 rubrics.  Before 1954, the Gospel of the Epiphany would have been used as the Last Gospel.

Additionally a superseded Mass (e. g. if a feast of a Saint is superseded by a Sunday) could be commemorated by, among other things, having its Gospel as Last Gospel. 

For example, on September 29, 2013, the Feast of the Archangel Michael superseded the 19th Sunday of Pentecost.  As a result, the Last Gospel could have been changed to Matthew 22:1-14, which is the Gospel of the 19th Sunday of Pentecost, if the older rubrics were used.

"The use of a different last Gospel, called a Proper Last Gospel, occurred before 1955 when the Mass of a Feast superseded (called an "occurrence" in the rubrics) either a Sunday Mass, Vigil or Feria of Lent.

"In 1955, changes were made, under the directive of Pope Pius XII, to Holy Week changes, and also to the ranking of feasts. In these changes is included the elimination of all Proper Last Gospels except for the third Mass on Christmas (when the normal Last Gospel was read at Mass, and the Gospel for the Epiphany was substituted for the Last Gospel) and for Mass on Palm Sunday which did not include the blessing of the Palms (the Gospel read before the procession with Palms was read as the Last Gospel).

"The justification for these changes was that originally the Last Gospel was a private devotion, and while it was acceptable to retain the custom of it being recited at the end of Mass, it's purpose was not to serve as a place for commemoration. Thus to replace it only on Christmas when the normal Last Gospel was said and on Palm Sunday when the Gospel for the Blessing was omitted was logical.

"With the 1960 Code of Rubrics, which incorporated the 1955 revisions into a full Codex, all Proper Last Gospels were eliminated with the exception of Palm Sunday in Masses without the blessing of Palms."

Source for Quoted Portions: Fish Eaters

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