GILH 159-165: Non-Biblical Readings

Here’s a GILH topic with potential for discussion.

The GILH devotes a whole subsection of Chapter III to Readings From the Fathers and Church Writers. This should put to rest the general myth that non-Scriptural readings do not belong in the liturgy.

That said, let’s be clear the offense is primarily that the non-Scriptural readings are inappropriate in content. There is a long tradition in the Office of Readings to reflect on the wisdom of saints and spiritual writers not in the canon of Scripture.

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).

The great teachers and mystagogues of the Church provide especially good fodder:

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.

161. In addition to the readings that The Liturgy of the Hours assigns to each day, the optional lectionary supplies a larger collection, in order that the treasures of the Church’s tradition may be more widely available to those who pray the liturgy of the hours. Everyone is free to take the second reading either from The Liturgy of the Hours or from the optional lectionary.

Inculturation is a factor, too:

162. Further the conferences of bishops may prepare additional texts adapted to the traditions and culture of their own region, [See SC 38.] for inclusion in the optional lectionary as a supplement. These texts are to be taken from the works of Catholic writers, outstanding for their teaching and holiness of life.

Would any of our readers from mission lands care to comment on the use of Catholic writers from outside the orbit of the West? As for other non-Europeans, what writers have you used, or do you think would give appropriate spiritual material to those who pray the OoR?

163. The purpose of the second reading is principally to provide for meditation on the word of God as received by the Church in its tradition. The Church has always been convinced of the need to teach the word of God authentically to believers, so that “the line of interpretation regarding the prophets and apostles may be guided by an ecclesial and catholic understanding.” [Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium 2: PL 50, 640.]

Not only is spirituality a consideration, but the ability of the saint or writer to convey a love and understanding for the inspired Word of God:

164. By constant use of the writings handed down by the universal tradition of the Church, those who read them are led to a deeper reflection on sacred Scripture and to a relish and love for it. The writings of the Fathers are an outstanding witness to the contemplation of the word of God over the centuries by the Bride of the incarnate Word: the Church, “possessing the counsel and spirit of its Bridegroom and God,” [Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermo 3 in vigilia Nativitatis 1: PL 183 (ed. 1879) 94.] is always seeking to attain a more profound understanding of the sacred Scriptures.

Shedding light on the liturgy itself is another consideration.

165. The reading of the Fathers leads Christians to an understanding also of the liturgical seasons and feasts. In addition, it gives them access to the priceless spiritual treasures that form the unique patrimony of the Church and provide a firm foundation for the spiritual life and a rich source for increasing devotion. Preachers of God’s word also have at hand each day superb examples of sacred preaching.

Note that both of these are considered prime material for homiletics, not (necessarily) the moral exhortation of sermons. Do the priests in the readership here find much help in these “superb” examples?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to GILH 159-165: Non-Biblical Readings

  1. FrMichael says:

    I’ve been told that I preach in a “Patristic style,” although when I compare my written homily with examples from St. John Chrysostom I really wonder about that. It’s like comparing Gilligan’s Minnow with USS IOWA. :p

    Now and then my daily Mass homily will be lifted directly from the OOR second reading– and yes, I inform the congregation of the source material.

    My first breviary as a seminarian was a one-volume with a very short cycle of 2nd readings for OOR. I was able to buy three of the 6 volumes of the supplement (published by Catholic Book Publishing Company). Not only the Patristics were in there, but Vatican II documents, a bunch of mid-20th century theologians, good and bad, and some of Paul VI’s discourses.

  2. Chris Chiodo says:

    Where can I find writings of the Apostles that did not make it into the Bible.

    Chris Chiodo

  3. Rob F. says:

    Hi Chris,

    It is doubtful that there survive any writings of the Apostles that are outside of the Bible. There are some writings that publishers have wavered on however, and that can be found in some bibles but not most modern ones. Those include
    the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Laodiceans:
    The Third Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians:
    The Epistle of Saint Barnabas:
    The Teaching of the 12 Apostles:
    The Epistles of the 12 Apostles:

    Other psuedepigrapha include
    The Gospel according to Saint Peter:

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