GILM 59-60: The Lectionary Revisions

59. The decision on revising the Lectionary for Mass was to draw up and edit a single, rich, and full Order of Readings that would be in complete accord with the intent and prescriptions of the Second Vatican Council. [SC 35, 51] At the same time, however, the Order was meant to be of a kind that would meet the requirements and usages of particular Churches and celebrating congregations. For this reason, those responsible for the revision took pains to safeguard the liturgical tradition of the Roman Rite, but valued highly the merits of all the systems of selecting, arranging, and using the biblical readings in other liturgical families and in certain particular Churches. The revisers made use of those elements that experience has confirmed, but with an effort to avoid certain shortcomings found in the preceding form of the tradition.

This strikes a good balance between respect for tradition and pastoral need without being slavishly linked to a secondary concept such as organic development. Back in the 1970’s there was a more exacting standard in viewing tradition and noting its shortcomings.

60. The present Order of Readings for Mass, then, is an arrangement of biblical readings that provides the faithful with a knowledge of the whole of God’s word, in a pattern suited to the purpose. Throughout the liturgical year, but above all during the seasons of Easter, Lent, and Advent, the choice and sequence of readings are aimed at giving Christ’s faithful an ever-deepening perception of the faith they profess and of the history of salvation. [98] Accordingly, the Order of Readings corresponds to the requirements and interests of the Christian people.

The Ninety Days and Advent get particular attention: any regular daily Massgoer will perceive this. It’s important to know that the broadening of the Lectionary wasn’t done for the sake or mere variety. The task was tackled with an eye to a deeper perception of Christian faith and an eye to salvation history. This standard is how it should be judged. It is also the standard that must be applied to the Lectionary of the 1962 Rite. In all its literary richness, is it sufficiently broad (taking in the whole of salvation history) and does it contribute to the deepening of faith?  (Or is it seen as an adjunct to a human-driven tradition of knowledge?)


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in General Introduction to the Lectionary, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Scripture. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to GILM 59-60: The Lectionary Revisions

  1. David D. says:

    I know that few are willing to argue against more Scripture but do you see any shortcomings in a 3 year lectionary or advantages to a one year cycle? To borrow from a recent entry, there is something “schizo” about the current scheme of things which in limited instances accepts the notion of liturgical time ordered by certain perennial events while eschewing that same notion for the better part of the year. Thus, for example, Christmas and, to a lesser degree, the 1st Sunday in Lent, form part of a barebones liturgical year while the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time does not.

  2. Todd says:

    Good question, David.

    In essence, we currently have interlinking one and two and three-tear cycles, including both Sunday and daily Masses.

    For Sundays, one might say we’re on a one-year cycle with each year devoted to a synoptic Gospel. We hear a mix of episodes common to the three, especially during Advent and Easter. And early Lent. In Ordinary time, we get a mix of pericopes common to two or three gospels, plus a lot of unique material.

    There is such a quantity of Old Testament material that it’s been arranged into a three-year cycle, but for the most part, this has been chosen with the Gospel in mind. Except for key events like Creation or the Exodus, which we should get every year.

    My sense is that we have a one-year cycle in the essentials, and a sampling for the three-year aspects. For a determination of what was included or missing in the 1570/1962 Lectionary, I would refer readers to Felix Just’s excellent web site.

  3. Liam says:

    Btw, I frequently read complaints on more traditionally oriented Catholic blogs that the 3 year cycle is unnatural and not what the Council Fathers envisioned (and that the 1965 interim Missal is what they envisioned).

    But No. 51 of Sacrosanctum Concilium clearly envisions that the readings will be based on a multiyear cycle:

    “51. The treasures of the bible are to be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word. In this way a more representative portion of the holy scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years.”

  4. Jim McK says:

    Isn’t there something “schizo” about having four gospels instead of just one? That is the quality sought in the three year lectionary. It probably should have been four years for the four gospels, but John is so different it would have violated the one year cycle created by the parallel synoptics. (thank you for that insight Todd)

    Is this a good time to mention inadequacies of this effort? I have been looking at the women in Holy Week lately, and the reform (including Holy Week in the 1950s) has practically eliminated them. The anointing at Bethany used to be read on Sunday in Mt’s Passion, Monday from Jn, and on Tuesday from Mk. Jn is still read on Monday in Holy Week, but the anointing was edited out of Mt’s Passion, and Mk’s is read only on Palm Sunday year B.

    “Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” is heard once every three years.

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