Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 51

Vatican website translation:

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.

Latin text:

51. Quo ditior mensa verbi Dei paretur fidelibus, thesauri biblici largius aperiantur, ita ut, intra praestitutum annorum spatium, praestantior pars Scripturarum Sanctarum populo legatur.

Slavishly literal translation [thanks to Jonathan Day]:

51. In order that richer fare may be provided to the faithful at the table of the word of God, the biblical treasures are to opened up more lavishly, in such a way that in the course of a prescribed number of years, a more surpassing part of the holy scriptures may be read to the people.

Article 51 decrees that the [Roman Rite] liturgy is to be reviewed and reformed in such a way that more biblical material is made available to worshipers. Respecting Jared Ostermann’s remarks on my re-reading of article 50, I will attempt to be both careful and irenic in my presentation of this decree. In the light of the biblical renewal experienced in Roman Catholicism especially in the years after Pius XII’s Divino Afflante Spiritu, the Council Fathers judged that the amount and variety of scripture available to [Roman Rite] worshipers, while able to sustain piety, could have even more powerful effects were it to be increased and deepened. While the shift from a single-year lectionary system with Epistle and Gospel readings to a three-year Sunday and solemnity system with Old Testament, New Testament non-Gospel, and Gospel readings conjoined to a two-year weekday lectionary system with Epistle and Gospel readings for Mass may be the most obvious result of article 51, the lectionary offerings for all sacramental celebrations and for the Liturgy of the Hours have in fact been “lavishly” increased. Pray Tell readers may wish to discuss how effectively these reforms have borne fruit in the last fifty years and what might make them more effective. Conversely they may wish to discuss the advantages hidden to the Council Fathers of retaining less lavish scriptural fare in [Roman Rite] worship.

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78 comments

  1. ” . . . prescribed number of years”:

    This became 3 years for the Sunday/major festal cycle, and 2 years for the daily cycle (at least in Ordinarty Time).

    Objections have been raised in certain quarters that the 3 year cycle is essentially arbitrary and, impliedly, capricious.

    My sense has long been that the 3 year cycle was intended as an echo of the traditional (if not necessarily historical) 3-year public ministry of our Lord: we get to listen to the Lord via a Synoptic Gospel version for each year, with the Gospel of John sprinkled in as well.

    I love the concept, and while I can quibble over this or that, I think it’s wonderful.

  2. Bible Lovers Not Defined by Denomination, Politics
    Survey Presented in Vatican as Lead Up to Synod

    http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/bible-lovers-not-defined-by-denomination-politics

    VATICAN CITY, APRIL 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).-There is no longer diversity among various Christian traditions regarding a relationship with Scripture, according to a survey presented in the Vatican.

    Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, presented today in the Vatican press office the results of a study on the reading of Scripture in nine countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Poland and Russia.

    The survey, Bishop Paglia explained, “confirmed in full the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral intuition to exhort the faithful to rediscover Scripture as the primary source of spiritual life.”

    It also reaffirmed, he said, “the bond that exists between the Bible and the Eucharist,” because “the majority of those interviewed indicated the Sunday celebration as the place in which they habitually listen to the Word of God.”

    Some 13,000 interviews, “the most systematic scientific undertaking yet attempted to compare, on an international scale, levels and forms of familiarity with the Scriptures of Christian tradition among the adult population.”

    The statistics argued in favor of the using the Bible as a means of New Evangelization because it is well respected by many people more so than other Christian institutions.

    “The Bible in the areas we examined is not the text of a minority but an important point of reference, present — in different degrees and ways — in the life and culture of broad majorities of the population,” he said.

    Most of USA news stories on this study pointed how how favorably the USA was in comparison to Europe on most measures.

    In Anglo-Saxon world, “the sensation of the closeness of God is anything but extinct and the practice of prayer is anything but marginal. A very large majority of people look to the Bible as a source of truth, as the source of a message that has to do with life”

  3. Those who advocate the use of the propers over the use of hymns all too often neglect this passage and the support it lends their argument. Of course some hymns are settings of a text from scripture, and some are at least scriptural, but with rare exceptions the propers are passages from scripture – and combined with their allotted psalms, quite substantial passages from scripture. Whilst the new lectionary gave us much greater variety in our readings, it strikes me that, in terms of total scripture per Mass, there was a net loss once the propers were, by and large, eliminated.

    1. @James Dunne – comment #3:
      Had the same thought James but you are leaving out significant principles that guided Consilium:
      – three year lectionary choices were made based upon a commonality for each week-end (propers, as frequently mentioned, rarely share that commonality)
      – simplicity and participation (propers, as frequently mentioned, may add more scripture but is it too much? some folks feel that three readings are too much?)

  4. I think the combination of a three-year Sunday cycle and a two-year weekday cycle is unnecessarily complex. I am also surprised by the exclusion of certain verses, especially when they have been omitted from the Tridentine “lectionary”.

    1. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #4:
      exclusion or inclusion? (pulling a JP here)

      Tridentine lectionary – had nothing to do with the council of Trent – was chosen and implemented by the second pope after the end of the council of Trent.

      Compare the two – VII (2400+ bishops affirming) laid out principles and formed Consilium that arrived at the three year cycle

      vs.

      Popes after Trent – no council votes about liturgy at all; successive popes decided what we now call Tridentine – some of this was a reaction to the Protestant Reformation.

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #11:
        exclusion or inclusion

        (Do you think you’re nitpicking — “pulling a JP” — by asking that? It doesn’t seem that way to me. You’re asking for a clarification of an apparent typo.)

        I didn’t write that very clearly. I do mean “exclusion” — excluded from the reformed Lectionary.

        It was my phrase “when they were omitted from the Tridentine ‘lectionary'” where I mis-typed. I meant “when they were included in the Tridentine ‘lectionary’.” (When I said “omitted from”, I was thinking “omitted in the process of importing readings from the old selection to the new Lectionary.” Convoluted, that.)

        And by “Tridentine lectionary”, I simply meant the selection of readings associated with the Mass before Vatican II. If there is a more appropriate moniker for them, I’d be happy to use it.

  5. I’ve been reading and preaching from the revised lectionaries for forty years. While there are occasionally some over long and obtuse passages from the OT on weekdays, to describe the lectionaries as unnecessarily complex makes no sense to me. They are certainly a vast improvement over the selection of readings in the 1962 RM.

    1. @Jack Feehily – comment #5:
      The selection has expanded and, in many ways, improved. But my “complex” remark was aimed at the disconnect between the Sunday cycle and the weekday cycle.

      The Sunday cycle is three years, but some solemnities have the same readings all three years, and some have readings that CAN be used all three years AND have readings that can be used in separate years. The weekday cycle is two years, but some weekdays (e.g. in Advent and Lent) have a one-year cycle.

      The Sunday cycle usually links the First Reading (and its Psalm) to the Gospel, with the Second Reading being chosen sequentially from the epistles (usually without a clear link to the other readings). The weekday cycle goes sequentially through non-Gospel books (in the First Reading) and the Gospel, again without a clear link.

      That seems unnecessarily complex (and disorganized) to me.

      Surely there must be a middle ground between the thin pre-Vatican II readings and the reformed Lectionary. I’m not calling for less Scripture, but for better-organized readings.

  6. Conversely they may wish to discuss the advantages hidden to the Council Fathers of retaining less lavish scriptural fare in [Roman Rite] worship.

    Fr. Joncas, are you saying that, in order to show even-handedness to those of a traditionalist bent, henceforth throughout these reflections on SC you will add the question, “And let’s discuss whether the Council fathers made a bad judgment in this article, shall we?”?

    And this further denigration of the authority of the Council is supposed to produce what salutary effect?

  7. I hope that nobody is questioning the authority of the Council. But authority doesn’t imply infallibility on pastoral impact. As an example, the pope and Vatican congregations had the authority to issue Liturgiam Authenticam and the new English translation of the Mass. But both exhibited poor judgement.

    Speaking personally, I think the new lectionary is an improvement on the 1962; it’s also great that many Anglicans and Lutherans are now reading the same lessons. Nonetheless I think it is legitimate to ask whether the Council made the right call here.

  8. I’m not sure we need to blame anything on Vatican II except that so many read into it that it allowed for so much post-Vatican II interpretation. We should be questioning the post-Vatican II operatives who came up with what they thought Vatican II wanted. That’s where the questioning should be, not on the Council itself. Pope Benedict’s agenda to interpret the Council properly and within the framework of “reform in continuity” then allows us to critique not what the Council actually sought liturgically and otherwise, but the agenda to implement a particular spirit of rupture and those who did it, positive or negative, lectionary and missal included.

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #8:

      But whenever and as often as you write things such as that, Fr. Allan, it comes across as nothing more than an indictment of Paul VI for culpable negligence or stupidity. Pope Benedict = good pope who correctly interpreted the Council. Paul VI = bad pope who incorrectly interpreted the Council or, if he was just plain stupid, allowed himself to be misled by the experts on the various coetus established to implement the conciliar decrees.

      1. @Fr. Ron Krisman – comment #9:
        I remember the late 60’s and 70’s and yes, many people were swept up in the agenda of turning things upside down. Not all of this was malicious, but simply more hormonal than rational. There was a lot of presumption back then about how the Holy Spirit was changing everything and everything, good and bad was placed on Him. It is not an indictment of Paul VI, but an indictment on unbridled euphoria in the face of a council that lifted a rigid approach to Catholicism. Extremism meaning the wild swing of the pendulum was the name of the game.

    2. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #8:
      “Benedict’s agenda to interpret the Council properly” – like when he said that approval of liturgical translations belongs to bishops’ conferences, with the Holy See merely confirming that their approval is canonical but not involving itself in the form of the texts themselves, as Vatican II decreed?

      Or when he reminded us that the Fathers of Vatican II did not intend the 1962 to remain in use in its unreformed state?

      Give me a break.

      The principle seems to be “follow what Vatican II said, except when the ‘continuity’ slogan can be used to undo what Vatican II and Paul VI said.”

      [Sorry if this is a side issue.]

      awr

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #10:
        It is a side issue. The point is that we look again at the Council and liturgically speaking correct things or renew things. You don’t like the new translation, I get that, but the Missal is still the post Vatican II missal. The current OF’s lectionary’s translation isn’t the best, I preferred the previous translation myself, but that’s not the point, how can we make the content of the lectionary better or improved and not necessarily go back to the EF’s version of it? I personally like the revised lectionary, but I can see that we have too many readings on Sunday and especially if these all happen to be rather lengthy, especially the Old Testament ones (for daily Mass too).

      2. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #16:
        This comment is illustrative (and I think most all of us fall into this trap at times) of bringing too much of the personal aspect and phrasing things as likes and dislikes.

        I may dislike the MR3 presider prayers, but I would forward the thought that perhaps our clergy should be focusing on becoming better preachers of Scripture rather than better orators of a vocabulary bereft of good grammar.

        That kind of comment also informs a reflection on a passage like SC 51, in which we know the conciliar bishops desired a deeper/better/more fruitful connection between lay Catholics and Scripture.

        Is our connection with Scripture now so firm fifty years later that we can now focus more on presidential prayers and their exalted language? Perhaps not.

      3. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #10:

        “Benedict’s agenda to interpret the Council properly” – like when he said that approval of liturgical translations belongs to bishops’ conferences, with the Holy See merely confirming that their approval is canonical but not involving itself in the form of the texts themselves, as Vatican II decreed?

        Or when he reminded us that the Fathers of Vatican II did not intend the 1962 to remain in use in its unreformed state?

        In fairness, the first issue is arguably a case where two objectives of the Council – that of creating bishops’ conferences with the objective of giving them greater responsibilities in the life of the Church (like approval of translations) on the one hand, and that (say) changes must grow organically from existing forms (c. 23) – seem to conflict. In any event, SC c.36.3 expressly gives the Holy See authority to review all translations, presumably contemplating the possibility that a conference’s approval of a translation may not be acceptable at every point.

        As regards the latter, I agree that the Council almost certainly did not contemplate the existence of the existing, unaltered, rite existing fully alongside the soon-to-be-reformed rite. Of course, one could also argue, plausibly, that the Council Fathers did not contemplate a reform quite as extensive as that which ultimately took place (even if the overwhelming majority of bishops later dutifully accepted and implemented it).

        I agree that Fr. McDonald’s formulation is infelicitous, without further clarification. What is “properly?” Well, in past ages popes have understood their authority in this matter in a positivist sense, I think. If a measure produces rupture in practice, adjustments are made. Not every canon or provision of a council document always survives to be implemented intact. And there is nothing dogmatic or irreformable about Sacrosanctum Concilium, which is a prescriptive document if it is anything at all.

      4. @Richard Malcolm – comment #21:
        We have gone over and over this well-plowed ground:

        Your first statement……”SC c.36.3 expressly gives the Holy See authority to review all translations, presumably contemplating the possibility that a conference’s approval of a translation may not be acceptable at every point.”
        Agreed but what does *review* mean in this article? Most experts have defined (and have used exactly what happened for 40 years) that Rome gave consent or confirmed what conferences did – nothing more and nothing less. The new translation process and product turned this SC principle upside down; it obliterated it. Rome did respond to the 1998 with revisions but then went much further based upon a tiny minority’s ideology.

        From PTB previously:

        http://www.praytellblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Vernacular-Translations-Brian-Dunn.pdf

        http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2010/10/18/the-role-of-the-conference-of-bishops-in-the-translation-of-liturgical-texts/

        Your second statement: “….one could also argue, plausibly, that the Council Fathers did not contemplate a reform quite as extensive as that which ultimately took place (even if the overwhelming majority of bishops later dutifully accepted and implemented it).”

        Actually, your statement makes little sense – if the fathers felt that the reform was *too extensive* why did they overwhelmingly implement it and, in many cases, pushed for much quicker change and revision? Your insertion of the word *dutifully* gives away your bias and failure to use historical facts/patterns, etc. You insert *motivation* – sorry, that is not fact; only your ideology showing. Thus, your use of *plausibly* is a *stretch*.

        Agree – there is nothing *dogmatic* about SC but then there is nothing dogmatic about SP – and would suggest that SC is the overwhelming work of a council versus a papal prounouncement that overrode the majority of his bishops’ own recommendations.

      5. @Bill deHaas – comment #22:

        Hello Bill,

        You go right to the heart: “Agreed but what does *review* mean in this article?”

        As Brian Dunn rightly notes in the essay you link, it’s not self-defining in SC. “The meaning of this term, “review”, is not defined in the text, nor is it distinguished from the terms, “approved” or “confirmed” in SC, no.
        36.” Just so. So we ended up with subsequent, papal documents – Sacram Liturgiam and Inter Oecumenici – to clarify what this would entail. These are of arguably lower authority than conciliar constitution, but that only makes sense, because they are issues under the Pope’s authority to define how these provisions will be executed.

        When you say that “Most experts have defined (and have used exactly what happened for 40 years) that Rome gave consent or confirmed what conferences did – nothing more and nothing less” it’s a questionable assertion, and not just because it’s not at all demonstrated that “most experts” agree with this assertion; and even if they did, it has the confounding result of reducing this provision to a pure rubber stamp, as the Holy See simply signs off on whatever a conference sends over to it.

        I know these horses have been flogged to death here, and perhaps that obscures what is being argued about. One is about the process and one is about the actual substance of the translations. As regards the first, there’s a sullen, critical acceptance of any papal decrees, which while grudgingly acknowledged to have ultimate authority, don’t reflect a democratic consensus in the episcopate (or academy). As regards the second, there’s a reserved attitude toward the Latin text of the Missal, and a desire to have maximum flexibility to translate it – and even add to it – in a way most amenable to what are presumed to be modern ears. Thus we ended up with the 1998 ICEL translation. Which may have been grammatically sounder, but was unacceptable because of use of inclusive language, etc.

      6. @Bill deHaas – comment #22:

        And to finish up responding to the rest of your post, Bill:

        Actually, your statement makes little sense – if the fathers felt that the reform was *too extensive* why did they overwhelmingly implement it and, in many cases, pushed for much quicker change and revision?

        I didn’t say what the bishops of 1969-1970 thought, because that’s not always readily apparent. They *did* overwhelmingly implement it, which should not surprise us, because they had no choice under canon law, unless they wanted to defy the authority of the Holy See (as happened in, say, Campos). And yes, even so, many do seem to have embraced the new Rite and demanded even more changes. But the question I raised in regards to Sacrosanctum Concilium is what the Council Fathers – a body largely but not entirely congruent with the global episcopate of 1969-70 – actually thought they were approving in 1963, not six or seven years later. That is what matters. Otherwise, we risk reading the future into the past.

        Agree – there is nothing *dogmatic* about SC but then there is nothing dogmatic about SP – and would suggest that SC is the overwhelming work of a council versus a papal prounouncement that overrode the majority of his bishops’ own recommendations.

        Certainly Summorum is not “dogmatic” – a future Pope could revoke it or modify it by his own initative. Of course, the same applies to the Pauline Missal, too. I just can’t help but feel…that too often, conciliar canons like those in SC are elevated to some kind of dogmatic status, and are more esteemed because a) they seem more democratic, and b) happen to be more congruent with the desires of posters here. Which may reflect an inner uneasiness: the kind of absolute papal power that can promulgate a Pauline Missal can also promulgate a Summorum Pontificum. But ours is not a democratic Church.

      7. @Richard Malcolm – comment #25:
        Okay – just a couple of replies:
        – “…..what the Council Fathers – a body largely but not entirely congruent with the global episcopate of 1969-70 – actually thought they were approving in 1963, not six or seven years later. That is what matters. Otherwise, we risk reading the future into the past.”

        Actually, we have documented evidence from many council fathers in terms of what they thought they were voting on in 1963 (and it is not what you state)). Would also suggest that there weren’t that many changes between council fathers and bishops in 1970 who implemented – and historical evidence points to the fact that the implementers overwhelmingly supported the 1963 council fathers who voted for a *reformed mass*. (you know, any time significant change happens, rarely do folks (even those in agreement) get everything they want).

        You state – “…risk reading the future into the past”. Well, actually we are reading what happened from 1963 thru 1985….not some wishy-washy undetermined future. It is a nice turn of phrase but means what – could also say that we risk reading the past into the future. To use your example – 1998 and inclusive language. Following numerous articles of SC, the 1998 and inclusive language was exactly what SC allowed to be set up – conferences could determine this; it met enculturation; it allowed for liturgical development; it realized that there is no *ideal* liturgy or that latin is the only way to go. 1998 may have been rejected because of inclusive language but again it appears that a tiny minority determined this – this is not what SC intended.

        You consistently repeat the usual restorationist mantras to make your points – as if the VII documents/council fathers are some type of *tabula rasa* and anyone who implemented or acted on their decisions may have strayed from the original intent – reality, that works both ways including those who want to use the *tabula rasa* argument to score points and defend their ideology.

        Not enough space/time to debate your last paragraph but you have painted a very either/or dilemma – historically it has never been either/or; Pauline Missal was not *absolute papal power* but yes, SP was. You have left out significant historical/current parts of the church’s experience – to name a few – the role that *reception* plays in discerning church practice and belief; the church may not be *democratic* (in a US political sense) but the church in the Apostolic/Patristic age was democratic (compared to the last 150 years of papal centralization; papal power; growth of the curia and nuncios, etc.). Agree – there is an *inner uneasiness* because what we have seen just in the 20th century is not how the church governed itself for centuries. VII tried to redefine and reorient our understanding and experience of papal primacy (in an effort to be more ecumenical and to better understand episcopal leadership vs. centralized papacy).

        Finally, there are different levels of Vatican documents, pronouncements, etc. Suggest you disregard the differences/distinctions – thus, conciliar pronouncements are at a higher level than papal pronouncements.

      8. @Bill deHaas – comment #26:

        Hello Bill,

        As typically we happens, we end up talking past each other, when we aren’t simply butting heads. Obviously, the two of us see things quite differently, and this discussion is not likely to change that.

        I don’t want to bog down this thread with a further point-by-point debate of each of the points you raise; this is a progressive liturgical blog, and I am guest, and I don’t want to impinge on that hospitality (for which I’m grateful). I will say that minorities and majorities don’t impress me; too often have seen the majority of bishops in the wrong over the centuries, and the minority in the right. Otherwise, we’d all be Arians now. And it’s far from clear, really what a good many bishops really thought they were signing onto. That said, one point I object to which must be noted:

        To use your example – 1998 and inclusive language. Following numerous articles of SC, the 1998 and inclusive language was exactly what SC allowed to be set up…

        Such an assertion is all the better for clear proofs; and unless you can cite a specific authorization, either in SC or any other magisterial document, for inclusive language in translations of the liturgical books (an unprecedented approach, not seriously proposed by any Catholic liturgical scholar of note of that time), I can’t accept it. SC 36’s authorization for vernacular translations cannot be taken as a blank check for conferences to approve anything they wanted without any check or veto, nor would Paul VI have agreed to sign it if it had. Much later (wrong-headed) approvals by the Holy See of such translations of the Order of Christian Funerals in 1985, etc., don’t alter this point.

  9. Re: Fr. Krisman’s comment at #6: I can’t win. First Jared Ostermann takes me to task for not writing “more clearly” rather than “clearly” in my paraphrase of article 50 as being insensitive to those of a traditionalist mindset, and now you take me to task for being too sensitive to those of a traditionalist mindset. I was simply trying to find a way to phrase an invitation for people who judge that, from a distance of fifty years, the Council Fathers’ call for a “more lavish” presentation of the scriptures over a prescribed number of years was misguided to share their opinions with the group.
    My hope is always that such a discussion might at least clarify the assumptions made by the participants if not (O consummation devoutly to be wished!) lead to a meeting of the minds. It was not an invitation to challenge the authority of the Council Fathers.
    So as far I am able to judge the discussion here has not been a call to return to the “lectionary” of the Missale Romanum 1570-1962, but rather raising questions of how the “lectionary” of the Missale Romanum 1970ff fulfills the prescriptions of article 51 (everyone so far seems agreed that it does). The further question of whether or not the system of organization of the lections over the prescribed number of years is pastorally useful then arises (and here there seems to be a difference of opinion, although I’d appreciate some reference to the “Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass” in which the principles of the present pattern are set out AND some concrete alternative proposals [e.g., is the Revised Common Lectionary more to anyone’s liking and why?]).

    1. @Fr. Jan Michael Joncas – comment #17:
      No Father, you are quite right.
      It seems to me quite right to ask if the changes made have worked as well as hoped. It would be reasonable to postulate that a new attempt to amend the liturgy would restore some items, delete some changes made and introduce some new changes.
      It would be interesting to see the rationale behind the choices made on the readings. I suspect that Jeffrey in comment 13 has a point. Perhaps when we finish this chain of posts then we could look at this. It will keep us busy for a few years.

      1. @Peter Haydon – comment #27:

        Peter, with all due respect, it seems to me that your question is not what Fr. Joncas asked and what I highlighted in my comment #6. By all means, fine-tuning the lectionaries (for Mass and for ritual books as well) would be a good thing. But that is a different issue.

      2. @Fr. Ron Krisman – comment #28:
        Thank you Fr Ron
        I think I am guilty of writing less clearly than I intended. But it must be possible to discuss whether the various changes made or proposed was good without “denigration of the authority of the Council”. Indeed study of the documents, as we are doing, is surely to honour the Council.
        As the good father points out we must try to write “more clearly”.

    2. @Fr. Jan Michael Joncas – comment #17:
      Father Michael, an earlier version of your #17 response—i don’t know why it disappeared—asked for a reference to the “Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass”:

      The further question of whether or not the system of organization of the lections over the prescribed number of years is pastorally useful then arises (and here there seems to be a difference of opinion, although I’d appreciate some reference to the “Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass” in which the principles of the present pattern are set out AND some concrete alternative proposals [e.g., is the Revised Common Lectionary more to anyone’s liking and why?]).

      This request is right up my alley. If one sets the 1969 Introduction side by side with the 1981 Introduction, one sees that the latter adds sixty-five paragraphs, many of which have a lyrical, indeed intoxicating, theology of the word of God in all liturgies, not just the eucharistic liturgy.

    3. @Fr. Jan Michael Joncas – comment #17:
      I have some experience of the Revised Common Lectionary, or one track of it, at my wife’s Episcopal church. The Sunday Old Testament readings are continuous and of substantial length; unhitched from the gospel of the day, they present the great stories of the Hebrew Bible, spread over several weeks as may be necessary. This approach has been defended as providing (1) greater exposure to those great stories and (2) an inducement for exciting preaching. The downside is having each of the three readings on its own track, along with a strong temptation to homilists simply not to talk about the gospel at all. I think the costs outweigh the benefits.

  10. I have never found the number of readings at Sunday or daily mass to be bothersome. Neither have I found the length of the readings to be a problem. I do find that, at times, a reading may be decontextualized, necessitating a little more explanation than might otherwise be needed. The “back story” or the “what happens next” can be helpful.

  11. The increased proclamation of scripture at the liturgy has been a great blessing. Study and knowledge of scripture has greatly increased among Catholics, and that will only continue. My concern is that the primary means of expression in the liturgy has greatly shifted from symbol to spoken language. This is not only the result of the increase of scripture, but from more problematic developments such as unnecessary explanations/embellishments throughout the rites, unfocused and ill-prepared homilies, an abundance of announcements, and the new translation of the missal, not exactly an exercise in economy of expression. I believe that, historically, the extensive use of symbols as an expression of faith has been a great strength in evangelization and liturgical catechesis. As we have witnessed with Pope Francis, in this age of constant chatter, a gesture or image makes a much larger impact than a written or spoken statement. I wouldn’t argue for a decrease in the use of scripture now found within the liturgy, but for decluttering when it comes to use of language, and more attention and intention to symbols and actions.

  12. I would very much welcome a better English translation than the present one. So many of the Pauline passages beg some editorial touches. Recently there was a Sunday reading in which “Our Lord Jesus Christ” or “Jesus Christ” was used at least three times in the course of a short reading. Whatever happened to pronouns to facilitate the communication. In other pericopes, one is at a loss to whom or what pronouns may be referring. I think the thing is just a big mess from the perspective of clear communication of the content of the lessons. I would also welcome a thorough review of the lectionaries with an eye towards revisions which take into effect what we have learned over the past fifty years. There’s still lots of good stuff that is never or rarely heard when the church is gathered.
    On Allan’s “euphoria” comment. There was a lot of euphoria in the life and ministry of Jesus and his apostles. I’m thinking of the beggar at the beautiful gate who couldn’t contain his delight at being cured. I’m thinking of the day of Pentecost when there was so much euphoria some three thousand were added to the church. I remember the euphoric feelings which followed the council for many years. It was mostly wonderful. What was not wonderful was the discouraging moves to bring things back under the control of headquarters. As Francis recently said, the church needs to take risks. We were doing that when JPII and Benedict unleashed the temple police.

  13. I think the combination of a three-year Sunday cycle and a two-year weekday cycle is unnecessarily complex Jeffrey @ #4 and #13

    I agree with Jeffrey about the complexity of weekday Masses; additionally there is the complexity of the Office of Readings and lack of coordinating the Scripture of the Office with the Mass.

    Reform of the Weekday Scripture Readings and Integration of the Divine Office and Mass

    My basic assumption is that with fewer priests that Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer with Communion led by deacons and lay ministers will become usual weekday liturgies of many parishes.

    Reformed Weekday Morning and Evening Prayer with Communion

    Introduction, Hymn, two Psalms and a Canticle as at present

    Morning Reading: a three or six year lectionary based on the OT.
    Evening Reading: a one or two year lectionary based on the non- Gospel NT

    Brief suggestions for meditation (not a real homily) by priest, deacon, or lay person

    Period of silent meditation on scripture( optional use of hymns or chants with or after)

    Gospel Canticle (preferably sung) : Beatitudes for Morning Prayer; Mary’s Canticle for Evening Prayer during which reserved sacrament is placed on altar and incensed on more solemn occasions

    Lord’s Prayer followed by communion (optional use of hymns or chants )

    Morning/ Evening Prayer Litanies and Prayer of the day

    Gospel Canticle at Dismissal (preferably sung) Canticle of Zachary for Morning Prayer, Simeon for Evening Prayer

    Reformed Weekday Mass integrated with Morning and Evening Prayer

    Morning and Evening Prayer as above through Readings, Suggestions for Meditation, and period of silent meditation

    Alleluia (sung) Gospel from the coming Sunday beginning substantially before the Sunday reading and continuing after so that weekday Mass goers would get a good idea (as well as the presider who is preparing for Sunday) of the larger context of the Sunday pericope.

    Opton of extended catechesis on the Gospel during the weekday in lieu of the Meditation on either the OT or NT.

    Sung Gospel Canticle as the Preparation Hymn as above ; sung Sanctus and Agnus Dei.

    Sung Gospel Canticle at the Dismissal as above.

    Redo NT Lesson at Sunday Mass so that it is more related to Gospel and OT reading. Keep option of three lessons on festive weekday Masses.

  14. I would be curious to know the opinions of contributors and commenters here on implications of adding the Old Testament lesson to the Sunday readings. My view, surely the conventional one, is that overall, it is a great gift to the church: it has made biblical literature that is foundational to our faith come alive.

    I’d like to call out, too, that it is interesting how the Old Testament reading can serve as a sort of interpretive key to the appointed Gospel passage. Case in point: a couple of Sundays back, when the Gospel passage was Luke’s account of Simon the Pharisee and the woman who washed and anointed Jesus’ feet, it was paired with the story of King David and Nathan the prophet, of God extending forgiveness to David despite his sins and ingratitude. For a preacher, that Gospel story, considered by itself, can be taken in many different directions; but the first reading serves as a sort of ‘official church suggestion’ as to what the meaning of the passage “really is” – it’s difficult to escape the impression that we’re being invited to look for parallels between King David and Simon the Pharisee.

    Naturally, the preacher is free to ignore that official nudge in a certain interpretive direction (or, if s/he is blocked, s/he may give fervent thanks and praise for that nudge :-)). But it is interesting that the church leverages the expanded lectionary to point preachers and communities in particular directions.

  15. May I take my life into my hands and offer a tentative answer to Fr Michaels’s query as to where the Council Father’s might have missed “the advantages …. of retaining a less lavish scriptural fare”?

    If we start from the premise that Mass is most importantly a sacrifice then there is a risk that too much scripture would diminish the sacrificial aspect and turn it into a scripture lesson.

    For what it is worth I suspect that most of the faithful come into contact with scripture only in Mass so a compromise is needed: neither too much to detract from the rest of the Mass nor so little that there is complete ignorance. The balance struck seems to me to be about right in terms of proportion.

    I put the question as it seems to me that the readings, particularly the first two, are rarely explained or commented on in the sermon. This prompts the query as to what purpose the readings are expected to serve in the Mass. Answering this may serve to identify the amount and choice of scripture best suited to liturgy.
    Jim Pauwels, in 33, sets out what seems to me a most sensible approach.

    1. @Peter Haydon – comment #34:
      You state: “If we start from the premise that Mass is most importantly a sacrifice then there is a risk that too much scripture would diminish the sacrificial aspect and turn it into a scripture lesson.”

      Suggest that your understanding of *sacrifice* is out dated and pre-VII. Suggest that the eucharist is a communal meal that remembers the already and one time sacrifice of Jesus. The Eucharist remembers and celebrates this memorial through both the liturgy of the word and the table liturgy.

      Your whole comments strikes me as not understanding the eucharist, period – much less, the reformed liturgy of VII.

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #39:
        Bill, what from Peter’s comment gives an adequate picture of his conception of “sacrifice” and “eucharist”, such that you can say his understanding is outdated and even non-existent?

        Surely we can engage one another without judging each other as utterly devoid of knowledge?

      2. @Bill deHaas – comment #39:
        Thank you Bill
        I think my point works also if made like this:
        “If we start from the premise that Mass is most importantly a communal meal then there is a risk that too much scripture would diminish the communal meal aspect and turn it into a scripture lesson.”
        I do appreciate the range of views here which is why I started the sentence with an “if”.
        I recall that Pope Paul VI described Mass as primarily a sacrifice. I hope that his view is not too Pre-Vatican II to merit polite consideration.
        As for my own understanding of the eucharist I hope that an enquiring mind is a good start. I might even learn a little reading the articles and comments on this blog.
        Cheers
        Peter

      3. @Peter Haydon – comment #43:
        Thanks, Peter – agree with your restatement. Paul VI did say *primary sacrifice* but how we understand that has been reformed and changed – too often folks continue to fall back to the concept of sacrifice that I was exposed to in grade school – an over-emphasis on atonement; bloody sacrifice; etc. that is only one part of the church’s understanding.
        (so, let’s just ignore JP’s intervention and confusion)

        Good resource: http://www.tomrichstatter.org/eEucharist/e75kmcon.htm

        One part: “The story which gives meaning to the meal (a sacrament is a worded sign). The story/prayer is a berakah in which Christ 1) invokes God and 2) asks God to remember (αναμνεςιισ anamnesis) the divine plan (μυςτεπων mysterion) especially the paschal mystery of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection; and as we become present to that once and for all event we, with Christ, 3) invoke (επικλεςισ epiclesis) the Spirit to transform the Church which partakes of the holy meal in which Christ is consumed.”

        Using this approach puts (too much scripture limiting sacrifice idea) in a totally different light.

      4. @Bill deHaas – comment #52:
        Thank you Bill. i wish I had more time to follow this up…
        The numbering process for the comments seems to be one or two out which could make some of the exchanges interesting.

      5. @Bill deHaas – comment #39:

        Bill,

        I would suggest your understanding of the Mass, at least as presented in this short comment, is impoverished or worse.

        The reformed liturgy of VII is, thankfully, not similarly as limited.

  16. Karl Liam Saur : My sense has long been that the 3 year cycle was intended as an echo of the traditional (if not necessarily historical) 3-year public ministry of our Lord: we get to listen to the Lord via a Synoptic Gospel version for each year, with the Gospel of John sprinkled in as well. I love the concept, and while I can quibble over this or that, I think it’s wonderful.

    I love this too, Karl.

  17. Jeffrey Pinyan : [snip] I am also surprised by the exclusion of certain verses, especially when they have been omitted from the Tridentine “lectionary”.

    Jeffrey, can you say more about these exclusions and omissions? I don’t think I understand you.

    1. @Paul F Ford – comment #36:
      To clarify, I’m referring to passages of Scripture present in the pre-Vatican II readings and absent from the post-Vatican II Lectionary. (I used the word “omitted” by mistake.)

      One example is from 1 Cor 11. In the 1962 liturgy, these verses were read:

      Holy Thursday – Epistle: 1 Cor 11:20-32
      Corpus Christi – Epistle: 1 Cor 11:23-29

      In the modern Lectionary, these verses are read:

      Holy Thursday – Second Reading: 1 Cor 11:23-26
      Body & Blood – Second Reading: 1 Cor 11:23-26
      Week 24, Monday (Year II) – First Reading: 1 Cor 11:17-26, 33

      Without addressing the sequestering of verses 20-22 to a weekday Mass, the real issue is verses 27-32, the (infamous?) “profaning the body and blood” and “discerning the body” verses. They are not in the Lectionary at all. Are these verses omitted because they are “hard sayings”? Out of some other pastoral concern?

      (This is one example where our Lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary share the same defect. There are examples of verses missing from our Lectionary but included in the RCL.)

  18. In the pre-Vatican II Roman rite, the daily masses during Lent and the Ember Days showcased the defining passages from the Old Testament. Those of us who took part in daily mass were rewarded by this, and we applauded the move after the Council to incorporate such readings in all Sunday liturgies. In so doing, the three Lenten cycles retain the great scriptures of salvation history, so that this season remains in its prestigious position in the liturgical year.

    The lectionary committee, in making its selections for these readings, implemented faithfully the Council’s desire for richer fare. At the same time it expected modifications of specific decisions with the passage of time. For example, the single set of readings for Holy Family Sunday has been expanded to three.

    Several committee members recognized that the decision to pair the Old Testament readings with specific Gospel passages would leave out of the lectionary some readings that have been celebrated through the centuries by Christians as well as Jews. Among these I want to mention the stories of faithful and heroic women such as Rebecca, Miriam, Deborah, Ruth et al. Though I applaud the present arrangement, I favor some ongoing fine tuning in collaboration with those Christian denominations that have worked toward concord in their lectionaries.

    1. @Paul Schlachter – comment #41:

      Exactly. Thank you for this comment.

      I was also interested to read the testimony in the interview that Claire Mathieu conducted (reference in post #40). Père Wiéner’s recollections are broadly consonant with what I know myself of the history of the creation of the lectionary, both from having lived and worked through that period (and especially on the lectionary) and from interviews that I have conducted myself with others who were around at the time. Increasing distance of time has led Fr Wiéner to get a few details wrong in some instances, but les grandes lignes are there. I found it fascinating that he never mentioned the person who actually masterminded the detailed selection of pericopes!

  19. I do not know how many of those responding here actually lived through the preconciliar period, but it is true to say that Catholics were an unbliblical people. Growing up before the Council, the prevailing mentality was one of “only Protestants read the Bible, Catholics don’t need to” — almost Calvinist in its arrogance. Yes, we knew the basic Gospel and Old Testament stories, but nothing apart from that.

    When I left primary school in England, several years before the Council was summoned, every child in the class was given a copy of the Bible, courtesy of the local county council. This happened in every school. Because it was a Catholic school we received the Knox translation — very daring in those far-off days, because Douay-Rheims held sway for Catholics. (Every home had one, but no one ever opened it.) When we were presented with our bibles, we were told “Whatever you do, don’t read it!” I don’t think it was just because they didn’t want us looking at the “naughty bits” in the OT, but rather a genuine sense, as just mentioned, that the Bible was not necessary for salvation. All you needed was Catholic doctrine and dogma, inculcated via what was in those days “the Penny Catechism”.

    So paragraph 51 of the Constitution was like a bombshell, exploding all of that, and I think we should give thanks for it. Yes, the creation of the Lectionary could have been done differently, and could even now be tweaked or revised more substantially; but it was a start.

    In the same way, the revision of the Divine Office was only one possible way of doing it (and some religious houses have produced and use their own — I’m thinking of the four distinct cursus of psalms from the Benedictine working groups, for example), and without a doubt it still requires further revision and tweaking.

    Of course it is easy to say with hindsight that “they got it wrong”, but at least they did something. Cavilling at the detailed structure of the Lectionary seems to me to be a mean-spirited reaction to what was an amazing enterprise. Without those foundations, we would still be an unbiblical people. As it is, we still have a long way to go before we are inhabited by the scriptures to the same extent as our non-catholic sisters and brothers.

    1. @Paul Inwood – comment #47:
      I grew up in the Bible Belt of the south (USA) and most of my friends in elementary school were either Southern Baptist or Methodists. They had Bible verses memorized and a considerable love for the Bible and could and would quote it to you. They evangelized us Catholics although it bordered on proselytization. And as with most non-liturgical denominations, they have a very strong “Sunday School” for children and adults and usually adults remain with the same folks in their Sunday school throughout their lives. Sunday school is better attended sometimes than the church service.
      I can remember very well our pastor (a former Benedictine) telling us about the new lectionary when it was about to be implemented and how shamed we were by our Protestant brothers and sisters who knew the Bible so much better than us, and yes, he was absolutely right! (Of course at that time we knew the Baltimore Catechism very well). I was excited as a young person that we would have more Scripture at Mass, especially the Old Testament passages and even more excited to tell my Protestant friends that we had more Scripture in the Catholic Mass than they had in their services and that over a 3 year period if a Catholic went to Mass every day that he or she would hear almost the complete Bible. They were stunned but in a good way!

    2. @Paul Inwood – comment #47:
      Of course it is easy to say with hindsight that “they got it wrong”, but at least they did something. Cavilling at the detailed structure of the Lectionary seems to me to be a mean-spirited reaction to what was an amazing enterprise.

      Can you show that the criticisms of the current Lectionary voiced here are petty rather than legitimate? I am personally grateful for the increase in biblical readings at Mass (though I was only born in 1981), and I don’t accept that my participation on this particular post is going to be deemed mean-spirited because it is critical and desires improvement.

      Todd Flowerday often points out how the orations (proper) at Mass would benefit from being revised or written anew to harmonize with the Lectionary. Is that mean-spirited of him?

      Is it mean-spirited to recommend moving the Sign of Peace? Is it mean-spirited to criticize the new English translation? (After all, it’s easy to say “they got it wrong” but at least they did something…)

      Fr. Joncas invited us to “discuss how effectively these reforms have borne fruit in the last fifty years and what might make them more effective.” I think this invites a critical appraisal of the Lectionary, and I don’t think we’ve stooped to petty complaints (yet).

  20. JP – would suggest that the tone and language used is what Paul Inwood is reacting to….the statement said – *they got it wrong*….really? and, how, pray tell, do you arrive at the conclusion that *they got it wrong*. Monday morning quarterbacking; arrogance; etc.

    This is very different from making suggestions about future improvements, etc. (e.g. Todd’s suggestion about propers aligned with the day’s scripture).

    But, do have to say – amazed that Allan actually underlined Paul’s story and that Paul used the word *bombshell*…..truly inspiring.

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #50:
      Bill, could you please consider using the first person singular pronoun. The omission of “I” makes your posts difficult to read and occasionally confusing — e.g. what appears to be an imperative turns out to be indicative. Just a suggestion.

    2. @Bill deHaas – comment #50:
      Bill
      Please correct me if I have made a mistake but it was Paul Inwood who first used the term “they got it wrong”?
      I hope that we can agree that this is a short way of indicating that a decision was not for the best without the careful, but lengthy form of the question posed by Fr Michael of “advantages hidden to the Council Fathers.”
      It seems that all the comments here argree that the Fathers were right to seek increased use of Scripture and it is only minor suggestions for amendment that are made.

      1. @Peter Haydon – comment #52:
        In the past I’ve suggested having a year “D” that would basically be the EF’s lectionary, with the gradual/tract. But that would blow Jeffrey’s “three years of Jesus’ ministry symbolism” out of the water.

      2. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #53:
        That is not Jeffrey’s idea. It’s merely the subjective way *I* received the new lectionary cycle when I was a youth. It’s not so different from the many post-hoc allegorical rationalizations for understanding the wheres and whys of preconciliar praxis.

      3. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #53:

        “Year D” has been floated in various places. In my view, one positive includes the option for parishes which celebrate both forms to synchronize the readings for Sunday Mass. This certainly makes preaching easier for a celebrant, especially when the parish has only one resident priest. While I am strongly in favor of the new lectionary’s inclusion of an Old Testament reading every Sunday, I doubt that an interpolated OT reading from EF Sunday Matins would be a good idea for Year D. I doubt this not only because of a general resistance to changes in the Tridentine lectionary within the EF community, but also because the Matins OT readings in the Breviarium are not consistently thematic. Here, the “Year D” concept falls apart.

        Optimally, Sunday Matins would precede Mass or combine with Mass in most parishes, but sadly the Roman rite long ago ceased celebrating a combined Matins and Eucharist in parishes on Sunday. This unfortunate development has not extended to the Byzantine traditions, which have kept this tradition alive until today. I don’t see why EF adherents could not revive this practice of a combined Matins and Mass in order to include a certain degree of OT readings without “rupturing the tradition” per the “organic model” of liturgical evolution dominant among many EF adherents.

      4. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #55:
        Thank you Father
        I like to follow the text of the Mass. It occurs to me that with a year D our hand missals would become too big to use. Parishes might not like to buy additional expensive lectionaries.
        Others have commented about other aspects of this: I cannot improve on what they say.

    3. @Bill deHaas – comment #50:
      Since “they got it wrong” was a summary of the criticisms by Paul, I need more examples to know exactly what “tone” and “language” you’re referring to.

      Who has spoken about the Lectionary in arrogant tones?

  21. Regarding Catholics as “unbiblical”: While typically warranted, it was not a universal truth. My father grew up in German national parish (his five older siblings, growing up before World War I, learned their prayers in German; my father, a *very very* late addition in 1924, did not) and in his parish there was a cultivation of Bible reading. And so my father trained his children.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses found out we were not sitting ducks like our neighbors. Especially if we asked them about the source of their Bible.

  22. I am very conscious with the RCIA that a different synoptic gospel is highlighted each year. Rarely does anyone attend for more than a year, but as a catechist over several years, I look to highlight distinctive ideas of each synoptic. Too many people read the Bible simply as a history book that lets them construct their own history of Jesus or Israel. It is also important to read it as a book of testimony to and examples of lives spent with God.

    On a broader note, all sacraments are actions of the Word of God. Whatever your understanding of Eucharist, the action of the Word is more piercing when placed within the broader context of the Scriptures.

  23. I don’t see how anyone can disagree about the emphasis placed on scripture in Article 51.

    Personally, attending Mass in the preconciliar period and then attending the hybrid Masses I do not recall ever being familiar with scripture. As Fr. Allen stated, we all knew our catechism but were, respectfully, ignorant of what was in the Word.

    I remember having to watch the Billy Graham Crusades on television to learn about scripture (after asking our parish priest who said go ahead). I was so amazed. Until then I thought Abraham was the name of God the Father.

    1. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #62:
      In the parish of my pre-Conciliar youth, the celebrant always read the epistle and Gospel in English at the ambo before the sermon. Of course, many of us had read along from our hand missals while the Latin versions were read or chanted.

      So we were fairly familiar with the Gospel pericopes and probably less so with the selections from the epistles, but not much at all with the rest of the Bible.

      My devout family owned a Bible, but no one I knew, whether adult or child, ever read the Bible. Ours was the family sacramental record keeper and was kept in the bottom drawer of the china cabinet.

      While I never read the Bible till I went to high school during the Council, I did read an excellent children’s serialization of Bible stories called “Crusade,” edited by the Maryknoll Sisters. And I can remember the Sisters at my parochial school telling stories from the Bible.

      1. @George Hayhoe – comment #69:
        Hello George,
        I don’t remember if the readings were done in vernacular at the ambo before the homily at my church, they were in latin at the altar. Long time ago!.

        Ah yes, the good Maryknoll sisters, wasn’t there a monthly periodical also?
        Don’t hear much about the Maryknolls except for Fr. Roy Bourgeois!

  24. Didn’t the more biblically literate (liturgical) Protestants have one year reading cycles before Vatican II too? The EF lectionary doesn’t necessarily lead to being ignorant of the Bible.

    1. @Jack Wayne – comment #65:
      Jack, because the EF has a one year cycle as did liturgical Protestants that doesn’t necessarily mean that those who use the EF lectionary are going to be as knowledgeable of the Bible as were those liturgical Protestants (because of the one year cycle). Those liturgical protestants had and still have Bible school where scripture is taught and memorized. They also read the Bible at home, go to church on Wednesday with Bible readings, have Bible summer school and overall are “nourished” with scripture.

  25. I don’t want to gang up needlessly on Jeffrey Pinyan, but I too do not see unnecessary complexity in the 1970 lectionary. In view of the need to spread all of 4 gospels, nearly all of 23 other New Testament books, and a great portion of 45 Old Testament books over 52 Sundays, about 312 weekdays, and five seasons each year, while simultaneously linking the Sunday OT reading to the gospel, I think the design of our current lectionary is brilliant in its simplicity. I feel that linking the weekday first reading to the gospel of each day would introduce much more complexity, with all that skipping around between books, and would reduce weekday worshippers’ appreciation for the non-gospel books on their own.
    Of course I have loads of objections to details of the current lectionary. Between one New Year’s Day and the next, I forget how the Aaronic benediction relates to Jesus’ mother. And I get really peeved on St. Stephen’s Day when the account of his martyrdom is cut off before he forgives his assailants and dies. That’s it. I suppose that’s really not “loads” of objections.

    1. @Paul R. Schwankl – comment #68:
      the need to spread all of 4 gospels, nearly all of 23 other New Testament books, and a great portion of 45 Old Testament books over 52 Sundays, about 312 weekdays, and five seasons each year, while simultaneously linking the Sunday OT reading to the gospel

      Perhaps that “need” is part of the issue. In presenting a more lavish fare, perhaps we’re trying to stuff too much down our throats?

      I’m curious why sequential reading was chosen for Sunday 2nd readings, and for weekday 1st readings, and — more or less — for Sunday Gospel readings, yet not for Sunday 1st readings. Why connect OT to Gospel on Sundays only?

      Having unrelated readings has meant, in my experience, that not all the readings make it into the homily, which on Sundays (again in my experience) focuses on either the Gospel or the OT reading (with links between the two), and very, very seldom on the 2nd reading. I don’t recall hearing much about the Psalm in the homily either.

      Now, you can say it needn’t be the case that the homily touch upon all the readings, and that’s true; the homily needn’t be about the readings at all. But it appears to me that the Lectionary tends toward a systematic, or at least widespread, ignoring of a lot of the scripture that we DO hear read at Mass.

      I wonder how the lections were determined in the time of Augustine and Ambrose.

      P.S. Addressing my comments is not ganging up on me.

  26. While I think the Lectionary, as revised by the authority of the Fathers of the Council, is a towering achievement, I believe that a criticism of some is the type/fulfillment prominence often given as the connection between the first reading (generally from the Old Testament) and the Gospel passage.

    Yes, at pre-V II Masses on Sunday, the priest read the Epistle and Gospel in English at the ambo (pulpit) after having just read the same at the altar in Latin. The congregation stood for the Gospel reading in English as they had minutes before for the Latin. The English readings followed the often extensive announcements of parish activities. Most people looked forward to these. At last something in their own language!

    Homilies rarely referred to the day’s readings. Most dioceses issued a yearly plan for the Sunday sermons — the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Beatitudes, and the like. Priests more or less adhered to the plan, but hobby-horses of the celebrant at times replaced the diocesan schema. The scourge of Communism, for example, or late-payments of parish school tuition. Since the churches were not air-conditioned, homilies were omitted in the summer.

    In the suburbs of Washington in the late 1940s/1950s, parishes were being founded by the first “resident” archbishop, the tireless and courageous anti-segregation Patrick A. O’Boyle, every six months. The school and convent ALWAYS came first. The “church” was usually a temporary part of the complex that would later, when it was finally possible to build a church (fifteen/twenty years later), be converted into an auditorium or gymnasium.

    Low Masses were the rule in the suburbs, on the hour from 6:30am to 11:30am. (Owing to the fast from midnight, very few people went to Communion at the later Masses. At best, two or three.) Clearing the parking lot before the next Mass was a major priority.

    It was another era. The priests and Sisters, the latter mostly in their 20s, were extraordinary. I am grateful for having lived on both sides of the divide.

  27. I don’t like blowing my own trumpet, but in the last couple of months I have started a lectionary focussed blog, with the immediate aim of collecting study aids and resources to help others look in more detail at the lectionary, both OF and EF. I have also spent a bit of time compiling some downloadable PDF tables of the scripture in the EF, since I couldn’t find anything similar online.

    If people are interested, the address is http://catholiclectionary.blogspot.co.uk.

  28. Nos. 67 & 68 of the General Instruction to the Lectionary:

    67. The best instance of harmony between the Old and New Testament readings occurs when it is one that Scripture itself suggests. This is the case when the doctrine and events recounted in texts of the New Testament bear a more or less explicit relationship to the doctrine and events of the Old Testament. The present Order of Readings selects Old Testament texts mainly because of their correlation with New Testament texts read in the same Mass, and particularly with the Gospel text.

    Harmony of another kind exists between texts of the readings for each Mass during Advent, Lent, and Easter, the seasons that have a distinctive importance or character.

    In contrast, the Sundays in Ordinary Time do not have a distinctive character. Thus the text of both the apostolic and Gospel readings are arranged in order of semicontinuous reading, whereas the Old Testament reading is harmonized with the Gospel.

    68. The decision was made not to extend to Sundays the arrangement suited to the liturgical seasons mentioned, that is, not to have an organic harmony of themes devised with a view to facilitating homiletic instruction. Such an arrangement would be in conflict with the genuine conception of liturgical celebration, which is always the celebration of the mystery of Christ and which by its own tradition makes use of the word of God not only at the prompting of logical or extrinsic concerns but spurred by the desire to proclaim the Gospel and to lead those who believe to the fullness of truth.

  29. Re: Jeffrey Pinyan’s comment at #72. As I understand it, the German bishop’s conference, judging that the pattern of Old Testament reading / Psalm / New Testament non-Gospel reading / Gospel for Sundays and Solemnities might provide too much scripture for the benefit of their faithful, relegated the New Testament non-Gospel readings to an appendix of their lectionary, from where (at the judgment of the local community or presiding priest) they MAY be used for a community well-grounded in the scriptures, but are not normally used. There may be other bishops’ conferences who have made similar decisions. I welcome nuancing or correction from those who know the situation better than I.
    According to Jules Baudot’s 1910 _The Lectionary: Its Sources and History_, “At Milan, in the time of St. Ambrose, the lessons at Mass were three in number: the Prophetic lesson (or Old Testament), the Apostolic lesson (or Epistle), the Gospel lesson; on the feasts of saints the first was replaced by a lesson from the _Gesta_ [Acts of the saints].”…”it seems…that in [Augustine’s] day in Africa, as at Rome, there was no Prophetic lection at Mass except on certain days; if he sometimes speaks of three lessons, it is that he means by the epistle the psalm which is placed before the gospel…. [F]rom the sermons of the great doctor we can determine the number of the Gospel pericopes read at Hippo, and sometimes fix the epistle for the corresponding days.”
    William Harmless’ _Augustine and the Catechumenate_ and Craig Alan Satterlee’s _Ambrose of Milan’s Method of Mystagogical Preaching_ both give rather wonderful introductions to the initiation preaching of these Fathers of the Church. [cont.]

    1. @Fr. Jan Michael Joncas – comment #75:
      I believe that the Lectionary now in use, or soon to be in use, in Germany does have all three readings for Sundays and solemnities in place.

      In my experience, good homilists, who spend a lot of time in preparation, can find a way to bring all three readings to bear, without resorting to a “in the first, in the second, in the Gospel” approach. And it can be argued that occasionally the second reading deserves the primary emphasis. For example, this year, on the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, 3 February, the Year C second reading was 1 Corinthians:12:31 – 13:13.

      While the present Lectionary for Mass isn’t perfect in every respect, I, for one, am glad that it wasn’t done with a slide rule.

  30. More direct evidence specifically for practice in Rome at about this time can come from a similar examination of the sermons of Leo the Great, where it is sometimes possible from the scriptural quotations appearing in the sermons to speculate on what the scriptures proclaimed at that liturgy might have been (and from comparing some of the phrases in the sermons with others found in the presidential prayers of ancient Roman sacramentaries to speculate on which texts he may have formulated).

    I hope this is helpful.

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